Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
"The disease to please," as psychologist Harriet Braiker likes to call it, is a form of addiction. Just as a drug addict seeks drugs, a people pleaser seeks approval.
We should help others and try to make them happy. Give for the pleasure of giving. But, the need to please others at all cost at all times, and be everything to everyone are actions of a desperate person. People pleasers are desperate people. Compulsive pleasing is different from an altruistic desire. Such a compulsion has serious physical and emotional consequences in the long term.
Do your actions stem from your own desire to please others or, because they make demands on you and you must oblige? It takes two to tango. A people pleaser is often hooked up with a person with un-appeasing demands.
The compulsion to please others is maintained by various "musts" and "shoulds" related to others. Here are a few examples of "musts" to which the people pleaser reacts:
"I must always do what others want of me."
"I must always put others before me."
"I must never say "No" to anyone.
Here are a few examples of "shoulds" that the people pleaser expects of others:
"They should always like me because I try so hard to please them."
"They should never criticize me because I always try to live up to their expectations."
"They should never treat me unfairly because I am always so nice to them."
These musts and shoulds, if we are not watchful, can become the slave drivers. They'll make you sweat and still be never appeased. Tell these slave drivers that you don't have to be liked by everyone. Tell them that, sometimes, your needs may have to take precedence over someone else's. Don't let others take advantage of you for the fear that you won't be able to survive their rejection.
Are you afraid that if people didn't need you, you'd be expelled to the dark abyss of loneliness? So, do you always have to do something to be needed by others? On occasion, it's better to risk other's displeasure or even anger because what you want to do is the right and the fair thing to do.
Do you experience feelings that are disagreeable or negative? Such feelings don't always have to be buried in a secret chamber. There is a way to express them in a thoughtful and considerate way. Totally suppressed negative feelings tend to turn into such things as headaches and sore muscles or into anxiety and depression. But, controlled expression and tactful confrontation tends to improve relationships. If you're really upset with someone, the worst thing you can do to yourself is to try to please him or her.
You don't have to meet the demands and expectations of others if they are unreasonable, unrealistic or unfair. The trouble with being too nice all the time is that you can't be yourself at any time. When you can't be yourself, at least, for majority of the time, the psychological and physical tension can wear you out.
Don't say "yes" when you really want to say "no." Let's say someone invites you and you don't want to go. But, you also don't want to bluntly say "no." Buy some time. Say something like, "I might have a conflict. Let me check." Get back with the person and tell them that you're sorry, you can't. If you would like to be invited some other time, make sure to ask for a "rain check."
Years ago, when I worked for an organization, I asked my boss for a raise. He told me that he would consider my request and give his decision the next day. The following day he took me aside, put his arm on my shoulder and said, "I WANT to give you a raise, but in view of the financial situation, I know I SHOULDN'T." Even though I was told "no" I still felt good about it.
To be liked by everyone all the time is untenable. If you're liked and approved the majority of the time by people important to you, you're doing well. Be careful about people who are hard to please. Anyone who finds a lot of faults in you and wants you to change a lot of things about you is really not for you, but actually is against you. Don't be sucked into trying hard to please someone who will never be totally pleased.
We should always accept our share of responsibility but not accept blame if it's not valid.
Do something to please you for a change. Take time for yourself. But, if you are a person who has been too self-absorbed, it's time to give of yourself to others and spend some time on people around you. Doing something different for a change is timely at this time of the year.
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