The differences may be subtle, but there are monumental differences between being good to people vs. bending over backward to please them. With painfully cruel irony, showing favor to others while neglecting our own needs influences the very people we are trying to please to lose respect for us. At its most extreme, people pleasers come across as pushovers without backbone, spineless cowards who either don’t or won’t stand up for themselves. People-pleasing energies are seldom—if ever—equally reciprocated. True friendships and mutual respect are unattainable; disappointment is inevitable. Folks who possess a people-pleasing character rarely find fulfillment in their relationships, neither personally nor professionally.
Causes & Consequences of People-Pleasing
Excessive people-pleasing can be caused by things such as fear of rejection, fear of disappointing others, and low self-esteem, all of which can lead to difficulty setting healthy boundaries, making independent decisions, and increased susceptibility to manipulation or exploitation. If these attitudes and behaviors persist unchecked, they inevitably shortchange our ability to live fulfilling lives of meaning and purpose.
People-Pleasing Often Starts as Parent-Pleasing
People-pleasing attributes usually develop early in life. If parents reserve love and acceptance for when children conform to certain needs and desires, mom and dad subconsciously teach that the assurance and comfort of the parent-child relationship is contingent on a child’s compliance with parental preferences. Some parents criticize or even withhold attention and recognition when children deviate from their wishes, which can lead to feelings of rejection or abandonment.
When children subconsciously attribute pleasing others as the best way to maintain and strengthen relationships, this misdirects their approach to all human interactions. Many parents of people pleasing children fluctuate from being kind and loving to distant and cold, not recognizing the depth of the psychological damage they are inflicting. The instability of performance-based acceptance teaches children a dangerous lesson: if they want to be loved, they only need to prove themselves by pleasing others.
Assigning blame to loving parents for someone’s people-pleasing tendencies sounds terrible. The thought that a parent’s approach to love and acceptance has contributed to such a debilitating social deficiency is heartbreaking—children look to parents for support, guidance, and protection! Parents seldom—if ever—intend to be the catalyst for influencing their children to become people pleasers. But it happens.
The People Pleasing Cycle
Folks suffer a great disservice when people-pleasing tendencies of youth are carried into adolescence and adulthood. Well-meaning fathers who trade acceptance and love for compliance and performance compromise the innocence of childhood with selfish paternal pride. When dad refrains from burdening children with unreasonable expectations, respects the learning process, and offers the promise of unconditional love, these nurturing paternal energies combine to raise self-confident kids who don’t depend on others’ approval for their validation.
Break the Cycle
For adults who have developed people-pleasing tendencies, it’s never too late to start taking our lives back. Both leadership and influence can be learned; there are lots of excellent books we can read and study, written by masters in these domains. By immersing ourselves in the right resources, we can rebirth upon a foundation of self-confidence, leaving formerly self-defeating habits where they belong—in the past.
When people-pleasing attitudes are deeply entrenched, bravery is needed to break the cycle. Be authentic with friends and family; ask for their support in helping form and maintain new self-serving habits. While it might require courage to tell others what we want from life, it’s healthy to expect that our close friends and family will take us seriously. It’s normal for us to show annoyance and frustration if we aren’t happy. If people don’t respect us, we should tolerate neither them nor their negative energy in our lives.
It’s quite simple; if we have a one-sided relationship, end it. Constant suppression of personal views and desires is psychologically unhealthy. During arguments or conflicts, don’t back down. Say no. Protect personal boundaries. Always lead with genuine honesty. Adopt and practice assertive behaviors and watch as doors once closed start to open.
Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said, “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” Let us be fathers who teach children to find satisfaction through alignment with our value system, rather than through other people’s opinions. Marching along to the beat of someone else’s drum rejects the uplifting and redemptive power of choosing our own fate. By being true to ourselves, we attract genuine connections and meaningful relationships, free from the disparity of unhealthy one-sided associations.
“I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.” —Galatians 1:10 CEV
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PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.