I’ve talked with a number of people who have said one of their strengths is they are a “people pleaser”. By this, they generally mean they are driven by being in service of others. They enjoy helping others out. At the end of the day, they have been successful if they have made someone’s day easier or more pleasant. Seems like a great characteristic to have, doesn’t it?
However . . . .
There is a really dark side to being a people pleaser. The dark side hurts both the pleaser and the person they are helping. Like so many other things in life, an excess of one thing is not good for you.
First, for the pleaser. They will stop whatever they are doing to help the other person. This may lead to them not getting things done – ever. The pleaser gives up the “self” – or at least self is subsumed. Their identity is wrapped up in what they accomplished for others. This characteristic becomes a barrier (or is it an excuse?) for inaction (“I can’t do that thing for myself now now because I have to do something for the other person”). Like an addiction, the service of the other person is the only place they get their satisfaction. Unfortunately, they don’t think about what they would like to do – or at least don’t act on it.
Second, this pleaser attitude is a detriment to the person they are constantly pleasing. They never allow the other person to do things for themselves. The other person becomes solely dependent on them. You could argue it stunts the other’s growth (ever seen a kid whose parents due everything for them struggle to do things in the world when they are on their own?). Maybe even more sinister is that the other person loses appreciation for what is being done for them because it is routine. A service becomes an expectation, not an act of kindness. It is actually doing a disservice to the other by not allowing them to grow, to learn, to be independent.
Some will argue that they “enjoy” helping others. Or that they are more qualified or able to get things done. Perhaps they are repaying a parent. Or they justify it as “I don’t want others to go through what I had to go through”. Those may be noble sentiments. But in the end, are they really helping two human beings reach their potential?
Part of the work/life/self blend that defines us must have a piece of self care. That does not mean you are being “selfish”. Selfish means “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.” That does not describe a people pleaser’s problem. They are actually stunting their own growth. They are tied down to helping others. Self care simply means you recognize that honoring self is critical to a productive, growing life.
The sad thing is many people pleasers end up unhappy and unfulfilled. They deferred personal growth for too long. They missed out on opportunities that presented themselves but have now faded away. They don’t get recognition, or appreciation, for their service. In fact, they are no longer pleasing anyone.
It may be the case that you are really good at helping others. You have a talent and motivation for it. But like almost everything in life, too much of a good thing is bad for you.
Are you, or do you know someone, who is a “people pleaser”?