Do you ever ask yourself “Why don’t other people treat me as well as I treat them?”
Afterall, you’re so considerate and kind to them – it seems like a mystery that they don’t return that behaviour.
The chances are that you’re approaching these relationships from a very common limiting belief; the idea that “you need to please people”.
It’s so very common. Many of us pick up this idea in early childhood as a way of getting much-needed love and attention from those who care for us. But, as adults, it no longer works because it’s hard to maintain a sense of happiness, when that happiness is dependent on other people’s acceptance and approval. Many of us lead busy lives; with our own challenges to deal with, and our dreams to follow – so we can quite easily disregard each other without meaning to be unkind.
Do You Have The People Pleasing Belief?
One way of knowing if you have this belief (and many people do) is to look at the following checklist. How many seem familiar to you?
- I’m unable to fully relax if others aren’t happy
- I often feel resentful and angry about not having enough time
- I try to make a relationship work when the other doesn’t put in the effort
- I find it difficult to say ‘No’ to people
- If I do manage to say ‘No’, I feel terribly guilty
- I often feel taken for granted
- I end up being caught in the middle of other people’s arguments
The urge to keep other people happy in order to be liked and to avoid rejection can be very strong indeed, and those people we’re trying to please may well take advantage without even realising they’re doing so. Odd as it may sound, even the nicest, most well-meaning of people can disregard a ‘pleaser’ in this way.
There’s a good reason for this—subconscious communication.
Are You Giving Out The Wrong Signals?
A lot of the time we tend to think of communication as being open, and easily recognisable:
- You say something, I hear it
- I say something back, you hear it
… and so it goes on.
Much of the time, though, we communicate indirectly and in subtle ways. We do this by the signals we give each other, through our behaviour and by the way we treat ourselves. People make ‘subconscious psychological contracts’ all the time about what they expect from each other. When we approach life from the belief ‘I have to please people,’ we unwittingly set up a subliminal agreement that we’ll put other’s needs before our own.
The Pleasing People Agreement Goes Something Like This:
‘I will put up with your stuff; you don’t need to think about my needs, but I’ll always be understanding of your needs and make sure you’re OK. Then I can be happy because you’ll like me and think I’m a good person and want to be around me.’
Are You Supporting People Or Rescuing Them?
The need to please also tends to create confusion between supporting others and rescuing them. It means life can become quite a struggle because you can end up taking on far too much responsibility for other people’s problems. To support someone means empowering them whilst holding true to your own sense of worth; it means helping another person to help themselves. To rescue, on the other hand, means rushing in and doing everything for that person, regardless of your own needs.
Like Amanda, one of my clients who said
‘I must have “TREAT ME LIKE AN IDIOT” tattooed on my forehead’. ‘Why are people so awful to me?
I try really hard to be nice, but they still treat me like dirt!’
Everyone in Amanda’s life; her family friends and work colleagues treated her poorly no matter how hard she tried to please the,
Amanda was always eager to give her friends a helping hand; she offered to babysit, she helped them decorate, and she walked people’s dogs and looked after their cats. She told me she was always offering to help other people because she thought that they would be nice to her in return. But these friends very often took Amanda for granted.
Amanda assumed that she was unhappy because of the way other people treated her. She hadn’t ever considered that by looking for validation from other people she was forgetting to look to herself. This realisation helped her feel more empowered. She began to see that instead of seeking happiness outside of herself from other people, she could start from within.
Amanda’s story is very common. We get so caught up in chasing approval from others that we forget to stop and look at ourselves and remember just how special we are.
If you recognise yourself as a people pleaser, then you’re not alone. I’ve helped hundreds of clients learn to let this go move forward to have better relationships, more confidence and a much happier life.
I offer face-to-face counselling and therapy sessions in Miraflores, Riviera del Sol, Malaga, Spain
I also offer online sessions across the globe via Skype or Zoom
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