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A recovering people-pleaser – A therapist’s story

Wanting to please other people and make others happy is a good thing right? But what about when it comes at the cost of your own happiness?

I was raised by a mum and a nan who are also people pleasers. It felt like that was who I was supposed to be. But my people pleasing became like theirs on steroids. It led to heartbreak, rejection, financial problems and feeling very alone.

So what does people pleasing look like? This is a list of some of my examples:

  • Saying don’t worry it’s fine when it wasn’t fine
  • Saying no I’m not busy, even though I really was
  • Saying no I don’t mind, even though I really did
  • Always saying yes when someone needed me
  • Struggling to say no
  • Volunteering myself left right and centre
  • Offering to do anything that made other’s lives easier
  • Excessive spending on others gifts, making lots of effort to find them the ‘right’ gift
  • Never asking for money back when paid on others behalf, regularly ending up paying for others share despite them agreeing to it
  • Giving people 2nd, 3rd, 10th, 100th chances despite getting hurt along the way
  • Going above and beyond to help others
  • Letting others choose what they want
  • Saying sorry all the time
  • Never asking for help from others, never letting others see me struggle
  • Never telling people when they have upset me, avoiding confrontation

I describe myself as a recovering people pleaser, rather than recovered, because I still have to work hard to not fall into these traps.

The reason why I knew I needed to change, is because my life had lots of people I cared for, but not people who looked out for me, who were there when I needed support. I had begun to feel really lonely. I’d also started to question what was wrong with me that friends would come and go, seemingly happy to lose me from their life despite me doing so much for them.

Completing my CBT training allowed me to piece my puzzle together and start to make changes. I now have learnt to recognise when relationships are one-sided, and to keep my distance so I don’t waste time and energy and ultimately end up disappointed. I have learnt to invest my time in the people that do care more. I am continuing to work at asking for help, and speaking up for my own suffering rather than letting everyone think I’m fine. I don’t volunteer myself for everything, I can say no, and I don’t give people unlimited chances.

My happiness has improved significantly as a result of the changes I’ve made. I feel much less alone, far more supported, and now feel like I have more friends in my life that genuinely care for me.

Alongside my perfectionism, I’d seen my people pleasing as an asset for many years. Whenever people described me they would always use words like kind, caring, generous. But these things had a hidden cost. A cost I couldn’t sustain without feeling resentful and unhappy.

CBT has so many useful teachings that I’ve self-applied. It enables an understanding of why we people please, to recognise the examples of it, and strategies to change the way we think and the way we act to break the vicious cycle. The aim is to move you into the zone of healthy levels of caring for others, rather than the unhealthy and unsustainable versions I regularly see.

 

Found this blog useful? Try this too: Understanding People Pleasing – from an expert psychotherapist | Hannah Paskin (hannahpaskintherapy.co.uk)
Wondering if I’m the therapist for you? Read this: Why Should I Choose You? | Hannah Paskin (hannahpaskintherapy.co.uk)

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