The Truth About People Pleasing

By Corissa L Stepp

People Pleasing is a behavior often learned in childhood as a self-preservation technique. It becomes a way of getting our needs met by receiving recognition or attention for being “the good girl or boy,” the “helpful one,” the “easy-going one,” the “kind and generous one,” the “selfless one,” the “thoughtful one,” the “high achiever,” the “teacher’s pet,” etc. 

When we try to meet all of our parents’ expectations of us or use our behavior or achievements to get recognition or attention, it is ultimately our attempt to meet our needs.  As children, we often perceive attention or recognition as “love.” 

This leads to 2 different motivations potentially:  1) the need to constantly seek someone else’s approval out of a fear of rejection or a fear of abandonment or 2) what I call “Shiny Object Syndrome” or S.O.S. 

S.O.S. is where we constantly chase the next shiny gold object in pursuit of some sort of happiness or satisfaction.  This may look like pursuing another certification, promotion, or accolade (professionally or personally).  Or it may look like overspending or jumping from one relationship to the next.  S.O.S. is also exactly what it sounds like – a cry for help.  It’s a red flag that we are deeply unhappy and desperately seek someone or something else outside of ourselves to ease or distract us from our pain.  It signals that we have lost sight of the happiness we all have within us; we have forgotten how to reconnect with our true joy and believe it is somewhere “out there” rather than in our hearts. 

The good news is that we no longer have to chase the antidote or wait for someone to “rescue” us once we realize this.  We can step out of our misery, out of victimhood, out of martyrdom, and begin healing the parts of us that are deeply wounded.  The inner child who didn’t get their needs for love, attention, and power met. 

Their inner child abdicated their power to please someone they loved because they mistakenly believed that if they behaved or helped their loved one, they would receive what they believed was love and recognition in return.

The deep wound that needs to be healed centers around self-worth, where you know that you are worthy of receiving love purely just for being who you are and not for what you can provide for others. 

It’s a deep and heavy journey, but it’s one worth embarking on because when you can live your life feeling safe being who you are and knowing that you deserve love, attention, and recognition purely for being who you are, you’re able then to reclaim your power and rediscover the joy that you hold within.

The nature of your relationships may change as a result. The ones that are no longer serving you or not reflecting your value will fall away, and the ones aligned with your value and worth will strengthen and improve. 

You will attract opportunities and people who respect and value you for who you authentically are. You will find peace and ease but, most of all, truth, love, and joy.

When you first step out as your authentic self, you will likely encounter someone who will tell you that “you’ve changed,” that “you’re not the same,” that “you’re not as thoughtful (generous, sweet, kind, etc.)” as you once were.  While at first, you may react defensively, realize that your growth and ability to now set boundaries is a good thing, so don’t take it personally.  It may take your loved ones time to adjust to your boundaries and while it may be hard to enforce those boundaries, do your best to stay firm. Slipping up once in a while is to be expected and normal as you recover from people pleasing.  Just keep setting and reinforcing the boundaries; soon, they will become second nature, and your loved ones will begin to understand and respect your limits.  They will get used to you speaking your truth and standing up for yourself; as a result, if they are the right people to surround yourself with, they will respect and value you for it.  If they are not with the right people, taking some space or distancing yourself may be the healthiest route.  Don’t let anyone hold you back from being the fullest and highest expression of who you are!  Don’t let anyone stop you from courageously stepping into your truth and authenticity.  Don’t let anyone cause you to compromise your boundaries or values if they help you feel safe and respected.

Eventually, they will come to love and respect the newly empowered version of you that is honest and joyful.  You’ll be able to operate from a heart-based place rather than a fear-based place (fear of rejection, non-acceptance, abandonment, losing another’s love, fear of failure, fear of making a mistake or not being perfect, etc.).  When you move through life from your heart, you show up in your fullest potential, which means you’ll move through the world serving the highest and best good of all, finding meaning, purpose, and fulfillment!


If you’re ready to break the patterns of people pleasing, join my 6-week Ditch the People Pleaser Bootcamp!  Starts November 1st over Zoom. Click HERE for more info. 

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