Wrestling with the ‘People Pleaser’ gremlin

24th March 2021

Hands up if you’re a people pleaser! 

Yep me too!! I think lots of us are.

I know for me, putting other people’s needs before my own was something that was both implied and expressed in the family, when I was growing up. In fact, I’ve got vivid memories of family visits where my brother and I were responsible for handing around the plates of biscuits or cakes. Whether we were specifically told or not, I don’t remember, but we always knew that we weren’t allowed to take anything until all of the adults had had what they wanted. I can vividly remember watching my Dad’s Aunties snaffle all the nice posh ones, and my brother and I were always left with what we thought were the boring ones! 

This is just one little example of the sorts of things that we pick up in childhood that can still hijack us as a fully functioning adults. I know absolutely that it wasn’t my parents intention to instil in me such a deep sense of “it’s not OK to put myself first” but actually that’s precisely how it feels to me at times.

The idea that “it’s not OK to put my own needs first” is something that we’ve swallowed whole and it’s become part of our core belief system. It is absolutely part of who I am. I can see that there are times in both my working and personal life when that Please People driver is a real help, a signature strength – and I am also very aware of the times when it is a complete hindrance.

Being a people pleaser can mean that we;

Find it hard to hold our boundaries or challenge others when we disagree.

Accommodate and flex to suit everyone else, putting ourselves under pressure.

Take on too much and find we don’t then have the time or energy to do what we want to do. All of that can leave us feeling angry, resentful, unappreciated, undervalued and overwhelmed. We probably don’t express how we’re really feeling until we’ve had too much and then things probably come out in a way that isn’t particularly helpful. Therein lies the voice of experience!!!

What counselling and therapy can do is to help you to begin to strip out some of the unhelpful wiring here. Maintaining the part(s) that makes us the considerate, kind and empathic people we are – it is absolutely possible to rewire and build back in the idea that;

“It is OK for me to put my needs first.”

“The world won’t collapse around me if I am clear about my boundaries.”

“I CAN find kind, respectful ways of saying ‘no’ or asking for what I need without impacting my relationships.”

Exploring early experiences is just one part of the work that I do with clients. It’s amazing when we start shining a light on our childhood experiences and patterns,  just how many of them are being replicated in the here and now as adults.

If you’re a fellow People Pleaser and are interested to begin the work of rewiring that particular gremlin, please feel free to get in touch!