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If you are buried under an endless to-do list, feeling guilty about saying no, worried about what others think then you are probably dealing with people-pleasing.

People pleasing doesn’t have to be a life sentence. But, it is a very common problem. So you might be wondering: what makes a people pleaser?

Typically, people pleasers are…

+ afraid of being rejected or abandoned

+ preoccupied with what others think and feel

+ fearful of saying no, setting limits, or seeming “mean”

+ hungry for the approval of others

+ stuck in relationships where they give more than they get

+ overworked because of an overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility

+ neglectful of their own needs

+ exhausted, overbooked, and burned out trying to take care of others

If you’re ever feeling stuck about what makes a people pleaser, go back to item #1 on the list above. Fear of rejection or abandonment drives pretty much everything a people pleaser does.

Some of the skills that people-pleasers have include…

Taking the temperature of a room (ie, tuning into how a situation feels)

Blending or editing themselves to fit in with the group (also known as code-switching)

Intuiting what other people think, feel, and need in a situation

Caring for others, anticipating needs, and generally being indispensable

Strong work ethic

People-pleasing is a strategy for coping with a lack of security in a relationship. While we often focus on the negatives that come with this relational stance, it actually has many strengths, too.

Commonly, you’ll see people-pleasing along with one or more of these traits:

-low self-esteem


-a strong need for control

-type A personality style


So, now we know what we’re looking for. But what makes a people pleaser? Why do they do what they do?

People pleasers often start off as parent pleasers.

People-pleasing behaviors evolve as a way to maintain connection and closeness with parents who are inconsistently available to their children.

A lack of parental attunement is a big part of what causes people-pleasing.

Many times, parents of people pleasers are too worried about their own troubles to tune in to what their children are feeling and thinking.

Or they may frequently mislabel or misinterpret their child’s signals and feelings.

People-pleasing parents are often in a state of emotional overwhelm, leading their children to treat them carefully, as if they were fragile.

Sometimes these people pleaser children act more like the adult in the relationship and take on a caregiving role towards their own parents.

These are a few examples of what causes people-pleasing. In the end, the parent struggles to be emotionally connected and available to their child in a consistent way. The child picks up on this and moves to protect their parent and their feelings so the child can remain connected.

If you are feeling a little called out by this post, know that it is OKAY! Your childhood self was smart enough to find a way to survive in the environment you were given, and there is nothing wrong with that.

The tricky part is when you become aware of these traits in adulthood and are ready to let them go!

Look out for our next blog on how to heal the people pleaser tendency and set yourself free from this unpleasant survival instinct.

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