‘Are You A Doormat or People Pleaser?’ by Lisa Phillips published in Great Health Guide (Dec 2015). Do you feel that people are taking advantage of your good nature? Do you feel resentful of yourself & people around you? Perhaps you feel that you want to “please” others over your own needs? If this is you, read this article to find out how to set yourself free from this cycle.
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Relationships: Are You A Doormat or People Pleaser?
written by Lisa Phillips
I admit it, I was a people pleaser. I suffered the ‘disease to please’ and Doormat Syndrome for years. I didn’t just dip my toe into the occasional people pleasing situation, I was a serial addict. The ‘disease to please’ kept me stuck in a toxic relationshipfor over 5 years and regularly left me feeling ‘disrespected and walked all over’. I felt resentful of myself and of other people. In time, this bad habit nearly cost me my self-respect, personal integrity and emotional wellbeing. It was also seriously exhausting due the time I spent worrying what people thought of me and trying desperately to make sure I was ‘liked’ by everyone I met.
Fortunately, after collapsing into an emotional heap one day, I finally declared the end to my doormat status and screamed ‘I am not going to take it anymore.’ The moment had finally arrived for me to treat myself with more respect and show people how I expected them to treat me. Yes, it was scary but looking back on my life now I am so happy that I took the plunge.
So what are some key signs of a people pleaser?
1. Your happiness depends on the approval and appreciation from other people
2. You find it difficult to say ‘no’ to other people’s requests
3. You avoid conflict at all costs
4. You feel you are being taken for granted but you do nothing about it
5. You care too much about being liked and you fear the loss of approval
6. You allow people to put you down or criticize you and you make excuses for their behavior
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7. You may fear what would happen if you did become more assertive
8. You like to be seen as a nice or good person
9. You would hate someone to think that you are selfish or unkind in any way
10. You end up doing all the things other people don’t want to do
Does this sound like you? If so, this year could be the year you set yourself free. Why is the ‘disease to please’ so common and why do we find it so difficult to stop it? Is it just as simple as practicing some new assertiveness skills and learning to speak up? For many people, including myself, it just isn’t that easy.
One of the main reasons that people find it so difficult to be assertive is they fear the repercussions. They fear what ‘could happen’ and many people are terrified that those around them may see them as a ‘bad person’ or disapprove of them in some way.
I remember feeling terrified at the thought of saying ‘no’ to my boss after he asked me to stay late one evening. After finally plucking up the courage to do so, I ended up feeling so much guilt and anxiety that I went back to him apologizing and agreeing to do anything he wanted. This was also true for Jane, a recent client of mine. Jane came to see me due to a problem she was having with her mother-in-law. This situation had gone on for over 10 years. During this time my client had been shouted at, ignored, insulted and belittled many times. Jane could not do anything right in her mother-in-law’s eyes, despite trying extremely hard to please her and going out of her way to keep her happy. When I asked Jane why she put up with this poor behavior she responded, ‘Oh I couldn’t be rude to her. I couldn’t ask her to stop – that would just be rude and she wouldn’t like that at all’. Jane is a great example of a people pleaser in that she allowed her mother-in-law to be rude and insensitive towards her, yet refused to speak up and confront her mother-in-law about the behavior. Jane’s fear of being disapproved of was greater than her need to look after her own wellbeing. She was terrified of upsetting her mother-in-law and worried what the repercussions would be. Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, in failing to speak up, Jane was also unconsciously sending out the message that ‘I am unimportant. My feelings do not matter. What other people want is far more important than what I want’.
Take a few minutes to reflect on your own life? Do you allow people to put you down or insult you? Do you allow other people to take advantage of you or allow others to walk all over your boundaries? Do you keep quiet and push down your feelings just to ‘keep the peace’? Do you always try to be behave how other people would like you to behave, try to be what others want you to be, agree with others and always try to fit in and not ‘rock the boat’?
Interestingly, many people pleasers learn from an early age that their needs were not really important and they learn to survive by trying to ensure that everyone else around them was happy. As adults this can easily develop into habits such as avoiding conflict, keeping the peace, always being agreeable and constantly putting other people’s needs and feelings above our own. Even when people pleasers do decide to speak up for themselves or be assertive, it is often followed with a huge wave of anxiety, guilt or ‘uncomfortable feelings’ which may cause the individual to go running back and apologizing for their behavior and trying to make everything OK again. Common fears of being assertive can also include:
FEAR that we will hurt someone’s feelings
FEAR of what may happen
FEAR of ‘not looking good’ or that people won’t like us
FEAR that we may not be seen as a nice person
FEAR that someone won’t like us
FEAR of losing someone’s approval