People-Pleasing: The Price Of Being Too Nice And What To Do About It

People Pleasing“Be good, be nice, be cool, share and care, don't be selfish, be reasonable, don't hurt others, help friends….”
Most of us have these values engraved within us, from childhood. The fact is, being nice is a good thing, and we can only wish that more people were nice(er)!

Then.. there are those “extremely nice” people, who are focused on wanting to please others to the detriment of their own needs. Dr. Harriet Braiker, in her book The Disease To Please classifies them as “people-pleasers”. At first glance, it may not even seem like a problem at all. In fact, the label people-pleaser may feel more like a compliment or a flattering self-description that you proudly wear as a badge of honor.

When being nice becomes a problem...

1. You’re stressing over a lot of things you shouldn’t be stressing!
2. You fail to deal with a problem (avoiding confrontation).
3. You are unwilling to speak up for yourself
4. Your niceness may even blind you to the fact that you are being manipulated and exploited.

Why does it matter so much to please someone else?
The culture we humans have created for ourselves is mainly driven by “what other people think,” the tension between the desire for approval and the fear of disapproval. Businesses, families, friendships, sports, politics; everything is heavily influenced by it.
All of us from time to time have a tendency to wonder “what others might think”, so I am not speculating that everyone who thinks this way is a people-pleaser! However, some tend to go overboard with it and as a result, self-esteem is all tied up with how much they do for others.

Overcoming a People-Pleasing Mindset

1. Accept That You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. ~Bill Cosby
Re-examine the idea that you always have to be nice. Often it is based on the belief that if you act and think nicely, then bad things won’t happen to you. Unfortunately, believing in the absolute power of niceness doesn’t work, because life isn’t always fair. Some people may not like you, for reasons beyond your control, or even because you are simply “too nice” for them.
So stop beating yourself up for trying to do the impossible. Recognize that the most important, effective and lasting approval is your acceptance of yourself. Look to your own judgments and values.

2. Focus on your own best interest instead of avoiding conflict
Learn that it is OK not to be nice, that you can say negative things and have negative thoughts or feelings toward others.
Give yourself permission to express anger appropriately, since continually suppressed anger can lead to frustration that can ultimately erupt in an explosion of aggression.

3. Don't wait, stop looking and let go!(if only it was that easy!)
Jonathan meticulously points out in his post The Secret to Happiness: Stop Caring, that everything we need is right here, right now, in the present moment. Most of us fail to realize this and look "outward" to find happiness.

4. Stop and ask the question “What do I want?”
Take time to ask your self what YOU really want BEFORE telling yourself that you should always put other people first.

Is this an issue you have experienced before? How did you get past the "people-pleasing" mindset?

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74 comments:

Simple Sapien said...

I loved this post. It made me happy actually. Being too nice is the story of my life. I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean. It really screwed me over! So much wisdom in this post... thank you.

- Jack Rugile
Simple Sapien

Shamelle said...

@Jack: Its good to hear that you have already recognized your issue of being too nice. That's always the first step.
Thank you for your kind words and I am glad the post helped you.

rummuser said...

It is not as difficult as it is made out to be - being able to say no. The trick is in learning how to be assertive without being aggressive. While it is all very well to say that the other should be more important, unless it pleases me, or rather makes me happy to do so, it is counterproductive.

No, I never have problems saying no to people and rarely have to please every one.

Vered - MomGrind said...

"You’re stressing over a lot of things you shouldn’t be stressing!" - YES I DO!!!

Thank you for this article. It gave me a lot to think about.

Starfire said...

Interesting article, Shamelle; and it raises a question for me. I don't think I suffer from people-pleasing (to be honest, I could do with thinking of other people first a little more often, but it's something I'm working!), but I do have a best friend who's a classic people-pleaser, to the point where it's tearing her apart.

She's realised this about herself, and is working with a counsellor to find healthier ways of relating to herself and other people around (amongst other things... for various reasons she's in a pretty emotionally vulnerable place overall right now).

My question is: how can I best support her from the outside in her journey? At the moment, I'm trying really hard to give her positive reinforcement when she tells me about instances where she's taking steps toward standing up for herself; or when she's able to think in terms of what *she* needs (so, for example, if she tells me she doesn't want to do something with me on a given day because she needs time for herself and then she apologises profusely for it, I try to let her know I'm really happy she feels comfortable telling me she needs that time, and that she has nothing to apologise for), and I also try to make a point of trying to visibly model politely assertive behaviour when I'm around her (which is every bit as good for me as it is for her, I know!)

Are there other things I can be doing to support her, without ending up crossing the line between counsellor and friend (which we've discovered in the past is not a constructive dynamic between us)?

Blessings


Starfire

Shamelle said...

@rummuser: "learning how to be assertive without being aggressive".... couldn't have said it better.

@Vered: That's why I filed this post under "Think tank" ;-0)

@Starfire: "My question is: how can I best support her from the outside in her journey?" From the example you have stated I can say that you are doing the right thing. Being supportive and making it easy for your friend to carry out HER needs is the way to do. (note: I am not a shrink but this is just my 2 cents!)

Chris Edgar said...

Thanks for this post. Another great book on this issue I like that's oriented specifically toward men is called "No More Mr. Nice Guy," by Dr. Robert Glover. He goes into what I think is particularly important in overcoming "people-pleasing," which is coming to terms with the childhood events that cause us to suppress our anger.

Stacey Shipman said...

I have found that playing the role of "devil's advocate" often leads to greater respect from colleagues and peers. And the role can be played respectfully. When talking about feelings, I find it helpful to take ownership and explicitly say "I am angry" without placing blame.

I absolutely agree - happiness is internal, not found "externally."

Mike Foster said...

These are all outstanding tips and solutions to a problem that only really nice people seem to suffer from--wanting to please everyone. These tips will help my nice wife. Me? I'm too cranky to wanna please everyone...

peace,
mike
livelife365

Shamelle said...

@Chris: True, when it comes to people-pleasing it is a common norm that women are more savvy towards this habit.

@Stacey: "devil's advocate" ..Interesting perspective

@Mike: "I'm too cranky to wanna please everyone..." um... this could be another post idea! :-0)

Evelyn Lim said...

How true! It's hard to say No. But a clarification of values and knowing where we stand first can also prevent us from becoming a doormat.

Miss MatchMaker said...

This is such a great topic because so many people suffer from it! I actually label them "Caregivers" and one of the things I recommend is that people who suffer from this (like myself sometimes) choose a career path that allows them to care for and help others. This way their nature can be focused and receive positive impact rather then negative. I wrote about this not to long ago on my page, check it out if you have a chance and let me know if it would be okay for me to link your post to it...

xoxo~

Shamelle said...

@Evelyn: yes.. knowing where we stand is important in any aspect of life.

Shamelle said...

@MatchMaker: You present a good way to direct the "pleasing" energy. Sure thing.. I will stop by your blog.

Wendi said...

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. You have a very nice blog, lots of great information!

KW said...

Excellent Article!

Mark said...

This is a very important lesson for many. One can easily get lost in trying to please everybody.

Tom Volkar Delightful Work said...

I even think that expressing anger inappropriately is better in the long run than not expressing it at all. That stuff can tear you up inside. This is a good article. Far too many are too often too nice and it blunts authenticity.

Jeremy Day said...

Hi Shamelle,

This is a wonderful post and more people need to hear it. Bill Cosby's quote is a sweet addition.

Cheers,
Jeremy

Anonymous said...

This article really helped me. Especially the part...

" Unfortunately, believing in the absolute power of niceness doesn’t work, because life isn’t always fair. Some people may not like you, for reasons beyond your control, or even because you are simply “too nice” for them. ".

I have spent 3 years being nice to my boyfriends close friend. My boyfriend left the phone after he left me a message. I over heard his friend saying I was "evil" and he can't stand me because of how Nice I am to him.

That really hurt. He's the exact opposite of me. I believe that he can't stand to see someone who has all the qualities he lacks. You can guarentee I will no longer be "nice" to him.

the worstest mommy said...

This was a very inspiring article. This describes myself and also the way my daughter has developed. Not only because of watching my reactions to things but also because of her personal experiences. It is very hard to help her see that it's ok sometimes to not be nice, as that is also hard for me.

Anonymous said...

one of the best article,really inspiring..the article fully describes me.I have been trying so hard to change but cant and have accepted it as "being me".I have just been dealt with a big blow for being "miss too nice" and my boyfriend forwarded this link to me.
Thank you Shamelle for this wonderful post and thank you Smoockie for being there!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully Written! Concise yet straight to the point. I love your blog! Thanks for inspiring others to highly esteem themselves, and certainly its all about Progress, not Perfection.

Anonymous said...

I suppress my anger almost every time i get angry but i also suffered from anger management cause i got angry to easily but because i suppress it no one no knows and eventually i know i will snap and the person that makes me snap is going to get a surprise because i don't stand up for myself. i am worried i will over do letting my anger out

Anonymous said...

You guys are all pussies this shit is just an idiot who wants to speak his vagina to impress his large ego. It dont really matter son noone actually listens to this shit anyway it will just fuck with your head. shame on this guy for posting this and you guys are all just sheep.

Thats my opinion like it or not.

Anonymous said...

To the last poster,

You are completely right. That is the attitude that this dr was trying to exploit. You spoke your mind and have a valid opinion. And you stuck to it without trying to impress other. Congradualtion your probably the smartest guy on here.

Warren G said...

You all are just validating that your rude. Be nice dont worry it will get you farther in life ;]

Donny Black said...

And I officially give up on life. This world is full of some real shitbags. Keep it up Warren G you still have a good head on your shoulders

Anonymous said...

I also recommend the book "no more mr nice guy" which goes deeper into this subject.

One thing i have been realizing is that it is even more wrong when people are not respecting your needs then you not being nice... think about it. I find myself re-valuing my social life in this perspective and see who my real friends are.

Anonymous said...

[edit]
With respecting my 'needs', I also mean my boundaries and my opinions.
[edit]

I also recommend the book "no more mr nice guy" which goes deeper into this subject.

One thing i have been realizing is that it is even more wrong when people are not respecting your needs then you not being nice... think about it. I find myself re-valuing my social life in this perspective and see who my real friends are.

Anonymous said...

If someone disrespects you and your spouce and you are overly nice to that person are you a people pleaser? And if so why do i do it at theexpence of my spouce.

Dag Nybo said...

I liked your post so much I referenced in my blog article this morning. Very powerful...

http://bizcoachaustin.blogspot.com/2011/02/does-people-pleasing-get-in-way-of-your.html

Anonymous said...

Wow this article sounds so much like me it isn't even funny. Most people like my nice ways but I can tell when people are taking advantage of me

sha said...

hi amazing blogger! finally found what I've been looking for.... I like reading your blogs...Full of wisdom!

Anonymous said...

great article
just be strong in your mind.
know who are the people that care about you.
know your friends
don't worry about your acquaintences
be civil but not so nice and friendly
dont show weakness to people, don't smile to much, just be yourself. Think confident in your mind. Be happy with who you are. learn how to say no or decline when the situation calls for it.
show a little anger, if you have to, but do not lose control or get agressive. let your acquaintences be a little careful with you

but remember always know your friends, and your social support group. Be nice and friendly and love your family and friends and your social network. these are the people you want to smile and be sociable with.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this information!! I have been a people pleaser all my life, learning at a young age to do so for fear of a man's anger. First my dad's and now my husbands. Unfortunatley shame and judgment by both of them has made me crippled with fear. When its just me or me and my kids I am happy but when my husband is around I am a mess. Hopefully I can put the info you provided to good use, thank you again....Jennifer

Anonymous said...

People pleasing has been a very dangerous thing in my life. I learned to do it from the time I was born, throughout my childhood, into my career, and through a marriage to an alcoholic, then through a marriage to a wonderful man with a serious genetic disease. Now I am a 58 year old widow, alone and completely drained and exhausted. I gave away ALL my energy and love trying to meet everyone's needs and wants, but my own. Being too nice turned out to be a MAJOR character flaw in my life, and a very, very expensive lesson that I learned way too late. If I had it to do over again, I would make MYSELF the number one priority and star of my life, rather than catering to everyone else. I spent my life always thinking that others were more important and completely short changed myself.

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These are all outstanding tips and solutions to a problem that only really nice people seem to suffer from--wanting to please everyone

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This is a very important lesson for many. One can easily get lost in trying to please everybody.

r4i card said...

These are all outstanding tips and solutions to a problem that only really nice people seem to suffer from--wanting to please everyone.

las vegas themed weddings said...

It made me happy actually. Being too nice is the story of my life. I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

property management nevada said...

Recognize that the most important, effective and lasting approval is your acceptance of yourself. Look to your own judgments and values.

property management henderson said...

I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

property management henderson said...

It is not as difficult as it is made out to be - being able to say no. The trick is in learning how to be assertive without being aggressive.

property management henderson said...

It made me happy actually. Being too nice is the story of my life. I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

las vegas rental properties said...

I have found that playing the role of "devil's advocate" often leads to greater respect from colleagues and peers.

JW said...

I am always too nice in the workplace and am often reluctant to stand up to people. This post really resonates with me.

asphalt mix plant said...

While it is all very well to say that the other should be more important, unless it pleases me, or rather makes me happy to do so, it is counterproductive.
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It is very hard to help her see that it's ok sometimes to not be nice, as that is also hard for me.

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I find it helpful to take ownership and explicitly say "I am angry" without placing blame.

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It made me happy actually. Being too nice is the story of my life. I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

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I have found that playing the role of "devil's advocate" often leads to greater respect from colleagues and peers. And the role can be played respectfully. When talking about feelings, I find it helpful to take ownership and explicitly say "I am angry" without placing blame.

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Often it is based on the belief that if you act and think nicely, then bad things won’t happen to you.

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This way their nature can be focused and receive positive impact rather then negative.

Asphalt Drum Mix Plant said...

It made me happy actually. Being too nice is the story of my life. I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

Wet Mix Plant said...

I have found that playing the role of "devil's advocate" often leads to greater respect from colleagues and peers. And the role can be played respectfully. When talking about feelings.

Concrete Batch Mix Plant said...

I am always too nice in the workplace and am often reluctant to stand up to people. This post really resonates with me.

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I loved this post. It made me happy actually. Being too nice is the story of my life. I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

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It is not as difficult as it is made out to be - being able to say no. The trick is in learning how to be assertive without being aggressive.

Property Rental Management said...

I would not stand up for myself or anyone because it would cause tension and be too mean.

property management las vegas said...

Recognize that the most important, effective and lasting approval is your acceptance of yourself. Look to your own judgments and values.

Mobile Concrete Batching Plant said...

Learn that it is OK not to be nice, that you can say negative things and have negative thoughts or feelings toward others.

Air Filter Regulator Lubricator said...

I gave away ALL my energy and love trying to meet everyone's needs and wants, but my own.

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While it is all very well to say that the other should be more important, unless it pleases me, or rather makes me happy to do so, it is counterproductive.

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I also try to make a point of trying to visibly model politely assertive behavior when I'm around her.

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It is very hard to help her see that it's ok sometimes to not be nice, as that is also hard for me.

Mobile Concrete Batching Plant said...

Recognize that the most important, effective and lasting approval is your acceptance of yourself. Look to your own judgments and values.

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This is a very important lesson for many. One can easily get lost in trying to please everybody.

property rental management said...

While it is all very well to say that the other should be more important, unless it pleases me, or rather makes me happy to do so, it is counterproductive.

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The trick is in learning how to be assertive without being aggressive. While it is all very well to say that the other should be more important, unless it pleases me, or rather makes me happy to do so, it is counterproductive

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Recognize that the most important, effective and lasting approval is your acceptance of yourself. Look to your own judgments and values.

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While it is all very well to say that the other should be more important, unless it pleases me, or rather makes me happy to do so, it is counterproductive.

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Learn that it is OK not to be nice, that you can say negative things and have negative thoughts or feelings toward others.

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