Mental Health-o-pedia

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3rd November 2022

People Pleasing


Written by Bonoshree Dutta


The Anatomy of People-Pleasing


People-Pleasing is the act of putting someone else’s needs ahead of their own – in order to appease that person, avoid potential conflict or seek safety by holding back on own wishes, opinions, needs or desires.


In the Heart of People-Pleasing, lies –


-     a trauma response and an adaptive coping mechanism against emotionally neglectful or unavailable situations, abusive environment, experiences of mistreatment etc.

Fawn responses can be very subtle and include - 

  • seeking others’ thoughts or opinions to determine own ones
  • having a hard time identifying own feelings 
  • instinctually appeasing others at the first sign of conflict
  • yielding to others’ beliefs without a second thought



When a person faces emotional negligence from their caregivers, or encounters abusive relationships, they start equating their worth and values to how much needed and acknowledged they are to others. They place their values and worth at the hand of others, waiting for their stamp of approval to ‘feel good about themselves’.

A people-pleaser wants to be seen as nice, kind, loyal and selfless, but they continuously violate their own boundaries or dismiss their own opinions to fit in others’ image of ‘kind and nice.’ 



An ‘act of kindness’ can have underlying causes to it..

What we see


What we don’t see

Underlying causes

Saying ‘Yes’ to every call of help

It feels guilty to set boundaries and prioritize own needs

Apologizing excessively or without being the one to blame

“What if they hate me for this?” “I’m a terrible person!” - these thoughts surface the mind

Agreeing too quickly or pretending to agree to someone’s opinions

Not expressing genuine thoughts in order to avoid arguments or conflicts can be a result of past trauma

Being too concerned about others’ opinion of themselves

Wanting to appear perfect and feeling unworthy otherwise can stem from severe insecurity 

Keeping their emotions to themselves or suppressing  sadness, anger, feeling of betrayal etc.

Emotionally neglectful parents or emotionally unavailable relations can make one anxious about expressing how they feel and needing care and comfort 




“What’s so bad about wanting to be nice?”


There are some significant differences between genuinely being nice vs. wanting to please others in order to feel accepted.


Being Nice


“I can assist you if I am available on that day.”

“There’s no way I wouldn’t do what you ask of me!”

“Sorry, I am not comfortable with this.”

“Yes of course, I don’t want to ruin everyone’s mood!” 

“It’s great that I was able to help you out!”

“It’s great that you approve of my actions and praise me for it!” 

“My kindness depends on ME.”

“My kindness depends on YOU.”

“You are worthy of compassion and so am I.”

“You deserve to be treated nicely, while I am just a nobody!”




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