People-pleasing, overhelping, overgiving—we can give it lots of different names, but the consequences to putting yourself last all the time are generally the same.
You may have been raised to see giving and helping as virtuous things. And hear me say, they are. I believe wholeheartedly that it’s a beautiful thing to serve, support, and help others. However, people-pleasers don’t always know when to draw the line; they give and give almost as if they have an endless supply of time, energy, and resources.
Surprisingly, people-pleasing is often about control. It’s rooted in your need to try and boost your own self-esteem, avoid conflict, and manipulate the environment into what you need it to be to feel at ease.
But I can assure you, there are vast and detrimental consequences to working so hard to please and appease others. I know firsthand. My overgiving, overhelping ways were rooted in my deep need to be seen, supported, and cared for. I’ve experienced fried adrenal glands not once, but twice from pushing so hard to say yes to everything but me.
Let me share with you some of the costs of overgiving and people-pleasing now.
The more you try to please those around you, the less time you have for yourself and the things you need and desire, which then leads to feeling resentful.
If your needs aren’t being met by those around you (because let’s face it, most people-pleasers aren’t being honest and telling our people what we need), it can cause deep hurt and anger.
It’s not other people’s job to read our minds. It’s our job to speak our truth and be honest, but often, we fail to do so. So when they don’t intuit or “just know” our needs we start becoming resentful toward them too. “Arghhh, how can they be so uncaring?”
Anger then takes hold. Resentment is what happens when we stuff or suppress that anger (common for the people-pleaser—remember, we need to keep the harmony at all costs, so speaking on behalf of our anger is major taboo!).
And once resentment kicks in, that’s when the illness of bitterness seeps in and festers. Resentment is what leads to long marriages and relationships of contempt, rolling eyes, and “staying together for the kids.” It leaks out as criticism, defensiveness, and snarky side comments. It explodes in the kitchen at a random comment (that actually isn’t random—it simply pressed on the already existing wound).
Loss of Identity
People-pleasers spend a great deal of time editing themselves—so much so that they lose sight of who they really are.
When you’re always trying to please other people you often hide yourself or morph into behaving like other people to get what you want. You’re a master chameleon, an expert at being anyone… other than you.
This was my ammo 100 percent. I didn’t know who I was because I had spent decades trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be. It was the only way I knew how to keep myself safe. I had spent years feeling like I was unlikable, didn’t fit in, or that I wasn’t smart enough. So I simply bought into the notion that I had to go along to get along.
This led me straight down a path to never understanding what I enjoyed, liked, disliked, or needed because I rarely made any choices for myself. I didn’t put aside time for myself and explore new things because I had no idea what those things might be. So I just didn’t. I continued in my pattern of pleasing and appeasing to my own detriment.
Loss of Intimacy/Loss of Relationships
For a typical people-pleaser, their relationships often look one-sided.
Let me guess, you’re the one that:
- Plans outings
- Is the listening ear
- Is the shoulder to cry on
- Everyone calls when they need something
- Is always “holding space for others”
This makes you feel needed, wanted, valued, and important. But when you stop to think about it, you realize you’re not getting the same in return.
It’s not hard to see how this leads to short-lived relationships following a set pattern:
Joy and fun at first, then you start to feel exhausted, then resentment creeps in followed by mild confrontation and the inevitable parting of the ways. (And I know because this is a pattern I followed more times that I care to confess).
There came a point where I had to get honest about the depth of my friendships. Yes, many were fun. But they lacked the support and intimacy that I longed for. No one ever asked about me and what I had going on. No one ever held space for my hurts and frustrations in life. I often felt emptier when I came home from spending an evening together than I did when I left.
Fear kept me in those relationships long past their expiration dates. I didn’t walk away sooner because I was too scared to be alone.
I noticed that I held back from being honest and sharing myself with them. I didn’t think I could be intimate or vulnerable, so at some point, the relationship simply expired. Just like a carton of yogurt that gets pushed to the back of the refrigerator, it saw its final date.
As I was growing and healing, I began to see that the people I had chosen to be in relationships with were no longer healthy for me. My soul was healing, and I was learning to align with relationships that felt honest and authentic.
Speaking your truth and asking for what you need doesn’t make you a selfish person. It makes you a real person, with real needs, and real relationships are only formed when we are willing to be… you guessed it, real.
It’s okay to want to help and support people. I’m not telling anyone to be a jerk and to never lend a helping hand. However, you need to know where to draw the line; you need to find a balance of helping them and you.
We all matter. We all have needs that matter. And the only way to get our needs met is to be honest about them—and to set healthy boundaries that honor them.
Boundaries are not about saying no all the time and demanding things of other people. Boundaries are about knowing where the line is for you and communicating that line in a way that is firm and compassionate so you can flourish and thrive.
When set correctly, boundaries give both people a choice as to what happens next in the relationship. It’s okay sometimes to walk away. But it’s also okay to stay in the relationship and practice honesty and intimacy if that feels right. When you start to become familiar with boundary-setting, your intuition will guide your next steps.
Trust yourself. I know from being a recovering people-pleaser that this step alone can be so challenging, as we don’t really know who we are, so how do we trust ourselves? But that small, still voice within has always been there, guiding and leading. The difference is, now you’re listening.
About Krista Resnick
Krista Resnick is a Master Coach and boundaries expert. She supports women in understanding who they are, what they need, and speaking their truth. She is passionate about helping women break free of people-pleasing and codependent patterns by understanding and integrating mind- body connection. You can learn more about building Boundaries from the Inside Out here.