Why People-Pleasers Don’t Get the Love and Respect They Desire

“Niceness is the psychological armor of the people-pleaser.” ~Harriet B. Braiker

I used to think that being kind, gentle, and agreeable was guaranteed to win me love and acceptance from others. I’d tiptoe around destructive people’s behaviors, no matter how uncomfortable I felt about it, believing to my core that if only I could be nice enough to them, they would one day lead a better life.

I lived my life constantly avoiding anything that might make me look like a bad, imperfect, antagonistic, or unlikeable person. Because as every people-pleaser knows, being disliked or disapproved of feels worse than ignoring your own feelings—at least at first.

Some people were easy to please; a kind gesture or smile was all it would take. Getting their approval so effortlessly made me happier than a kid at Disney World. But with other people, it seemed the more I tried to please them, the more likely they were to treat me like an old dish rag; and the more this happened, the less I liked myself.

Eventually, my efforts to please others left me feeling disrespected, violated, and disconnected—from life, from other people, and from myself.

For many years, I silently endured the ongoing, relentless invalidation of who I was based on how others treated me. When someone close to me was feeling unsatisfied, negative, or in search of someone to blame, there I was, ready to take it.

But no matter how unhappy I was, I still wanted to make them feel better. I wanted to see them happy, even at my own expense.

At the core of these one-sided relationships I maintained with some of the perpetually dissatisfied people in my life was an enduring belief that if only I could solve their problems and make them happy, I’d finally receive the love and acceptance I desired all my life.

I never stopped to think, “But what about me? What will become of me if I keep trying to satisfy people with an unquenchable thirst?” I couldn’t see that no matter what I did, it would never be enough. In fact, it wasn’t about me at all. I didn’t realize that no matter how good I am at solving problems, or how perfectly I can handle things, if someone wants to find fault with me, they will.

Instead of seeing other people’s dissatisfaction as an issue for them to resolve on their own, I internalized it and interpreted it to mean I wasn’t good enough.

But one day, I finally started asking myself some important questions: “What will become of me and my self-worth if I keep basing it on unhappy people’s perceptions? Who will love and respect me if I’m not even taking a stand for myself?”

My conception of who I needed to be in order to gain love and acceptance was slapping me in the face over and over again like a flat tire driving on uneven pavement. But still, I wondered why my formula wasn’t working. I truly believed that living selflessly was a surefire way to get love, appreciation, respect, and lots of hugs in return.

It took me a while to realize that living this way was actually having the opposite effect. My constant selfless giving and kindness didn’t automatically earn me a pass on the eternal acceptance subway. It actually seemed to be an invitation for people to take advantage of my generosity, allowing them to feel less anxious about their own lives.

I set myself up to be other people’s emotional dumpster, personal life fixer, and convenient source of blame for their misfortunes.

What I came to learn the hard way is that pleasing others isn’t the way to win their love and respect. I finally realized that if I kept taking on other people’s anxiety as my own, they would never change. And why would they, after all? They got lots of relief from me stepping in and resolving things. But at what cost?

All this pleasing had left me feeling inadequate and stressed out as I watched the recipients of my pleasing play out the same problems and drama, over and over again.

Love At All Costs

One night I had a dream that I was standing in a field with nothing but the clothes on my back. I felt weak and tired, like I needed someone to come lift me up and ask me how I was doing.

Slowly, my family and friends started to join me in the field. But they weren’t there to rescue me; they were there to bring me their troubles.

One by one, they started pulling me in different directions. They wanted me to solve their lives for them, even though I was alone, tired, defeated, and left with nothing.

The dream was showing me the truth about how I was living. When my life and health started to collapse around me like a burning building, I had to take a hard look at my perspective and decisions. I started to question my beliefs about what it meant to be a truly good person, and what it took to receive the love and respect I so desired.

That dream helped me understand that my people-pleasing behaviors weren’t getting me what I desired; they were getting me the very experiences I spent my life trying to avoid.

Back then, it would have been easier for me to blame others for their ungratefulness and neediness; but deep down, I knew that blaming would have been another way to avoid taking a look at myself.

I was sick of exhausting myself trying to help and change other people, only to find that it didn’t work. I knew I had to change myself and, as cheesy as it may sound, give myself the love and respect I so desired. Because the truth is, no one can give you what you should be giving yourself from within—especially not those people who need the pleasing you so easily offer.

After much reflection, I came to see that my pleasing behaviors were a way for me to get the validation from others that I wasn’t giving myself. Of course my efforts backfired, because I alone was responsible for my happiness; other people’s happiness wasn’t my responsibility, and just because I was overly nice to someone didn’t mean they had to treat me the same way.

I was trying to please other people so I could feel worthy of love. In reality, my kindness wasn’t coming from a place of vulnerability, honesty, or acceptance; it was rooted in anxiety and fear.

In my attempts to make everyone else happy, I lost control of my own identity, and they lost their ability to solve their own problems. By changing myself to become who everyone wanted me to be, I made myself less desirable and implicitly invited people to take me for granted.

Pleasing Yourself

Do you find yourself people-pleasing and wonder how you can get the love and respect you desire? Well, the answer is pretty simple, but the actions it takes aren’t quite as simple. The first step involves changing your perceptions. Once that’s done, changing your behaviors will follow naturally. Here are some things to remember:

1. You aren’t treating yourself with love and respect when you regularly do things for others that they’re avoiding doing for themselves.

2. You aren’t treating yourself with love and respect when people violate your boundaries and you don’t speak up about it.

3. You aren’t treating yourself with love and respect when you say yes to something but really want to say no.

4. You aren’t treating yourself with love and respect when you internalize others’ dissatisfaction and take it on as your own problem.

5. You aren’t treating yourself with love and respect when you hurt yourself in order to make others happy.

Over time, I came to understand that my efforts to make other people happy were like deposits made in a piggy bank with a giant hole at the bottom.

If you’re stuck in a people-pleasing cycle, chances are you’re subconsciously attaching to people who need you to soothe their discomfort, because they can’t do it for themselves. Since they don’t know how to manage their own emotions, they’ll continue to reach out to you whenever they’re in crisis—and, on the occasions when your pleasing behaviors aren’t sufficient for them, they’ll blame you for their discomfort.

If you want to make changes in your life, it’s time for you to see this pattern clearly and stop basing your sense of worthiness on other people’s approval of you.

Change your perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. Make contributions to a bank that pays interest. Receive the love and respect you so desire by celebrating your freedom from the longing to be accepted by others.

Editor's note: Ilene has generously offered to give away two free copies of her latest book, When It's Never About You: The People-Pleaser's Guide to Reclaiming Your Health, Happiness and Personal FreedomTo enter to win one of two free copies, leave a comment below. You don't have to write anything specific—”Count me in” is sufficient! You can enter until midnight PST on Sunday, November 5th.

UPDATE: The winners for this giveaway have already been chosen. They are Emma Andmark Shishkin and Mari Toni.

About Ilene S. Cohen

Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, blogger, and professor. She’s a regular contributor to Psychology Today, with her most recent release of her self-help book entitled, When It’s Never About You. Her work is fueled by her passion for helping people achieve their goals, and lead fulfilling and meaningful lives. To learn more about Dr. Ilene visit

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  • Julie

    Thank you for this post. I have been a people pleaser for as long as I can remember, and over the past couple of years have started working on changing my perceptions, beliefs and behaviors to stop basing my sense of worthiness on other peoples approval of me. It has been hard and I still struggle and fall into old habits at times, but it is so worth it!!

  • Susan Duggan

    Thank you so much! This article came at exactly the right time for me. Ilene described me perfectly…… I really do need to make changes

  • April

    thank you for the article

  • Ilene S. Cohen

    Thank you for reading 🙂

  • Ilene S. Cohen

    I am glad that this article came at the perfect time in your life! It isn’t easy to live that way.

  • Ilene S. Cohen

    Your welcome! It is so hard that is why so many people don’t change. Glad to hear you are making an effort in the right direction!

  • Aleydis

    I can’t even begin to tell you what this finding this article did for me today.
    After having quit at yet another job that drained me, being without anyone to sacrifice myself for, I’ve fallen back into a pit of despair, realising that I am now 30 years old and I have no desires, boundaries or wishes for myself. Making a move forward feels impossible, because I’ve become completely disconnected from who I am or what I want.
    My entire life, I’ve been tangled up by other people to the extent that I feel more invested in their well being than my own – and they don’t even have to be people I care about or even know! I’ve realised that this compulsive addiction is borne from a perpetual feeling of being unsafe. I’ve been trying to manipulate my surroundings with kindness, humor, endless giving and altering myself to whatever I think is needed in order to null any threats to my safety (aka every negative emotion I encounter in others). But surprise surprise – this work is NEVER done. It is impossible to find this safety outside myself. It is impossible to live this way. Frustration has finally pushed me to see that I am hardly living at all. The realisation is crushing. The fact that I am not alone is so soothing to my hurting heart.

    Ilene, thank you for this article. I cannot wait to read your book.

  • PA

    I’ve struggled with pathological people pleasing and perfectionism since I was a young child and now I don’t even know who I am anymore because I am always trying to be all things to all people – except myself! I would love a copy of this book! And thank you!

  • Dennis Hsieh

    Thank you for this article!

  • Omiewise

    I struggle with this daily. Thank you for this, it has helped me to realize I’m not alone in this!

  • Siddharth Karunakaran

    I could relate to this article.

    “In fact, it wasn’t about me At all.”
    Previously At was it.

    Please correct the typo, it is in CAPS.

  • Great article! Thanks for posting.

  • Beth Black

    I would love a copy of your book! This article hit so close to home for me! eye opening for sure!

  • Kathleen

    My photo ought to be right next to the words “people pleaser”.

  • Angela

    What a fascinating insight! It’s easy to fall into the trap of the ‘people pleaser,’ in order to gain acceptance from others; whatever that may be? Real acceptance is accepting yourself for who you are, warts and all! It can take a real shift into self-awareness to see the lasting damage a ‘people pleaser’ can do over a period of time. By stepping away from the very people or concepts that put us there in the first place, can we truly start to heal and grow! A xx

  • Sofia

    Thank you for this article. I’d love to read a copy of your book!

  • Eszter Papp

    Thank you for this article! The timing is just perfect, when I feel so drained, exploited and lonely; trying to figure out what I am doing wrong seeing that noone cares about me, no matter how hard I try to win their love…I especially like the reminder that kindness should not come from anxiety and fear. Thanks again!

  • Lisa Lanzalotto

    When i am in people pleasing mode, the sad truth is that i am setting OTHERS up to be labeled untrustworthy…..they are in a relationship with someone they THINK i am, not who i really am. That real, authentic person is not who i present, so how can i trust them, when they REALLY dont know me…i don’t even know who i am at that point…the famous “imposter syndrome..” a self fulfilling prophecy, and quite painful when i take the mask off

  • Jan

    Count me in

  • Nigel

    When i used to be a people pleaser, i used to apologize to people when they hurt me and that was an invitation for them to come back into my life and make me sad anxious and depressed.

  • Red

    Unfortunately, such a true article from a personal viewpoint, especially in relation to the “Dream”. But, we can all change and improve ourselves and personal state. The first step in my opinion is opening our eyes, no matter our age or circumstances. Best of luck to the others. : )

  • Nicole

    Loved your article and would love your book!

  • Heidi Rodriguez

    Count me in!

  • Michele Young

    This is me. I would love to read this book!

  • Mary Ellen Clark

    Count me in!

  • christy

    That article, was like it was describing me 🙁

    ”Count me in” for the book, I would really like to read how to save myself from this constant other-pleasing torture.
    Thank you!

  • Lori

    Fantastic article and beautifully written! You have definitely pinpointed an area in which many “people-pleasers” most likely can relate to.

  • Lori

    And I would LOVE to read your book…even better if you have an audible version:)

  • Eric Otterson

    Yep, so very much my life. I am guy and feel especially vulnerable in this arena admitting that this picture describes my life so well. Taking care of others above and beyond while my own life suffers is something that I am working to change.

  • Marilyn Massey

    You are still young – me in my 60’s before realizing I have missed my self in my own life. I tried a “storyboard” to help me get started. It helped me realize that I do have an inkling of what I want even though I wasn’t that aware of it. Gratitude for what I do have helps too, believe it or not. Your awareness is an inspiration and a starting point, not an ending.

  • Joey Askew

    This article is absolutely excellent, entirely spot on. Thank you for putting these feelings and experiences into words so amazingly well.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi, Aleydis, I am sorry you find yourself in that position. I know how crushing it can be. However, it is good that you are taking a closer look at your life and that you want to make changes. It is of course never easy, but well worth it to have your own life! Thanks for sharing how you feel, I hope you find my book useful!

  • Sinead Clark

    I’m glad I’m not the only one in this situation. I’ve been doing this all my life, as if it is something to be proud of. I’m now at a stage in my late 40’s where I suffer from depression and just don’t know where to go. I don’t even think therapy would help at this point because I’m a chronic people pleaser and find myself saying exactly what people want to hear. How do I find myself?!?

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Eric, Thank you for your comment. This inflicts men and women, even though I know people usually associate people-pleasing with women. It is good you are taking note of this and making changes. Wish you the best!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you for your kind words! Well that is great because the audible is being produced now and will be available in November! I will keep you updated!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Lisa, so true! You really made a wonderful point! Something very important to recognize.

  • Sharon Hunston

    A brilliant article that is so relevant to so many people including myself! Thank you x

  • Debbie B.

    Ilene, you are “spot on” with this article! Thank you for sharing it.
    I recognize myself and the people pleasing behaviors; now understand it from a different perspective.
    Count me in, please, on a chance to win (1) of (2) copies of your book!

    Debbie B.

  • Ilene Cohen

    So exhausting! Time to make changes, so you can be everything for yourself!

  • Janice Anderson

    Thank you Dr Ilene. Omg, I felt, you were talking about me. Being abandoned, poor and abused as a child in the Philippines, I have been a pleaser since I can remember, so that anyone would give me attention and love me. I gave myself, my time, energy, food, money, whatever i had to give or share just to make everyone I loved and cared for happy. I would cry, get sick to my stomach, get headaches and get physically ill. It would consume me, if I couldn’t help and I hurt there feelings. Believe it or not I never did drugs, smoke or drank alcohol. It was more important to me that they where happy even if it meant sacrificing myself and my own families needs. It made me feel like their hero for just that small second of a moment in time. Finally at 55 yrs old, mother of 3, grandmother of 9, I’m getting better now at pleasing my self first. Learning to respect & love myself before others. I still love to help people, especially friends and family but in ways that makes me happy too and not out of guilt. Thank you again for this beautiful story, message. It’s my reminder to stand my ground and putting my own needs first is ok. Even if it means being alone. I finally learned to say NO in the most gentle, loving way & with respect. I’ll always be giving, loving, caring and compassionate, because its who I am at my core, my soul and with God’s guidance and prayer. I’m finally at peace, thanks to God, my husband, Oprah SSS shows, Buddhist monk, books like “The 4 Aggrement”, “The Secret”, great friends and many Blessings.
    Kind regards & Blessings to you.
    Reiki Master/ Teacher, Janice.

  • Ilene Cohen

    For sure not alone, I have a thriving private practice with people dealing with the issue.

  • Hillary

    Count me in!

  • ilene cohen

    Glad it was eye opening for you. The book will be helpful for you too then!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Mine too just a few years ago!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Angela! Great points! Acceptance needs to come from within.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you! I would love for you to read my book! 🙂

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Eszter! Yes, you got it. When kindness comes from anxiety and fear, it will end up making you feel drained and lonely. I have an entire chapter dedicated to that very idea. It is so important to make changes and you will see that you and your relationships will change. I no longer feel like my relationships are one-sided. I used to feel so alone and like no one understood me. Now I feel included and so grateful for relationships that are give and take, versus draining ones.

  • Diafano

    Boundaries. Count me in, please.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Yep! I did the same thing. We rather feel bad then have others feel bad about their own actions. Good thing you changed that!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Very true! Thank you for your input.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you! 🙂

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you! Hope it is helpful!

  • Joni Rogers

    Count me in too! I very much would like to and need to read this book.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Christy, It can feel like torture. Just writing this article and brining myself back to those emotions was hard. My book has activities, goes more into depth about my story and my clients stories. If followed the book will help you out of the people-pleasing nightmare! Wish you well.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Joey! I appreciate your kind words!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Sinead, I know at times pleasing can make you feel hopeless and powerless. It is by no means ever too late to change! It is nothing to beat yourself up about, I am sure there is a perfectly logical reason why you started pleasing. For me I came from a critical and abusive environment, so people-pleasing was my way to stay safe. But as I got older I saw it wasn’t working for me anymore. Therapy would 100% help if you find the right therapist and are dedicated to change. Start with my book, and if you have more questions feel free to write me a private message. I have many years of experience working with people-pleasers. Wish you well!

  • Nancy Brice

    This is all about me and how I have lived my life for so many years. I live it alone now because that is the only way I know how to to stop pleasing others is just not to have anyone around to please except me. It is so lonely living this way but it was too hard living the other way. Can this book help me find a good way to live that doesn’t go to this extreme?

  • Eszter Papp

    Thank you Ilene, I am very interested in reading your book!

  • Tina Benton Funk

    Great article!

  • Mary Vaughan

    Absolutely count me in!!!!

  • Eve

    Great article! I’d love to win the book and find out more

  • Kari Johnston

    Thanks for your insightful words. I’m afraid that I am a people pleaser too, and am having a hard time learning to stop.
    Kari Johnston

  • Ilene Cohen

    Great advice! I agree! 🙂

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Nancy, Thanks for your comment. I know how when pleasing gets to be so overwhelming it can just feel better to be alone, but you are right it is lonely. Yes, my book is actually mostly about how you can find a way to be yourself and have better relationships at the same time. As a marriage and Family therapist I have studied relationships for over 10 years. My book is a compilation of my education, training, research and personal experience. For so long I just wanted to give up on people, and be alone myself. Now I have a totally different viewpoint. Check out my book, here is the preface to get an idea of what it is about,

  • Cate

    A wise and helpful article; thank you. This is not a behavior I struggle with, but I have given up on friendships with people who do because it gets in the way of true intimacy and trust. When behavior is curated for my approval, I never know what’s real about the other person; lies of omission are always possible. Nor do I want to be responsible, through my response, for another’s sense of well-being. Big boundary and accountability issues attach to people-pleasing as you’ve so insightfully described it. It’s no better for those being “pleased,” than it is the pleaser.

  • Kat

    count me in

  • Mell Vön Mägnïfïco

    Every… single… word… this is all I’ve done my whole life, me being nice and giving everyone everything I have is exactly as stated, a sign of fear and anxiety of not being accepted. I’m 32 and struggling with EUPD, this article was definitely an eye opener, I shall be getting the revision cards out later to write down those points and sticking them on the wall not only for me to see but my daughters too, I don’t want them getting stuck in the rut I’m in.

  • Coleen Panchyson

    I just told my husband to read Tiny Buddha because it described who I was for a great portion of my life. It is a no win situation, this “being nice”, and being a doormat is degrading and depressing. Finally I came to realize that the validation I was seeking was my own! Saying no and speaking the truth may be difficult at first, but becomes easier. True compassion begins to bloom and we can practice generosity from a place of integrity and love. Huge difference.

  • Julie C.

    Wow… this is my life. This explains so much.

  • AnnMarie

    Working on this now. Just starting this journey.

  • Janice

    Sorry my comment posted 2x. I didn’t think the first comment took since I’m no longer on FB website.

  • Beth Tucker

    Ive isolated also Nancy Brice. I do well on my own. But it is getting lonely. Time to do the work i guess.

  • Margie Webb

    This is so much me!

  • cmpbear

    yup. been there. learning this pattern is a process. it took a long time to cultivate the “people pleasing” ego, and now it is taking time to undo it. funny thing – those that “love you” don’t like it when you suddenly break the patterns and they are left with doing the work themselves. i am a work in progress.

  • csora

    Good to recognize what I’m doing but how do I stop it? Family and friends have these expectations of who I am and I don’t want to be that person anymore!

  • Pat Willard

    This my life. I couple of years ago I decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. My decision was met by a lot of negativity and anger from people like my mom and husband. My husband said you aren’t the person I fell in love. So I’m seriously considering divorce because I’m not that person, I don’t want to be that person and if I stay I may get pushed into going back to that people pleasing person. I’m 59 years old and don’t want to waste the rest of my life.

  • michtravels

    Thank you for your generous offer! This is so valuable (-:

  • julia jones

    So me. Thank you for the insight. I’m trying to find my “happy.”

  • Raquel Lynne

    Thank you for this post! <3

  • Karen Gardner

    Thanks for such an awesome straight shooting article. I would love to read more about the subject in your new book!

  • Whitney Vernon

    I always try to make others happy and want their approval, I know that sometimes giving too much of myself is draining and taking care of me is more important to keep myself happy.

  • Katherina Walper Gormáz

    Count me in for the book, please 🙂

  • Louise Brill

    It’s when beautiful articles like this are written, that I’m relieved for myself and others that we are able to connect and understand the importance of sharing experiences so we can guide eachother out of negative loops.

  • Lisa Lanzalotto

    I spent a lot of my life putting people in no-win situations and somehow internally I always knew i was wrong my conscience is too big now as I get older…b——t just doesn’t work anymore

  • Shannon Jacobs

    Count me in!!

  • linda meyer

    This resonates with me-so much so that I’ve procrastinated reading the rest until…later. But I will find it in the printer, and then I’ll have to read it in toto-can’t waste paper, you know? Thank you-I would love your book.

  • Sarah

    Count me in!

  • OnWisc

    I know exactly what happens when those unhappy people finally do become happy—they dump you. They don’t need your help and support anymore, so they become “too busy” to see you and eventually avoid you altogether. I was a people pleaser my whole life and it never made me or anyone else truly happy. Happiness really does come from within, from one’s own decisions. It was hard to learn to let others handle their own problems themselves, and that being their savior wasn’t healthy for either of us. I still sometimes struggle with guilt over letting everyone down when I choose not to be what they want me to be, but I’m slowly healing from people pleasing and learning that I’m not here to sacrifice myself for everyone else.

  • Jenny

    I wish I could articulate nearly as well as others seem able to but for too long I’ve been unable to even recognise what I can identify with so easily in your post. Forever feeling invisible, unimportant and unable to love myself it has always felt easier to concentrate on other people but then resent them when I cannot get what I think I need in return. It seems hard to imagine validating myself in such a way that I no longer require others to do it for me.

  • macbethchick

    Great article! Count me in!

  • Maygem

    Count me in!

  • Myiesha Martin

    Loved the article, it resonated deeply with me. I also struggle with this and working through them. I wold love to win the book as well so count me in.

  • Jeremy

    A friend shared this article with me. It was like you’ve been peering into my life. I grew up in a very critical, emotionally abusive environment as child. I never knew people pleasing was a symptom. It is exhausting and now my wife is filing for divorce because she doesn’t feel like she knows who I am. So happy to have found this article and look forward to reading this book. I am hope I can make the necessary changes before it’s too late.

  • Marie Guthrie

    Count me in!

  • Justme

    I think this may apply to me. I hope I win the book so I can find out and make the changes I need to make. Thank you.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Hi Jeremy. Its never too late! I am glad your friend shared my article with you. I grew up in the same type of environment and many of my clients did as well. It was a way to deal with your circumstances and protect yourself. It is exhausting. Keep on reading and put what you learn into action. Changes will happen for you.

  • ilene Cohen

    Thank you! Keep working on it, you will see a lot of positive results.

  • ilene cohen

    It is very hard to articulate, especially if you aren’t aware of the process. It took me many years to figure out what was wrong. I knew I wasn’t happy and that I wasn’t satisfied in my relationships, but wasn’t sure what was wrong. Until I started to become more self-aware and talk to my own therapist and read did I understand what was happening and how I needed to change.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Very well said! I went through the same process.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Haha great! Thank you!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you! Well said.

  • Ilene Cohen


  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Your welcome! 🙂

  • Ilene Cohen

    Keep looking you will find it.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Your welcome. 🙂 I want to get this information out to as many people as I can.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Yes I totally understand that. When you make changes their will be pushback from the people in your life. They were used to you being another way. Eventually the pushback should stop if your consistent and willing to put in the time. I talk a lot about that in my book.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Yes, that is the hard part feeling like you will disappoint family and friends. Once you start putting your needs first and not saying yes to everyone all the time some people will surprise you and be okay with it and others may get upset. It is important to be clear about your choices and straight forward. I talk a lot about this process in my book. What keeps us pleasing is our fear of others reactions.

  • sian e lewis

    Sometimes, when feeling the urge to help, it may prove useful to ask ourselves if we can help this person to help him/herself so that they can move on and not replay the same boring old drama.

  • Jeremy

    What encouragement could I give my wife in terms of being frustrated with not knowing who I am and wanting out of the marriage as a result? I just ordered your book. Hope that’s the step I need.

  • Rebecca Lynn Kietlinski

    This article spoke to me as I realize I am giving my power away constantly trying to please others and having my boundaries violated. I would like to take back control and give back to myself. I am interested in the book.

  • Danna

    Perfect timing for this article! Thank you!!

  • Allison Demos

    Fantastic and very relatable post! Please count me in for the book giveaway, thank you!

  • Ilene Cohen

    To start would be to know yourself. You do that by starting to become more self-aware…. Thanks for ordering my book! In each chapter there are exercises that will help you to become more self-aware and figure how who you are and what your wants and needs are. Hope it gives you clarity. You are welcomed to email me anytime with questions.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Yes I agree!

  • Ilene Cohen

    I am glad you are making the effort to make changes! That will benefit your daughters too!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Very good observation. In the end people pleasing doesn’t please anyone.

  • Ilene Cohen

    Good luck! 🙂

  • Ilene Cohen

    Glad this helped explain things for you!

  • ilene Cohen

    Yep very true! They are so used to you doing everything. Over time they will adjust.

  • Maria Teresa Garcia

    Count me in

  • Shannan Hill

    Count me in.

  • Sarah Martin

    I needed to read this. Thank you!

  • Jenny Pearson

    Thanks for your article. And the chance to read your book. < 3

  • Ilene Cohen


  • Ilene Cohen

    I have an entire section on boundaries in my book!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thanks! I am glad I could help in changing your perspective!

  • Ilene Cohen

    Thank you! AND your welcome!

  • Tania Brittain

    Please count me in! This is such a great article, I can only imagine what an amazing read the book would be. Fingers crossed – from down here at the bottom of the world!

  • Nupur Nigam

    I have been people pleasing all my life. Finding my way out.

    Would love to read your book – and even more to find my way out by the help of it. Thanks.

  • Pratibha Lama Rai

    Count me in

  • Sinh

    This is exactly what I wanted to speak up too. I mean, it’s unhealthy for the one being pleased either. I’ve in relationship with people who are people pleasers – who, in the end, ended in tragedy – depression, stress, anxiety – and they eventually became burdens for me – leaving me feel guilty at the same time. I wish people would just be honest and have the courage to be just who they are when they decide to enter into a relationship so that the other person can get an exact idea about the one they are dating – avoiding all disappointments. This perspective of pleasing others obviously doesn’t help to build long-lasting relationships.

  • Sadaf Zubair

    Count me in! please….!

  • marilyn

    I have a huge problem with this stuff. I’d love to win of copy of this book!

  • Sadaf Zubair

    I am brave enough to accept that I am a people pleaser..and a really really desperate one at times. I can’t stop thinking why someone is not smiling back at me or seems depressed or even alone…it got so bad that I spent one whole day thinking about someone on my friend list on Facebook who didn’t “like” my comment on her post. I kept thinking how she had liked everyone’s comment but mine..that is when it really hit me..I really need help..and even if I don’t get the book, I’d love to get your feedback on how I can reduce this…this kind of madness to please everyone around me..

  • mawinth

    Wow! I’m stunned that you summed up my life so concisely! Thank you for the insight!

  • Mari Toni

    THIS IS ME – aptly described by the article. All my life I have been pleasing others – my mom especially, by studying hard and getting the good grades that she wants or else my report cards won’t be signed at all, or will not attend any of my school functions. My teachers and my classmates and even friends so they will stop bullying me since I’m a fat ass kid. All my life I make it an effort to give in to the wants of others, supply their needs just because I don’t want to be left out. I am an unwanted child – all throughout my life I am living in that fact. Just to feel that I am “wanted” “needed” I was bound to do the extremes – extremely loving others, all out provisions to the point that I don’t have nothing left for my own. I have failed relationships because I became so impatient when I wasn’t able to get the same attention, care that I have given. I am a YES girl. it’s always a Yes to me.

  • suze diamond

    would love the book

  • Katherine Lovelett

    This spoke to me

  • Arvind Sharmaa

    I like it! Count me in!

  • Melanie Harvard

    Count me in . . . very well-written article and very relevant. Thank you

  • Pat Murray

    Count me in!

  • Holly Davis

    Yes, please! I would love to learn more!!!!

  • m0tiv8

    I was taught that to be a good person I had to help other people out. My self esteem suffered as a result because I would ignore my real feelings and end up doing passive aggressive things and self sabotage out of frustration. Its like my authentic self was punishing me for not being honest.

  • Cecilia Tuohy

    spot on, would love to read more… please count me in 🙂

  • Hokie InAZ

    Great article! This is me! I would love & need to read your book to help fix this! Thank you.

  • Cassandra

    Very thoughtful insight Aleydis. No doubt it is helpful to others who feel the same. It can take some people years to come to your awareness. It is time to clear the people pleasing mindset and instead empower yourself with the truth of your ability. Very liberating, now you can start living!

  • Cassandra

    Yes!! So true. Thank you.

  • Kathleen Appelbaum

    Great article! This describes me perfectly. I need to read your book. I must change my life and soon.

  • Kira Brite

    Count me in! I always prided myself on being a chameleon, able to morph into whatever person I needed to be to match whatever person I was in front of, until I realized I couldn’t remember what I liked doing, or I had extreme difficulty having my own opinions. Now I’m trying to find my way back.

  • Christel Wollens

    count me in

  • Fran Farmer Hidden

    Thank you for this article. I appreciate the concrete steps you outline to make a change. It is never easy!

  • Laura

    Thank you for this blog, it is definitely an eye opener as resonates with me. I have recently felt so deflated because I am constantly trying to be a nice person and help everyone out, only to be left feeling empty and used when people move on and I am still here alone. I know I need to make myself happy, but I don’t even know what I want anymore. All I have ever wanted is to help, to feel useful. Perhaps it’s time to take some time to figure this out.

  • Candace Dieker

    This hits the nail on the head. I needed to read this, thank you!

  • Susan

    Count me in!

  • Tasha

    Very insightful and the timing of this article is perfect! I just had a big conversation with my friend about people pleasing tendencies and the importance of learning to put yourself first. I would love to read more in depth about the topic! Great article !

  • cindyrosey

    I’m always told that my problem is that I’m a “people pleaser!” I’m currently going through anxiety training in an attempt to find some peace within myself and a way to kindly shut others down when they come to pour their problems out to me. I would LOVE to win a copy of your book When It’s Never About You: The People-Pleaser’s Guide to Reclaiming Your Health, Happiness and Personal Freedom.

  • June D

    Count me in

  • Mabel Estremera

    The story of my life. At 56, I’m trying to reverse these patterns and set boundaries. Although I still believe that love always wins, I realize it starts with self love. Count me in!

  • Danielle Alonzo

    Great article!

  • Emma Andmark Shishkin

    Wow! That certianly struck home! That really resonated with me about myself, and some people I know. It’s amazing what a bit of knowledge and self-confidence can do.
    Knowledge is certainly power, you just need to do something with it.
    I’m 37 years old, and the past two years have been a time of change for me, it has been an eye opening few years and I’m finally proud of who I am becoming. I’m actually becoming me!
    I’d love the opportunity to win the book too!!

  • TheRoadBack

    What a wonderful article! I am receiving it at such a troubling & challenging time in my life, & for that I am grateful. My amazing older brother had just mentioned to me his recent awareness of “boundaries”. I did have everything I wanted, and knew I had it all and was exceptionally grateful. But life happens, & life is always changeing. And change is unavoidable. Sometimes we want to stay in that moment, in that time frame of peace and joy. It certainly is difficult to accept the realization that you are constantly trying to keep the peace, & please everyone around you. To keep your security. And then to learn this people pleasing mentality is the reason for my loss of identity, loss of self. But I now know this is the time to learn this & attempt a change. Even when change is so uncomfortable and unwanted. Thank you for the response to my email. Count me in!

  • Lyda Waters

    I needed this today. I spent the entire day sobbing yesterday over exactly what is in this article. When its your family that abandons you and blames you, is healing possible? Im looking forward to reading this book and finding a little relief for my heart.

  • Tony

    Count me in

  • David John McGonigal

    Count me in

  • Jenny

    Thank you for sharing and for helping ❤️

  • John Goodrige

    Yep, i was on the receiving end of ‘the blame game’ for a long time. The feelings of guilt and shame are totally toxic. Moved on now, thankfully. Great article nonetheless. Thanks. JG

  • Julie

    Count me in. We can all improve on trying to please others. We do it to get ahead and win people over. The book is a tool to help improve our people pleasing tendencies. Would love to have a copy and share with others!

  • Susannah123

    Count me in! 😉

  • Marilyn Forsyth

    Fabulous, fabulous article and so spot on! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights!!

  • Rebecca Wong

    Please count me in! I would love to receive a copy of your book.

  • Erica Newell

    Thank you for this! Count me in! I’ve struggled with people-pleasing my whole life and have NO idea how to stand up for myself. I’ve been taking steps to love myself by talking to myself as I would a friend when I make mistakes. I very much look forward to your book.

  • David Ringstedt

    Wow this is so my Karma 😮 I truly need this book! Thank you so much I relate to every word spoken. <3

  • caroline

    This is completely true and yet here I am angry and bitter that I haven’t been given any tools to change the way that I act,feel and think.I was raised to believe that it was selfish to put my needs before anyone else.Whenever I’ve needed anything ,all friends and family ignore me and still I try to do whatever I can to be helpful to them.Your book sounds like it would be of great help for me.Thank you for this thought provoking article.

  • Kolyanne Russ

    Firstly, great article! I think being nice can be dangerous for anyone who doesn’t understand that being nice doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your happiness and future for others. I learned that you can be nice but you have to be aware who around you are takers and givers, to those who are takers, they only care for what they need from you and disappear like thin air. “Be nice but don’t be a sucker” is what I told my friends and family, give without expectation but know when to stop being nice before it’s too late.

  • disqus_cuyDMvRL8E

    Count me in! I am just beginning to learn how to value myself enough to be assertive with what I do and don’t want. I know this book will help along my path to reclaiming my identity. Thank you.

  • Léanie Kaleido Dunkley

    This is me in a nutshell, although I’ve been recognising the points made here for a while now and working on rectifying them. This article has really helped to cement what I’ve learned. Thank you and COUNT ME IN!

  • Gregory Rohman

    Count me in, I would like to read your book. I am becoming more and more aware of these patterns in myself. I’m facing a divorce stemming from the way I’ve betrayed myself over and over in my marriage.

    I’m still struggling with how to replace these behaviors with healthy ones. I’m becoming aware that people pleasing at my own expense is toxic for me, but I know it so well. It’s my comfort zone. As I identify these behaviors and try to eliminate them, I don’t know yet what to do instead.

  • ccrgirl

    Count me in 🙂

  • Graham Phillips Sultan

    Count me in!
    I was totally self-contained growing up, even as a youngster. Not rebellious, but I never stopped to consider why I should adopt others’ values. If it made sense to me, that’s what I did. Peer pressure had no effect on me.
    I actually became increasingly assertive in most aspects of my life, but in romantic relationships, this started to change, and that created misery at the hands of a couple of other people, not only the two sociopaths and the psychopath. Of course it’s great to be that dedicated to love and self-sacrifice, (and from what I see, most people could use a lot more of that)–as long as you are with someone who is the same.
    It’s always been far easier for me to meet my obligations to a principle, an organization, others–anything outside myself.
    I see the logic in this cant of self-love of course, but it’s not easy to overcome a lifetime of being one way.
    So far, in order for me to do anything really healthy for myself, I have to try to lock it in to some sort of obligation to others, e.g. the buddy system.

  • Claire

    Thank you for articulating this so beautifully Ilene. Count me in! I would love to read other ways and hear experiences. In 2016/7 I’ve been often noticing myself thinking “you need a change of perspective”, “this isn’t moving your life forward, it’s moving someone else’s”. “What do I want?” I have grown so much and recognise I’m a rescuer / people pleaser who is growing. It would be so supportive to receive your book at this point in my journey x

  • Heather Larson

    I’ve been right in the middle of figuring this out. Thank you for filling in the gaps! Here’s to building a better life!

  • Jen Tews

    This article spoke right to my heart! I have struggled with people pleasing for years, and it is comforting to hear that I am not alone in my experience.

  • Lorena Gonzalez

    Count me in…

  • Ashley

    Fantastic article; I can really relate to everything said! Count me in!!

  • Terre B

    Count Me In! I’ve felt this way for a long time. Lost. Not sure who I AM anymore since my life is (seems to be) based on others. What is that I like? Desire? Have need for? I just don’t know anymore. Can’t say that I’m happy or unhappy. I’m missing something though & I think it’s … ME!

  • David Schmidt

    Count me in. For those who are interested they can check out a psychological profiling system called the Enneagram. They should look under the profile # 2 or the Giver.

  • Phạm Hoàng Gia Thiên

    “Count me in”
    i found pictures of myself in this article, especially in terms of pleasing other people to chase or earn their attention and loving in return. Life is fair, we will receive what given to others and what we deserve for.
    Think positively always, my friends.
    Thanks for this great article.

  • Tiemoko

    Great article! Congratulations.

  • Sara Krieger

    count me in

  • Kayte CookWatts

    This is so timely, I needed this today.

  • Mary

    Count me in! Please and thank you! 🙂

  • Heather

    This book sounds like just what I need! The article describes me to a T. I’ve been working hard over the past 4 years to recover from those old ways of codependent and people pleasing actions/ways of thinking, but definitely still find that there are insecurities, fear and anxiety that allow me to continue on in this the way. Ready to be strong and to love myself more fully ❤️


    I’m ready to stop being the person people expect me to be and being the beautiful person I know I truly am .

  • Kimber Watson

    Two captains of the same ship my friend. I too am around that 30 mark and have hit that same wall. I appreciate your ability to be so articulate about these issues. It’s nice to know someone out there is feeling like I do.
    I believe in us though. Recognizing is the first step, because with recognition come a willingness to change. Thanks again for opening up. ?

  • Kimber Watson

    Reading this was like pulling the veil off my eyes. All things I intrinsically knew and felt but nothing I could articulate. Being able to see and read it was like a huge sigh of relief for my soul. Thank you for doing so. I feel a stern readiness to address these issues. I look forward to reading your book. ?

  • Hana

    Count me in, tinny Budha!

  • Roland

    Selflessnss and empathy is not a weakness.
    And no one wants to be taken for granted.

  • Emily

    Count me in, Dr.Ilene. For years I’ve been a people pleaser, and it’s only within the past few years I’ve tried to make changes in my life. I’m just getting over a bad breakup and I should have made more boundaries within the relationship. At least I know I’ll be able to make them in a new relationship in the future so the relationship might have a chance to survive. Thank you for your helpful and insightful article.

  • Leandra Nightwolf

    Ok, my question is how do you love yourself if no one else does? I have never felt loved or liked and was taught to be a people pleaser. To be an island all by myself in this big world is very scary. At 66 I feel like I’ve wasted my life and have no idea of what to do with the time I do have left.

  • Angela

    It’s definitely a hard process to loving and respecting yourself, I understand why I should and as much as I want to I still find it difficult sometimes.

  • Kim Tilley

    “In my attempts to make everyone else happy, I lost control of my own identity…”

    Read this line and my heart internally screamed “Yes!!!!!!!!”
    (Hoping to win but fine if I don’t.) Just happy to read that someone out there understands!

  • Fernanda

    I know I’m a people pleaser. I’m afraid of rejection, failure, conflict… that’s why I try to keep people happy and satisfied. For a long time, I thought that permanently helping people would make me feel loved, but I have found out that it just makes me feel really lonely. Most people come to me just to tell me their problems and to ask for advice, and, honestly, it´s thrilling to feel needed, necessary… But also, it’s sad to be the person you only call when you’re sad. I started to be angry at my friends (internally, because I avoid confrontation) and told myself: “they’re taking advantage of you. If they were happy all the time, they would never call you”. It’s just recently that I became aware of the real problem here: my attitude. It’s not easy but now I know that, if I don’t love and give myself the love I deserve, nobody will. Once I stop being dependant of people’s approval, I will finally feel liberated and content.

    PS: English is not my mother tongue and I don’t usually post comments on any website, but I felt so connected to this topic that I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences.

  • Susan Bentley

    Definitely recognise a lot of that in myself too. I feel drained all the time and feel bad that I can’t give everything and everyone as much as they need all the time. I know i need to change and I have started. People are surprisingly accepting when you say no in the right way. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hanne Keis

    Wauw Ilene.. reading this felt like you were talking directly to me.. I am 34 and still have a lot of trouble setting boundaries and I feel horrible when I fail to make people around me happy.. I know that happiness comes from within and I know I shouldnt meassure my own worthiness based on others feelings or behaviors.. I know all that in theory! But its like my heart is not listening to the logic.. know what I mean??
    And THANK YOU for this! 🙂

  • Rajguru Sujata

    Count me in

  • Txema Iriondo

    Not clear to me where is the drawline between being an empathic person and a people pleaser. Please elaborate. Thanks.

  • Evy Snyder

    Count me in please

  • Jess

    Count me in! This is me to a T! I’m trying to start the process on my own but the examples given here are great! Thanks for writing a post for tinybuddha <3

  • Donna Tuzza

    Count me in. Thank you Ilene. I have been struggling with this behavior for years and when I stopped, I became the one to be dumped on. My husband says there was a lightbulb on my head attracting everyone with issues! The anxiety may have caused many of my health problemsI I look forward to ready your books.

  • Nawaz Amin

    Thanks for such a nice article. I have already been though it two times and want to read though many more times to instill the mindset not to be a people pleaser

  • Emilie Mimi Lacraz

    Count me in. ?

  • Mary FC

    When your words don’t count as facts. Grown up in the air. Then they are constantly winning after saying all does things and not listening with empathy. With their heart in there hand. I must not feel what they feel all that negativity culminating. Now who is to blame?! Is the cycle of not letting go and kkeping things to ourselves that is what happens. All I got to say sorry for others peoples actions. There you go.

  • Mary FC

    People pleaser KISSES but*. And nothing is left for himself nor his dignity. Come on say no.

  • Montanamuse596

    The story of my life. I’m not sure at 62 there is a way to change it all…

  • disqus_k0bDDaScw1

    It makes me sad to realize that this describes me. I want to read your book!!

  • Phyu Pannu Khin

    Count me in, please! A wonderful article!

  • Kerry Lin

    Count me in! Great article! Would like to get your book please!

  • Laura Torres

    This article is so eye-opening! Thank you so much Ilene ?? Please count me in.

  • Holly

    By nature I was born a free spirit. Happy, positive and very loving of people, nature and especially animals. I’ve been called an empath by most people who know me, and some have said a people pleaser.
    There are so many labels out there for everything these days, weather your good, bad, or indifferent. I ignor all the labels. We are just people. No better, no worse. Nevertheless, I too get used and disrespected because of my personality. Most of the time I don’t let others ungrateful, disrespectful behaviour define me or change who I am and the personality I was born with. They have the problem, not me. I always forgive them in my heart,but I do know enough to move on so I don’t end up disrespecting myself or damaging my spirit.
    I like who I am and I work very hard to keep my authentic self and my spirit alive despite all the negativity and drama that goes on in our short little lives we all have here on this planet. When my time is up I’ll know I’ve made a difference, even if it was in one persons life. All of you out there are amazing beautiful souls ad my only suggestion is to be the beautiful authentic loving people you are, but just know when to draw the line to protect yourselves. All the best. I hope I helped!

  • Bmoney

    COUNT ME IN!!! Definitely need a copy of this book!

  • Jaouad Imesmouden

    That’s what happend in my life as a result I took therapy such as DBT and CBT so I can change to love myself more

  • Dee McKiernan

    Count me in

  • sickinmo

    Count me in!

  • Gouverneur Gebotz Aus Gebotzla

    The article was very insightful. Count me in!

  • Angie Cecile

    Count me in! So need this book!

  • Nina

    I can find myself in some of the descriptions. I always tried to please my ex-boyfriends need rather than my own but I am changing. Slowly but steady 🙂

  • K.J. Hutchings

    Great article. I’m a recovering people-pleasing pushover and know it’s not easy changing ingrained habits. But it’s completely worth it in terms of well being and living a more authentic life with healthier connections.

  • Denise Houser Baldwin

    count me in

  • sandlynx

    Count me in is sufficient. Great article that I will be using with a client of mine.

  • JLWH

    I have come to realize that I am a People Pleaser as well and that it’s having the opposite effect to what I thought it was doing. Instead of people loving or liking me for my kindnesses and thoughtful help, they were taking me for granted as well as getting ANGRY when I couldn’t help them, wasn’t available or things went wrong one way or another. I still People Please but, I am getting better at staying out of things that they should be handling. I cannot rescue others when I haven’t the foggiest clue on how to rescue myself. I’ve been so busy, taking care of everyone else’s needs and wants that I’m like the woman in the field where everyone was bringing me their problems, not wanting to help me. When I need help, they’re all “too busy”. Most of the time, it’s being “busy” having fun…which I am never included in. I don’t get to hear the good things that happen to them. They only know my telephone number and street address when they have problems. The rest of the time, I’m non-existent and not the one that they will thank.
    Moral of the story: Do something once or twice and it’s a favour. Do it all of the time and it’s your JOB.
    People do need to learn lessons and how to deal with their own issues and oftentimes, they will do it if they can’t get someone else to do it for them. Why buy the cow when you get milk for free?
    I’m letting people flounder around. They always find a way out of their problems in one way or another whether that be through me, someone else or they finally figure it out for themselves. People look after #1…themselves. Time for me to do the same.
    By the way…”Count me in”! I have so much that I still need to learn…like boundaries for instance. Still haven’t gotten a lot of things under control yet. 🙂

  • pb

    count me in!!

  • Nicky

    This article is brilliantI I used to think I was the only one who thinks this way. But ever since I started reading and researching, I am finally at a place where I can see the futility of people plaesing and seeking approval. To all the younger ones who posted, it is great that you are working on this now, before you waste years of your life trying to fit in, be liked, or please everyone. It took me till my forties to finally stop and think about the harm I was inflicting on myself. Almost anything could spark negative self talk and ruminations (as someone wrote below, someone not liking a fb post, a surly shop assistant, a strange look on the bus..) something small could spark endless self doubt and questions (e.g. why did she look at me that way? She was nice to the other customers. Why doesn’t anyone like me?I have to make her like me. Maybe I should go back to the shop and be nicer to her, then she will like me) In order to negate or prevent any negative reactions, I tried to be liked, at all costs. As if someone not liking me were a threat to my existence. It was my life’s mission. So much wasted time and energy. It was the ultimate goal. If one person out of 100 hundred seemed to not like me, I would focus on that one, and contort myself to be liked by them. Hence the people pleasing. Well, now I’m 51 and I am too tired to live like that any more. As I read and understand this behaviour more and more and read articles like this, I feel strengthened. I am not alone. So many of us do this. But articles and groups can really help. We are not mad, just more sensitive than the average. It has its good points, as well as its bad. Mostly, what I have come to see is that when you try to people please, not only are you not being authentic to the other person, but you become such a chameleon, that you, yourself forget who you really are. And you are unigue. We all are. What a loss to the world if we aren’t being ourselves, and celebrating our uniqueness. It’s never too late to change, though, and finally I am moving towards greater self acceptance than I’ve ever had. There is hope (:

  • Jaymo

    So much truth in one post. I answer to a question that I didn’t realize I was looking for. Thank you.

  • Crystal

    This feels really relevant and I wish it was more widely discussed with teenagers.

  • Crystal

    Count me in. Great article thank you x

  • Bessie Williams

    Omg… I was seeking for answers on why must I not get the same as I give in return. I ran across this article, and now I know what the root of the problem is. Me! The people pleasers….