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  • Writer's pictureDr. Elena Duong

Do You People-Please?

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Do you wonder why you do it? Do you want to change it?


People-pleasers tend to put the needs of others above their own, so they are often aware of other’s needs but not their own. People-pleasing can involve becoming what others want you to be instead of discovering who/what you want to be. People-pleasers may feel aimless when it comes to living their own lives or neglect their own needs without knowing, so they may feel more anxiety/stress, burnt out, taken advantage of, resentful, and/or lack self-care.

In some cases, children start off as parent-pleasers to attain love from their caregivers, who tend to be more concerned about their own lives than their children. Therefore, the parent-pleasing behaviors ensure their survival into adulthood.

Several causes contribute to people developing people-pleasing habits, including inconsistent parenting, childhood trauma, and modeling of people-pleasing behaviors by caregivers among others. People-pleasing (aka fawn or fawning) can be seen as a response to trauma. In addition, there is an overlap with people, who have lower self-esteem, strive for perfection, feel a need for control, and/or have codependent traits (click here to learn more).

Signs of People-Pleasing

  • Having a hard time saying “no”

  • Focusing and prioritizing the needs of others

  • Feeling guilty for saying “no”

  • Not expressing your own needs or not knowing what your own needs are

  • Seeking approval from others over your own instincts/desires/needs

How to Start Changing People-Pleasing Habits

  • Become aware of your own people-pleasing patterns

    • How often does this happen? With whom does it happen?

  • Understand what triggered the people-pleasing pattern in your life

    • When did this start? Is it a learned behavior from childhood and/or a trauma response?

  • Examine where the people-pleasing pattern is causing you the most distress

    • Which relationship(s) do you feel the most emotionally-drained by or triggered by?

  • Reflect on yourself

    • What are your needs/wants in relationship(s)? What do you value in life?

  • Think about where or which relationship(s) you want to start changing your people-pleasing pattern in

    • Start with small “no’s” to practice boundary-setting, which can be about anything, including voicing your own food preferences

    • Take your time to respond by telling them that you will get back to them

People-pleasing is not inherently a bad thing. It likely has allowed you to survive and become the person you are today. If people-pleasing works for you, feel free to continue doing so. If it does not, it might be time to consider a change… to rediscover yourself and who/what you stand for.

If you are interested in discovering more on how your identities impact your mental health, feel free to contact us here for our mental health services.

Stay tuned. The next topic is "Is Your Self-Care Working?"

Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.

Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.


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