Think you might be people pleasing? Check out these 10 signs you might be a people pleaser, and the psychology behind them.
Watch the video, or keep reading to learn the 10 most common people pleasing symptoms!
Table of Contents: The 10 Symptoms of People Pleasing
How to Tell if You’re People Pleasing (and Not Just Being Nice)
People pleasing is one of those habits that doesn’t look so bad on the surface, but if it goes unchecked for too long, it can do some serious damage to your confidence and your self-esteem.
Not only that, it can also damage your romantic relationships, your social life, and even have some negative impacts on your career.
But here’s the thing: you don’t realize how much better your life can be when you stop people pleasing until you’re on the other side of it.
Life becomes so much better when you stop people pleasing
This is something I really used to struggle with.
I felt like I had to act a certain way. I couldn’t speak up about what I needed. I couldn’t really, truly be myself because I was worried about fitting in.
I was worried that if I say something out of line, I’ll be rejected, and people will like me less. I was preoccupied with just making sure that other people like me.
Over the last few years, I’ve really worked to find a balance between having people like me and being my genuine, authentic self.
But since I’ve stopped some of these people pleasing habits, I’ve become way more confident in my social interactions with people, in my romantic relationships, and at work.
Not only have I become more confident, my relationships with those people have become way stronger.
Because I can show up authentically and I can speak up for what I want. And that actually strengthens our relationship because instead of just hiding behind a facade of who I’m pretending to be, I’m being authentic and connecting with people on a more genuine level.
Enough about me, though. How can you tell if you’re people pleasing?
Keep reading to learn about the ten signs that you might be people pleasing, as well as the psychology behind them.
1. You constantly worry about what others think of you
The first sign that you might be a people pleaser is that you’re constantly worried about what other people think about you.
I’m going to preface this by saying that human beings are social creatures.
We are wired to want to be part of groups. It’s part of our survival instinct to be part of a group, to be accepted. So it’s normal to want people to like you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care at all about what other people like you.
But people pleasers take this to an extreme. There’s so preoccupied with making sure that other people like them and making other people happy, that it’s the main driving factor of their thoughts and their behaviors.
People Pleasers are Always “On”
People pleasers often feel like they have to be on all the time, like they can’t look like they’re sad or they’re frustrated. They have to be happy all the time. They have to present as happy or as content or as chill or cool all the time in order to be liked.
This prevents you from feeling like you can be your genuine self to other people because you feel like you always have to be on, you have to act a certain way in order to be accepted.
On the flip side, people with high self-esteem (who feel secure about themselves) still care about whether people like them. But it’s not this crippling force in their life. If they suspect that somebody doesn’t like them, it’s not going to keep them up at night.
The thought process for people with low self-esteem is, “I need everybody to like me. And if somebody doesn’t like me, I’m gonna freak out and be anxious.”
The thought process for people with high self-esteem is, “yeah, it’d be great if everybody liked me. It’d be great to get along with everybody. But, you know, I’m just going to be myself. And it’s not the end of the world if somebody doesn’t like that.”
In other words, people with high self esteem still care what others think, but not to the extent that it prevents them from being their true, authentic self.
2. You’re always trying to make people happy or solve their problems
The second sign that you might be people pleasing is that you’re always trying to make people happy or solve their problems.
This is one of those things that the behavior itself isn’t bad, it’s the intent behind the behavior.
You’re going to hear me saying that quite a bit, because it’s really not any of the behaviors on their own that make for people pleaser, it’s the intent behind the behaviors. And that intent is seeking validation.
It’s one thing to want to help other people and to be really giving because you enjoy giving to other people.
But people pleasers tend to want to make other people happy and help them fix their problems because they need validation. They feel like they have to earn affection and acceptance. So they do all these things for people because otherwise, they don’t feel validated.
Helping people isn’t bad. Making people happy isn’t bad. The point here is the intention. The intention is having this desperate need to be liked.
People pleasing vs. being nice: Some examples
Your quintessential white haired grandma is always baking cookies when you come over and doting on you. But she’s probably not a people pleaser.
Grandma lived through way too many wars and seen way too much bullshit in the world to care about whether or not you like her. She just gives because it makes her feel good. She just loves baking cookies and feeding her grandkids. Grandma’s not people pleasing just because she’s doting on you.
Let’s look at another example: hosting a party.
Some people love hosting parties. They love taking care of other people. They love putting together cheese plates and making sure that everybody’s got a good drink in hand and creating an atmosphere. It’s something that really brings them joy.
So if that’s the case for you, hell yeah, go host parties.
But if you’re hosting parties because you feel like you have to… If it stresses you out, if you’re running around making sure that everybody’s happy, that all the drinks are refilled, that all the trash is thrown out because you’re worried that if somebody is having a bad time that they’re going to like you less, that’s when it becomes a problem.
Helping people isn’t bad. Helping people because you feel like you need to in order to earn their affection is problematic.
3. You go above and beyond for others, but they rarely reciprocate
The next sign that you might be people pleasing is that you go above and beyond for others, but you find that others rarely reciprocate.
If you find that you’re pulling all the weight in a relationship, whether that’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, and you’re giving, giving, giving, but you’re not getting much in return, and you’re getting frustrated because you go above and beyond for others, but they’re not reciprocating…
That’s a sign that you’re probably a people pleaser because you struggle to speak up for what you need and to ask for what you need.
This is especially true if you find that people often take advantage of your kindness, or if you find yourself attracting the same type of person who tends to take advantage of your kindness.
And that leads us to the fourth sign of people pleasing, which is…
4. You’re afraid to ask for what you need
They often downplay or ignore issues because they’re so afraid of creating conflict. They’re worried that if they acknowledge that there’s a problem, then it’ll lead to disagreement, and then they won’t get that sense of external validation from somebody being happy all the time.
Some examples of this are:
- Working extra long hours to try to meet an unreasonable deadline at work because you’re afraid of speaking up and saying, “this actually can’t be done for in that amount of time.”
- Settling (agreeing to date somebody casually) when what you really want is a serious relationship because you’re worried that if you suggest taking things to the next stage of a relationship, that the person’s going to reject you or not like you, or you’re going to be too needy.
- Taking on extra work around the house, doing more than your fair share of chores, or picking up the slack for other people, whether that’s your partner that you live with or your roommates, because you’re afraid to speak up about the other person not pulling their weight.
Now, look, you’ve got to make some compromises in life. I’m not saying that you’re always going to get what you want if you’re totally confident. That’s not the point here.
But the problem is people pleasers don’t even give themselves a chance to be heard or a chance to get what they want, because they’re so afraid of stirring up conflict.
5. You can’t say “no”
Now, dealing with peer pressure is something that’s difficult for everyone. Like I said, we’re social creatures. We’re wired to get along with everybody and try to want to be part of the group. So everybody struggles with peer pressure to a certain extent.
But it’s especially hard for people pleasers to say “no” because they’re so afraid of disagreeing or creating some sort of conflict in whatever relationship that they’re in.
It’s natural and normal for people to disagree with each other, to have different interests, to have different opinions, to have different wants and needs.
But people pleasers really, really struggle with saying no to what other people want. They’re so preoccupied with keeping the peace, with making sure everybody’s happy, with giving people this perception that they’re cool or chill, that they often dismiss their own needs in favor of what other people want.
- In your social life, people pleasing might look like spending money on activities that you don’t actually really enjoy because you’re afraid of saying “no” to somebody.
- At work, this might look like taking on extra tasks or projects that don’t really align with your long term goals in your career because you’re afraid of saying “no” to your boss or of letting them know what you actually want.
6. You overcommit
The next sign that you’re a people pleaser is that you overcommit.
People pleasers really struggle with saying no, so they often find themselves stretched thin because they’re saying yes to so many different plans and responsibilities. As a result, they find that they don’t have enough time to recover, or they feel like they’re always burned out, or they don’t have enough time for their own interests or hobbies.
Remember, the intent matters here.
If you are stretched thin and if you overcommit because you’re just so excited about everything that you’re signing up for, that’s one thing. That’s a time management, stress management thing. That’s a different issue.
When overcommitting is a sign of people pleasing is when you are committing to all these plans and responsibilities, not because you want to do them or because they bring you joy, but because you’re afraid of disappointing other people by saying “no.”
7. You avoid conflict at all cost
The next sign that you might be a people pleaser is a pretty telltale one, and that is that you avoid conflict that pretty much all cost.
Now, conflict is one of those things that any therapist or psychologists will tell you is a natural part of living and interacting with other people. Everybody has different needs and interests and interpretations and worldviews. So conflict is just a natural thing that happens when people interact with each other.
Nobody likes conflict, but people pleasers avoid it at all possible cost to the extent that they are not even acknowledging that something’s bothering them. They’re constantly sweeping something under the rug, or tricking themselves into thinking that they’re ok with things that bother them. “It’s not that big of a deal. I don’t need to bring it up.”
Sometimes people pleasers acknowledge the issue to themselves, but they have so much anxiety about bringing up the conflict, that they still manage to avoid it altogether.
And this is really dangerous. We know that sweeping things under the rug doesn’t work. We know that bottling up your emotions doesn’t work.
Because you either end up exploding at the other person completely randomly (and then feeling really guilty about it), or you end up burying your feelings for so long that you just constantly have to deal with anxiety and end up being really resentful of the other person.
Either way, whether you explode or become bitter and resentful, the damage is done on the relationship.
8. You have a strong urge to agree, even when you actually disagree
The next sign of people pleasing is that you have a strong urge to agree with what people say, even when you don’t actually agree with them.
Now we all occasionally find ourselves nodding along to something and then realizing, “oh, wait, I don’t actually agree.”
And that’s because we’re social creatures. We’re wired to want to agree with people, to get along with people. And it sometimes takes us a second to realize that, “oh, actually this person is saying something that I don’t really agree with. Maybe I should stop nodding.”
People pleasers, find themselves in this situation very, very often.
And even when they realize that they don’t agree, they often continue nodding along because they’re so afraid of speaking up for what they actually think or disagreeing.
People pleasers tend to keep their thoughts to themselves when they disagree with somebody because they can’t imagine that disagreeing would lead to anything but dramatic conflict and feeling bad about themselves. Their self-worth is so tied to other people liking them that it’s not worth risking upsetting the other person just to voice their own opinion.
9. You’re quick to doubt or second-guess yourself
Another sign of people pleasing is that you’re quick to doubt or second guess yourself.
Now, this is another one of those things that isn’t bad on its own, but people pleasers take it to an extreme.
People who are have a healthy sense of confidence and self esteem question their own thinking. They are able to admit when they’re wrong. They’re open to new ideas, and to changing their minds about things.
When it comes to conflict, people with high self-esteem know when to stand their ground and when to question themselves.
But people pleasers tend to default to the latter.
They tend to question and second guess themselves. So they might say something, but when the other person disagrees, they immediately start backpedaling and second guessing themselves and walking back their statement.
When you’re not confident, when you have a low sense of self esteem, when you’re insecure, it’s that much easier to make you second guess yourself because you’re already unsure about yourself. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make you go, “oh, maybe I am overreacting. Maybe I am being needy.”
Again, healthy skepticism and openness to new ideas? Great!
Constantly undermining and questioning yourself? Not so much.
10. You don’t have any preferences…ever
A more subtle symptom of people pleasing is that you don’t have any preferences.
That’s either because they’re not sharing their own preferences, or because they’re so used to deferring to other people that they don’t even realize that they have their own preferences.
Now, I’m not saying you always have to have an opinion on everything.We don’t need to take it to that extreme. There are some situations in which you truly don’t care and you truly don’t have a preference. Like if we’re picking a place for dinner, you might not really care if you’re getting Chinese or Thai food. You just want food because you’re hungry. You don’t have to care about everything all the time.
But everyone has some sort of preferences in life.
If you more often than not find yourself saying things like, “I don’t really care, it’s up to you. I don’t really have a preference. What do you want?” …then chances are you’re probably downplaying your own needs because you’re really worried about fitting in and making sure that other people are happy.
Interested in 10 ways to STOP People Pleasing?
It contains ten strategies for how to speak up for yourself, become more confident, and improve the relationships with the people in your life.