Editor’s note: This column was published originally on Sept. 26, 2020:
As someone who earned a master’s in the art of people pleasing, I know a thing or two.
People pleasing can be very insidious, often disguising itself as kindness or generosity, but anytime we are taking actions in order to get something from someone, even if it’s just their approval, we are engaging in pleasing people. How do you know if your actions are to please? When you have any expectation of how a person should respond, or feel hurt by their lack of response, it is a sign that you are in the energy of people pleasing.
Why do we people please? The short answer is, we do it to protect our need for love, safety and belonging. We do it to keep everyone happy, which is a way we try to control our environment so that we feel safe. It’s not a good or bad thing, and it’s not wrong to want to be loved or feel like we belong or feel safe. But people pleasing has a hidden side effect that can be quite damaging, so it’s important to understand the end result of trying to constantly make other people happy.
It’s simply not possible to please everyone all the time. But when you have been practicing your whole life, as I had been, you get pretty good at it. You become adept in reading people, determining what they want and adapting yourself to their desires. You pick up on the cues of what will cause conflict and you learn to navigate around the triggers in order to keep the peace.
You are constantly taking mental notes about what people like so that you can be the one to give it to them. You interpret their rudeness or lack of approval as a sign that there is something wrong with you, and you go to work trying to fix yourself. You are always trying to predict how someone is going to react so that you can prevent their displeasure. And the list goes on.
It’s exhausting, isn’t it?
Notice the theme in all of the above actions. People pleasing requires a great amount of passive-aggressive control. No one likes to be manipulated or controlled.
So you can imagine that when you are unconsciously trying to manipulate everything to make someone happy, that someone is turned off. They can energetically feel when you are trying to please them and it can make people distance themselves from you. So all of that energy spent trying to be liked, in truth, is exactly what makes people not like you very much.
But the worst part about people pleasing is that it causes you to abandon yourself. When you ignore your own thoughts and feelings in order to keep the people around you happy, you are sending yourself the message that you don’t matter, and when you feel like you don’t matter, it’s hard to like yourself.
People like people who like themselves. We are attracted to those with a strong sense of their value and an awareness of their own ideas and desires. When people like themselves, it sends a message out into the world that they are likeable. We feel safe around people who like themselves because we can sense that they don’t need anything from us, therefore have no need to manipulate.
So in reality, to feel safe, loved, and as if you belong, liking yourself is the way there.
When we stop trying to win the approval of those around us and start approving of ourselves, we are able to relate to people authentically and with true kindness, generosity, and compassion because we don’t need anything in return.
The best way to get people to like you is to stop trying to get people to like you. And the only way to stop trying to get people to like you, is to start liking yourself.
Rebecca Stark is a mastery certified life coach and the owner of Rebecca Stark Coaching. You can contact her at 720-412-6148 or visit rebeccastarkcoaching.com.