Saturday, 23 March 2013

People pleasing

The constant urge to please other people can become so severe that you completely crush your own self. The only thing that matters is that everyone else likes and admires you.

In her new book, Jacqui Marson describes how one Christmas she ignored a broken arm for ten days to keep other people happy and not let them down.

She says she always wanted to look "lovely", even if inside she was seething with resentment or frustration and bottling up all her real feelings.

She felt ashamed to ask for help or say no. She always did what authority figures asked her to do. She always took on too much. She simply couldn't resist other people's demands.

Gradually she learnt how to stop pleasing people and be herself, even if it meant disagreeing with them and not being what they expected. But it was a hard struggle.

I'm not as bad as that, but there's definitely a part of me that wants to say yes rather than no, that wants to be nice rather than nasty, that shies away from conflict and hostility.

Saying no or being nasty doesn't come naturally to me. I have to consciously decide that's what I need to do and then do it. I always feel a bit uncomfortable and awkward about digging my heels in and taking an opposing view. I'd much rather smile and agree and keep everything friendly.

I've been told often enough that I take too much notice of other people's opinions, but the fact is I want people to think well of me. I don't want them to be secretly despising me. I can't just say, I don't care what they think. Whatever the reason - pride, ego, vanity - I do care and I cross swords reluctantly.


  1. Personally, I'd rather see people lean towards being nice rather than nasty and shying away from conflict and hostility. Seems to me we have far too many people in this world who are quick to take offense, make demands and in general be asses. Healthy assertiveness is good, of course, and being able to ask for help is important. But people often don't seem to remember that they have to take everyone's needs into consideration, not just their own.

  2. Me too. I desperately want people to like me and not think of me with anger or hostility. If I do say something to someone and get angry, I tend to get TOO angry for the situation because I'm not good at it, and then it's a vicious circle, because that experience make me even more reluctant to get angry and complain .. so the next time I do it I'm nervous and go over the top again.

    I think it's a common problem among those of us who have this deep-rooted desire to be liked. I've been trying to learn to complain in a non-threatening, non-aggressive way, but it's difficult because some things (like the subject of my latest blog) make me so furious. I keep a tight rein on my negative emotions as long as I can, and then .. BOOM!!

    Trouble is, confrontation and anger make me feel physically ill.

  3. Agent: I'm not saying we should all be nasty and hostile at every opportunity, only when the occasion really demands it. You're absolutely right that people are too ready to take offence nowadays. And yes, by all means consider other people's needs, but don't be a slave to them....

  4. I used to be a signed up member of the 'be nice rather than nasty' club, but realised that often times people took it as a licence to walk all over me, so I changed tack.

    Everyone gets a chance, but if they use me as a door mat, then I cut the cord and walk away. Life is far too short to waste time on them.

  5. Jay: I'm the same. When I get angry I get too angry and just end up squashing the other person and hampering any reconciliation. But I'm quite good at complaining in an assertive but non-threatening way, that's something I have got the hang of.

    Confrontation and anger make me physically ill as well. Quite suicidal sometimes....

  6. Grannymar: I don't have any trouble fighting back if I get the feeling I'm being messed with, that's something I won't tolerate. I'll be nice for so long, but if the niceness is abused I change my tune pretty quickly.

  7. To like and be liked. One of our primordial desires. Avoiding conflict(to the death in primitive times) and treading softly. Unfortunately some people barrel and trash their way through, often over our feelings :(.

    It is a difficult line we balance on indeed.

    I've had to curb my own self-righteousness, Nick to avoid this conflict.

    I've learned how to play well with others.


  8. Oh me too! I find it impossible to say no unless I have a very good reason. And I hate asking for help.

    If I get angry it upsets me too much - so it's often not worth it.

  9. Learning to say no to burdensome requests has been the most freeing part of adulthood for me.

  10. A balance has to be sought between pleasing yourself and pleasing others

    A smile always helps

    When you



  11. www: I don't think anyone likes self-righteousness, it really grates on the listener. My father was unbearably self-righteous.

    Liz: Getting angry upsets me as well. But more than that, it usually upsets and scares the other person. It's a kind of emotional violence.

  12. Bijoux: It's very liberating. Lumbering yourself with some laborious task simply to please someone else is a mug's game.

    John: I think the important thing is not so much a smile but being absolutely clear that you're saying no, with no room for doubt.

  13. Let me use another term for it - compassion. I had a young lady call me at around noon to come over and wee me at four earlier this afternoon. I agreed and at 4.15 pm she rang me up, apologized and said that she would come at 5.00 pm. I would have normally gone for my evening walk at that time, but considering that she is in some trouble and wants couseling, I postponed my walk. I would not call this behaviour pleasing her. Would you?

  14. Ramana: I agree, I wouldn't call that simply pleasing her. That's helping someone who's genuinely in trouble, which is a different thing altogether.

  15. I think the desire to help is very different from the desire to please. And the desire to help is always laudable - unless you're trying to give help where it isn't needed or wanted.

  16. I think most of us want others to think well of us, though. And those who don't care are often (though not always) not very nice people....

    Socialisation, or something.

    Still, not mentioning a broken arm is something else!!!

  17. Jenny: That's true. But I think there's a difference between wanting others to think well of us and a compulsive desire to please. Most of us are prepared to criticise if we think it's necessary, even at the risk of a frosty reaction.

  18. It can be hard to say no, but, seriously- ignoring a broken arm for 10 days??? That speaks to more than minor issue!

  19. Speccy: Some people have got the bug pretty bad. The slightest impulse to look at their own needs causes a surge of guilt....

  20. I can't say no.............I like your blog, I am your newest follower...

  21. Anonymous: Oh do tell, who are you? You're safe with us....