Why are we so addicted to people pleasing?
Today I want to get real about people pleasing. This came up for me recently last week when I realised that I was actually doing it. People who know me will be like “WHHHAAATTT” - I know… The long story short is… I’m human.
I started to think about why I was people pleasing, how I enabled it to play out in my own business and how it’s preventing me from being able to grow and serve others. I want to point out that I’m not what you would classify as a chronic people pleaser, however there have been times when it’s crept in undetected.
I would like to preface this with the fact that a healthy amount of people pleasing can actually be of benefit to you. Like with everything, it’s about balance and moderation. After all, making other people feel good, helping our clients to achieve, feels great, right? Where you need to assess is when you find yourself people pleasing to your own detriment.
Why, as humans, are we so addicted to people pleasing?
Basically, we don’t want to be alone. We are biologically programmed to be part of a community, a collective, to play our roles, to be loved, nurtured, to feel secure. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right? This guy knows what he is talking about. It’s part of the very fabric of our existence and it’s a beautiful thing. Feeling loved, connected, appreciated and accepted is important. Giving and receiving is a key part of our wellbeing and that of others. Being part of a society is about finding genuine connection, friends, family, love, relationships, clients – people who help us evolve, grow and enjoy!
The key difference is between being generous, thoughtful and caring and constantly putting other people before yourself for fear of what they will think of you – at the compromise of your own health and sanity. The reality is, only you get to decide what’s best for your business, life, who you want to be and what you want to do.
We generally people please because we don’t want to be alone, but in reality when the pleasing is off balance, we end up very alone - surrounded by all these people who really don’t give a bleep about us. Because guess what, the more you sacrifice of yourself to appease other people, the more they demand of you – and take from you. Where does this leave you? Running on empty.
I’ve worked with women who have spent years people pleasing and totally losing themselves in the process. Through the work we’ve done together, they have been able to overcome it and go on to create healthy people pleasing boundaries in their business and life.
How does problematic people pleasing translate into business?
There are many ways this can cause problems in your business, but here are a few examples:
- You end up spending time working with clients that are not the best fit for your business. Signing up clients that are misaligned with what you offer, setting up unachievable standards and failing to deliver or over-promising to land a deal can stifle the growth of your business. Not only will this deplete your time, energy (and let’s face it, money), it will also lead to those clients being dissatisfied with your work.
If you’ve heard our podcast you would know we talk about how “not all dollars are created equal” (wise words by Paul McCarthy). Truer words have never been spoken. As the business owner, it is your responsibility for setting up an appropriate business model and establishing who your ideal clients are, what you offer and how you service them. This means sometimes you are not able to offer exactly what someone is looking for and this is totally okay. One way of overcoming this is to establish a great referral network so you can refer them to other businesses or resources that are in their best interests.
- You’re so busy trying to please your clients that sometimes you might not be doing what’s best for them. If we aren’t doing what’s best for our clients, where does that leave us? This can include telling clients what they want to hear all the time, feeling unable to constructively say no to them and in some cases just saying nothing at all.
- You’re making business decisions based on your need to please other people. This means you are not thinking commercially or objectively about what’s in the best interest of anyone. This can manifest across all aspects of business and usually ends up with the people pleaser doing all the leg work, being taken advantage of, enabling their business to go in the wrong direction, not charging what they are worth and in some cases doing a lot of work for free.
- You people please because you expect reciprocity. This does not always occur nor can it be expected. Decide what you are comfortable giving and to whom its best given too and then give freely. That’s true generosity.
Sure, you might bleep off some people in the process of deciding not to constantly people please – but they are not your people. The truth is people who align to your authenticity are your kind of people and will flock to you like a moth to flame. In this case, sacrificing people pleasing is giving up people who aren’t truly your people, for better people who can’t get enough of you just as you are.
What can you do if you find yourself people pleasing to your own detriment? Awareness is the first step to overcoming it. Don’t beat yourself up, it happens to the best of us. Simply course correct. Change takes time, practice, investment and dedication.
If you’re struggling to break this pattern on your own and it’s potentially damaging to yourself, your business or your clients, the good news is that with the right support and resources you can overcome it and find the balance that works for you. As always, please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.