Seeking approval is a common human trait.  Afterall, historically by fitting in with our tribe, we ensure our survival.  We seek approval from our peers, social group and family.  But people pleasing is a more severe form of approval seeking behaviour that becomes part of the person’s personality and disrupt their concepts around value, worth and esteem.

As children we may seek approval from parents and we learn about expectations, how to behave, how to get attention and how to avoid pain. Approval seeking at this stage is normal, expected, or put another way, is a strategy that is learned in order to survive, maneuver through life.

Approval seeking can become one of an individual’s predominant strategies for human interaction.  If that sort of behavior was strongly reinforced by rewards or punishments from parents/peers/society, then perceived as the way to “best” manage or deal with the external world.

A person may integrate this belief into the core of their thought processes as habitual, routine, autopilot behavior, becoming what is known as a “people pleaser.” Although the behavior served them previously as infants or children, it does not result in good things for adults.


What Does People-Pleasing Look Like?

  • Offers of themselves, time, gifts, attention often to the detriment of self.
  • Values others more than themselves.
  • Won’t speak their mind or stand up for themselves, avoiding confrontation at all costs.
  • Assume that own opinion is not worth hearing.
  • Often nod their heads a lot (more than once) in emphatic agreement
  • Laughter at things said by a person that aren’t funny
  • Inability to challenge something said that was crude or offensive


What’s The Reality For A People-Pleaser?

  • A people pleaser typically says “yes” to all requests made to them and then cries afterwards. 
  • They have an inability to say “no.”
  • They want to fit in and be liked, even if that means mimicking or talking about others. 
  • They avoid authenticity because they don’t like to be vulnerable.
  • People pleasers apologize often and blame themselves when things go wrong.
  • They overthink:  They think about the past and mistakes they’ve made (rumination) and they worry about the future and what will happen.
  • They are almost totally dependent on external validation, as opposed to finding internal validation, which builds confidence.
  • People pleasers take on too much responsibility for everyone else’s emotions, even though everyone is responsible for their own emotional regulations.

Why Do People Become Pleasers? 

People want to feel good about themselves and are not in touch with what makes them a good person, so they look to others for validation. They believe that the more they can mold themselves into the individual others will like, the better they will feel. They do this because of low self-esteem and self-worth.  

What Are The Costs Of People-Pleasing?

Burnout:  When you’re busy giving and doing for everyone else, even though it’s not easy or convenient, and you don’t refuel, then you will eventually burn out. 

Relationship Stress:  People pleasers can neglect marital relationships or other close relationships in order to fulfill the stuff they said “yes” to. It can lead to passive-aggressive behavior and to frustration because they wonder why people don’t notice that they are falling apart. They can feel resentment, even while they are doing nice things for others, and feel annoyed because no one takes notice of how much they are doing or offers to help out.

Lack of Joy:  Being a people pleaser can give you a diminished sense of enjoyment from the things you’re doing and from the people you’re spending time with.  It manifests itself in not being able to be fully present with what’s right in front of you.  It takes the joy out of life. 

Stress:  This mindset leads to a high amount of chronic stress because you’re trying to keep everyone happy by doing so many things for so many people. It’s mentally, emotionally, and physically draining, and it takes a huge toll on your mood and behavior. 

Low Confidence:  People Pleasers are almost totally dependent on external validation.  They seek approval constantly to their own detriment.  Because they don’t value their own opinion, their confidence suffers and self-validation is rare.

The bottom Line.

Finding a balance that is comfortable to you, is key.  Making others happy isn’t a bad thing, but when you determine your value based on that, there becomes a problem. 

What can you do today to notice and shift this behaviour?  I’ve created some actionable steps in a new article.


If you’re struggling with making changes in your life, I can help.

Katrina Murphy
Katrina Murphy

Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.

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