Some people are really, really nice. They're almost never angry but most always pleasant and agreeable, no matter what's going on around them. We all know at least one person like this. Maybe, you're one of them?
Maybe you're someone who tries really hard to make others happy; someone who is careful not to do or say anything that might upset anyone; someone who avoids confrontation at all costs.
Maybe you're someone who anticipates the needs of the people around you and who does your best to meet these needs, even at your own expense.
If these descriptions remind you of yourself, you'll want to continue reading this post, if only to understand what made you become such a people-pleaser, today.
Of course, it's good to be kind, considerate and thoughtful. It's good to be caring and generous, helpful and supportive to others. The problem lies when all the energy is moving in one direction, away from yourself.
We all need to be loving and respectful to one-another. That's what will make the world a better place. When you neglect your own feelings and needs, however, you get into a state of imbalance in which everyone is benefiting from your kindness except you.
Ideally, you want to fill yourself up with positive self-regard and have that self-love overflow outward, onto the other people in your life. In this way, the love and care you give to others comes from a state of inner fullness.
Constantly depleting yourself is likely to make you unhappy, perhaps even resentful, as everyone you're in contact with is receiving your support while you're receiving very little.
People who are invested in pleasing tend to hate confrontation, so you're likely to be uncomfortable expressing anger. Ultimately, your unhappiness and resentment can grow, leading to anxiety, depression, or even self-comforting addictions.
There's a simple explanation for why a person becomes overly nice. It comes from messages you received in childhood from the people who took care of you. These messages let you know that if you wanted love, attention and validation, you had to "earn" these things.
Every child needs to be loved unconditionally and cared for by people who ask for nothing in return, but some parents or care-givers are unable to provide their children with these basic emotional necessities.
If you grew up with adults who, for whatever reason, weren't able to instill in you the belief that you were lovable and valuable, just as you are, you could be convinced today that you need to "do something" in order to be loved and validated by others.
People who are overly "nice" are dependent on others for their sense of self-worth; they're convinced that if other people are angry at them or disappointed with them, it means that they're "bad" or "inadequate."
A vicious circle can be created with people who are too nice, especially when they're interacting with individuals who are hyper-aware of the power dynamics in relationships.
These "power-players" will perceive the need to please as a sign of weakness, and they'll be hurtful, disrespectful or even abusive to the nice person. Often, this just reinforces the pleaser's belief that they should try even harder to make the other person like them.
Often, the more the pleaser tries to be nice, the more they're met with disrespect, so they try even harder to please, which just encourages the other person to treat them that much worse.
In this vicious circle, resentment grows. If it leads to passive-aggression or emotional outbursts, the pleaser will become mortified by their own "bad" behaviour and will redouble their efforts to be "nice."
The truth is that the nicer you are, the more likely it is that other people will at best, take advantage of your attempts to please and at worst, treat you with real contempt.
Instead of finding love and approval you'll feel devalued, exploited, or abused. Instead of making you feel happy, pleasing others will almost always make you angry and upset.
In my next post, you'll learn how you can let go of your habit of people-pleasing and instead, become someone who's kind.
Being kind means feeling empowered in life, being assertive and setting good limits. It means that if you do care for others, it's never at the expense of your own self-care.
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And check out my new podcast series. In episode two I talk with filmmaker and activist Matthew McLaughlin about authenticity, creativity, masculinity and self-acceptance.
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