November 19, 2022

4 Ways We People Please in our Relationships (& How to Stop).


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Read part one: People Pleasing Doesn’t Make Us “Good” Humans: 9 Signs you Might be a People Pleaser.

Read part two: We Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup: 10 Ways to Stop Being a People Pleaser.

“The only thing wrong with trying to please everyone is that there is always at least one person who will remain unhappy: you.” ~ Elizabeth Parker


When I wrote my first article on people pleasing, I didn’t think much about it.

It’s only when people and clients started reaching out to me, telling me how much they resonated with the article, that it hit me that people pleasing is far more pervasive than we realise.

In fact, I find myself getting in and out of this mode even today.

It does take a lot of strength and courage to break out of years of conditioning that has always been about putting others first and our own self last.

In fact, there are still times when I end up doubting and questioning myself for calling a spade a spade and saying no, refusing to give in just because it might make someone happy—at a great personal cost.

However, I have come to realise that most of us end up showing up in relationships inauthentically, and that is problematic from the beginning to the end.

We get into relationships out of fears and insecurities and then end up in an excruciatingly painful quest to maintain a façade in order to make relationships work.

“People pleasing is rooted in fear and is focused on earning love. Genuine love casts out fear.” ~ Unknown

Slowly, we get to a place where we can no longer maintain that. Our hands get tired of holding up that mask; when it starts coming off, we show a face that is filled with bitterness, anger, resentment, frustration, and blame—toward the other and our own self.

Our entire system is designed for self-preservation.

This is a reality that we don’t want to accept and understand because we spend the majority of our time judging it as wrong, inappropriate, or unacceptable.

After all, we live in a community, and we need this community for survival.

The problem with the “we need this community for survival” philosophy is that it sometimes undermines an individual’s existence. It might place people over and above the individual. There is no equality here. We make this community, so shouldn’t we strive to make it a cohesive, collaborative one where everyone is able to balance out their own needs with those of others?

Why does it have to be me versus people? Me versus relationships? Me versus my partner, friends, and family? Why can’t it be me and everyone else?

In fact, balance is about keeping our individual needs, wants, and desires parallel to those of others and adjusting as and when needed.

Sadly, by the time we come to understand this (and eventually we will all learn), a lot of time has already passed.

By then we have lost a ton of time and energy pleasing others to make them stay, tolerated a lot of crap when we shouldn’t have in the first place, given up on our dreams, visions, and aspirations, and have become a slave of others’ validation and approval.

This pattern of pleasing people is not a healthy one, and it becomes even more troublesome when it starts showing up in our intimate relationships with our partners.

A relationship between two adults is the one of equals. But when we enter it from a space of insecurity, sooner or later it wreaks havoc on us because we show up inauthentically and end up putting our partner on a pedestal when there is no need.

We cut ourselves down. We show up as the romanticized version that our partner would like to see. We become so preoccupied with trying to be the best person for them that we completely fail to even consider whether or not they might be good enough for us.

We alter our personality and way of being to fit into their mold and continue to squeeze our very soul in a painful attempt to fit it until we reach a point where we no longer take the pain.

First, there are minor sparks here and there, then bam! We explode.

We start bickering, complaining, questioning, arguing, answering back, demanding, feeling completely out of control. We start seeing things that have always existed but have never questioned them to begin with; now we can no longer turn a blind eye to them.

What happens then? The foundation of the relationship gets shaken up.

While we were busy altering ourselves to suit our partner’s needs, our partner believed that altered version of us to be the truth. And now they can’t relate to us anymore.

If the relationship is really strong, it will withstand this jolt. Our partner will support us in our journey in becoming our most authentic self.

However, in most cases, our tendency to please people makes us settle for partners who might not be meant for us in the first place. They just can’t see it until it’s too late and our choices become far more difficult to make.

Generally, this tendency shows up in these four ways:

1. We become conflict avoidant. We don’t want to upset or cause our partner any discomfort. We don’t want to be held responsible for any pain that we may have caused them knowingly or unknowingly. After all, pleasing them is our responsibility!

2. We become the unofficial caretakers. Our existence revolves around “babysitting” and taking care of our partner’s needs, even if it’s in direct contradiction to our own. We will gulp it down, suck it up, and carry on.

3. We become the “yes person.” Our only job is to say yes to everything our partner wants.

4. We fuse with our partner. Our identity is about living up to the title of a wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, and so on. There is no “I”; there’s only them. We give up our own ways of living. We let go of our dreams, aspirations, and become a shadow of our partner.

And we know the cost of it, don’t we? We cannot live like this. We eventually reach a tipping point.

The rational thing to do is to:

1. Become aware of who you are as a person—your likes, dislikes, wants, dreams, aspirations, negotiables, and nonnegotiables.

2. Work on embracing and accepting yourself. Learn to truly love yourself.

3. Understand that a relationship is about two equals coming together in a partnership. It has three components: you, your partner, and the relationship, and you need to balance all three for it to become fulfilling.

4. Understand that conflict is part and parcel of every relationship and how a couple handles conflict says a lot about the quality of the partnership.

5. Say no to anything that is distressing and uncomfortable. In a genuine partnership, your partner will respect your needs and not force you to stay in discomfort for their own pleasure. If that happens, it’s a huge red flag we cannot ignore.

6. Take some time out for yourself—the “me time” where you introspect, reflect, and work on your personal development.

7. It’s not your job to be a caretaker or a babysitter to your partner. Stop doing it.

8. Get in touch with your own psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relational needs and see if the other person is able to meet them or not. Remember, it’s a partnership.

Of course, being in a relationship means that at times we will have to put our partner’s needs above our own. Some compromises and sacrifices will have to be made, but if they become a regular affair and we see ourselves turning bitter, resentful, or never happy and satisfied, then it’s time to change.

It’s time to come home to yourself first.

“You’ve changed!
No I think the proper term is…
I’ve stopped trying to please you.” ~ Anonymous

A relationship revolves around you. If you start revolving around the relationship, you might feel dizzy and faint. You get the drift, right?

“You can’t keep everyone happy. You are not a jar of Nutella!” ~ Unknown

It’s only when you feel comfortable in who you are as a person and start showing up authentically to your own self will you be able to create a relationship with another that feels like home i.e. a space where you can truly be yourself and are loved for who you are.

That’s how it needs to be. No masks, no pretense.

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air and remind yourself of who you are and where you want to be.” ~ Unknown


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