The need to please

Nov 21 2013 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

People who are always trying to please others seldom do. More often than actually their behavior is counter-productive and they end up generating irritation, negativity and anxiety rather than positivity or gratitude.

What about you? Are you a people-pleaser? If so, there's a good chance you learnt your behavior at a very young age. The impetus came from your (natural and normal) need to feel and be loved, acknowledged and recognized. If you felt that these needs were not being, met people-pleasing emerged as a survival mechanism.

More than that, you may not have been encouraged to love yourself, to please yourself, to show your value and worth, or to trust yourself.

So consciously or unconsciously, you choose the strategy of pleasing others, believing that if you did, others would love you back, that they would see your value and worth and validate you when you could not, or did not, validate yourself.

People-pleasing can be loud or quiet. It can take the form of talking non-stop or quietly manoeuvring and navigating life in an effort to please others. You might constantly fuss over others driven by an "I hope I'm pleasing you" motive Ė although what you're really asking is, "please acknowledge me!"


  • Have you ever felt you were a people-pleaser? How did that make you feel?
  • What does people-pleasing get you that you cannot give yourself?
  • Do you remember being a people-pleaser when you were young? What was that like?
  • Do you ever feel guilty or ashamed when you put yourself first? Why?
  • How do you feel when you do someone a favor and they don't reciprocate?
  • What baby step can you take to put yourself first?

The real downside of people-pleasing is that you are giving yourself away - your power, your strength and your emotional and physic energy - by putting others' wants and needs first. So whereas conscious and healthy relationships are built on a foundation of mutual consideration, the people-pleaser consistently sacrifices their self-responsibility in favor of being responsible to another.

But the irony is that trying to care for someone else in a dysfunctional way more often than not backfires. We annoy or aggravate the very person we tried to please and end up becoming angry, resentful and confused when they don't appreciate our efforts or show gratitude in the way we would like.

Put bluntly, people-pleasing is a self-destructive and self-sabotaging way to attract love, recognition and acknowledgement. It never gets us the love and caring we want and deserve - ever.

Only when you learn to love yourself, appreciate yourself and nurture yourself just as you are, right here and right now, can you start to eliminate the need to put others ahead of yourself.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.