The Need To Please

Do you find it difficult to say no? Do you find it difficult to have time for yourself?

I often start my self protection seminars by stating the importance of why we should not choose to people please. You may not be a people pleaser but most of us will have done it at one time or another; so why do we feel the need to people please?

One of the most common reasons for an intense need to please is a deep rooted; often a subconscious fear of rejection. The fear of rejection can manifest from thoughts of “ If I don’t do want this person asks me to do they might think different of me, stop caring for me or leave me” This is often accompanied by the need for attention.

The  fear of rejection can come from early childhood memories in which love was conditional or in which you were rejected or abandoned by an important person in your life, a parent or guardian. The rejected inner child will crave attention and the need to please will proliferate. .

Fear of Failure can also be a contributing factor when it comes to people pleasing.  A chronic feeling of anxiety  that “If I make a mistake, I will disappoint people and/or be punished.”  Fear of failure can arise from early childhood experiences when severe castigation was experienced for even small mistakes.  People who had highly critical parents often develop a fear of failure and need to please.

This behaviour is often exhibited by victims of bullying and assault. As a generalisation; people pleasing will create feelings of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, low self esteem, poor posture, eating disorders, nervousness, procrastination, illness and feeling of being the proverbial doormat for others. From a self protection point of view people pleasing can be detrimental. Over the years I have worked with hundreds of victims of bullying, hectoring, assault and stalking; the vast majority were chronic people pleasers.  As part of my seminars I often show recorded interviews with criminals and survivors of attacks. Recently we previewed and reviewed an interview with a lady who escaped from the clutches of Ted Bundy (serial killer).

What comes across in the interview is this – the lady is a chronic people pleaser. This is also closely associated to feelings of denial. Many people become experts at people pleasing, this lady was so conditioned (over many years) to avoid confrontation and/or conflict, so much so; that when Ted Bundy looked her in the eye and said “now I’m going to kill you” then grabbed her by the throat, she said she still thought it was just a sick joke!

People pleasers often accept their role as a badge of honour. Many feel a sense of satisfaction when others describe them as;

harmless, wouldn’t hurt a fly, give you the shirt off their back, do anything for you! And for the predator, this ticks many of the boxes for victim selection.

I’m not suggesting that we should not assist or help those in need, but if you do decide to help, it must be because you want to and not because you need to. If you do decide to offer help, do so only on your terms. From a self protection point of view we use the OODA loop principles;

Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Remember; Act could also be just as simple as you walking away – if your intuition tells you so. Simply put; if you sense any anomalies in your immediate environment or in someone’s behaviour…..move away. We are the only living beings on the planet that often cross examine feelings of anxiety. You don’t need to know what or why, just acknowledge and accept your God given messenger for survival – Intuition.

If this is underlining some home-truths for you lets look at making some positive changes.

To break any habit we must start with small steps, going cold turkey is not recommended for the people pleaser. Below are some small steps I have recommended (with great success) to clients and students over the years.

The Cup of Tea

The Irish are a big consumer of tea. Think of Mrs Doyle in Father Ted. Will you have a cup of tea? Ah go on, you will, you will, you will! Although a parody, not too far from reality. Next time someone asks you-will you have a cup of tea? pause for 2-3 seconds (whether you want one or not) then reply. Only say yes if you would like a cup of tea and if not- decline. However, this will present some caveats. What if Mrs Doyle insists on making you tea, do you drink it, or do you look for the nearest plant pot to tip it into? Neither, just don’t drink it. For many this will be a real challenge. But this is base camp, to climb the big mountain we must begin our journey here. I can remember on my wedding day many people bought me pints of beer and put them on my table as a celebratory gift. Initially I told the first and second gift beer bearers that I don’t drink beer, but thanked them for the gesture, then I stopped. At one point there was 12 pints of beer, all (I presume) ended up in the barman’s sink or maybe a greedy beer stalker’s belly.

Let Me Get Back To You

We have all been there. Someone asks you attend a function, party, a favour. Either in person, by text or email. Simply reply, let me get back to you on that. Suppress the need to explain yourself.

Silence Please!

Many people pleasers feel uncomfortable with silence, particularly in the company of those whom they are not familiar. Often feeling the need to continually talk about anything trivial to avoid silence. They will often agree or continually nod their head as a sign of approval to be accepted by the person speaking and/or the group. This is often done to substitute as a suit of armour. Thinking that if they agree with and please everyone why would anyone want to argue or challenge them. This causes a knock on effect, knowing that its impossible to please everyone begets more feelings of anxiety. Often manifesting into illness, insomnia, weight loss/gain, headaches, loss of appetite, binge eating and commonly becoming truculent with those closest to them.


Easy Targets: Signs and Signals


“They never want to upset me, they fear confrontation and always want to be nice”

Extract from interview with Ted Bundy

*interview with survivor embedded below

To predators, narcissists and criminals, people pleasers are easy targets. I recall an interview conducted with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. He said he selected his victims by the way they tilted their head and how they walked.

Our mind-set has a huge bearing on our body language, our posture and gait.

When we allow our fears to control us this will be displayed in how we move about. How we hold our head, the biomechanical synergy (or lack of) will all culminate in our body language (non verbal signs and signals).

Remember NO is a complete sentence FULL STOP. To start with small steps, practice everyday, slow down how you walk, talk and reply. For information, contact our office and we will get back you!

Link to interview

Ms. Doyle pic courtesy of RTE