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  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

What is A People Pleaser?

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

what is people pleaser

A new Text Therapy client recently reached out to me to start therapy and shared: "I am here to find self-confidence and to stop being a yes man. I’m a people pleaser." And it's by far not the first time such a complaint has brought a new client to me to start Online Therapy; let's define "people pleasing," list its signs, and explore how to stop being a people pleaser.

Definition of "People Pleaser"

The term “people pleaser” refers to a person whose extremely low self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth make them desperate for the validation and acceptance of others. As a result, they strongly urge to please others, give to them, do things for them, go along with their wishes, and always be available, even at their own expense. Others consider them helpful and kind and always seem willing to help. They spend much time and effort caring for others and rarely discuss their wants and needs, which they typically feel do not matter. In fact, they find it hard to allow others to take care of them.

In addition, people pleasers regularly alter and shape-shift their personalities like chameleons to fit in to be what and whom they think others like. “People pleaser” is not a diagnosis or a psychological personality issue, and while caring for others is rewarding and noble, it can also be extreme, out of control, toxic, and unhealthy.

Signs of A People Pleaser

The unhealthy desire to please people can manifest in many ways. A person may:

  • always seem to say yes

  • find it hard to say no

  • constantly take on extra work, even if they do not have the time

  • be silent on sharing their own needs and wants

  • say they're fine even if they're not

  • overcommit to people, jobs, and plans

  • flee disagreement at all cost

  • go along with things to avoid creating friction

The Experience of A People Pleaser

People struggling with low self-esteem and confidence, who strongly doubt their worth and value, will often identify their struggles as people pleasing. Upon further conversation and questioning, they can discover many other signs of their inner struggle. Typically, they experience constant pressure to be kind, friendly, and cheerful. When they need to speak up or advocate for themselves, they're overwhelmed with anxiety and discomfort. They simultaneously feel a desperate need to take on more and do more for others while feeling stressed over the commitments they have already made.

People pleasers are often aware of their feelings of frustration at the fact they never seem to have time for themselves or that their wants and needs matter less than those of others. They also quietly struggle with feeling taken advantage of by others.


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