How To Deal With People-Pleasing Tendencies After You Fail To Please People


Like I’ve said so many times before, sometimes I write just to sort things out in my own head, and hopefully in that sorting I will feel better and also possibly help someone else. This is one of those times.

In the broadest of explanations, I am out of sorts, and it’s a state from which I can’t seem to extricate myself. As I pause to reflect upon the why’s and how’s of this out-of-sortness, a few of the usual suspects rear their ugly heads (kid aggravations being one such example), but when I really burrow deep, I think the root of this issue lies in the conflict between standing my ground and my people-pleasing tendencies.

For a really, really long time, maybe even for as long as I can remember, there would be no conflict… I would inevitably revert to people-pleasing. I may bitch and moan about it, I may seek passive aggressive means of standing my ground in future situations as a form of revenge, but ultimately, in the moment of conflict, I deferred in favor of making the other person happy.

As I work on becoming a more honest and authentic version of myself, I have become aware of the conflict, and wonder whether the path of least resistance is doing anyone any good. At the bare minimum it makes me feel not quite honest, and not quite authentic!  This certainly does not mean that I choose the right action every time, but I am getting better and better and saying what I mean, and meaning what I say. If I don’t actually assert myself or voice my own feelings, at the very least I can choose to do or say nothing, so at least I’m not practicing dishonesty.

Old Me: “Of COURSE it’s not a problem! No worries! That will be fine/I am fine/You are fine!”

Current Me: (silence)

Hopefully Future Me: “The truth is that I’m feeling…”

Sometimes though, when you are seeking honesty, there is simply no way around a conflict between two people. As humans we each have our unique thought processes, opinions, and strategies for handling life, and my way of doing things does not always mesh with the way others do things.

And then there’s the moment of truth:  stand my ground, or defer in order to smooth out the rough edges of the situation.

Of course, anyone reading knows the obvious answer is if you believe in yourself, your stance, you stand your ground. I knew that even when I wasn’t doing it.

The trick isn’t even in the standing of ground (although that’s certainly not fun). The real trick is living inside of my own head in the days that follow.

I am in perpetual awe of people who can take a stand, face their adversaries gracefully, and then let the situation go. I simply do not know how to do that. Even when I believe in myself, even when I have no regrets in any decision I have made, my people pleasing tendencies make me twitchy in wanting to correct, to soothe, to make everyone in the world happy again.

So what to do in this situation?  Well, historically the simple investigation and acknowledgement of such feelings goes a long way, as does writing about it and seeking empathy.  It’s always a great thing to know I’m not alone.

But the further work for me is in the practice of letting go… letting go of my expectations of how things should have been, or how things should be currently.  Letting go of the worry of the future. Letting go of my projections as to how the rest of the world is thinking and feeling.  Full disclosure:  that last one’s the toughest!

I just exhaled deeply in re-reading that last bit.  Yep, the cathartic writing exercise works again!  Now, the next post will be when and how I figure out the “letting go” part!  Advice, as always, is welcome!



Today’s Miracle:

Not including an image from the movie Frozen, since I’m sure you’re all humming that song right about now!

Posted on February 19, 2015, in Recovery, Self-Care and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Oh my! That last quote had me rolling.
    *raises hand – recovering people pleaser right here.
    Do I have it all figured out? Absolutely not. But, like you, am making strides. Now…I gotta work on my son.
    Thank you for keeping me on the wagon, Josie…I’m going to be among people today that I’m always trying to please.
    *deep breath….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this, I really needed it today. I’m struggling with #7–Ask for Help. I try to solve problems on my own and it usually comes back to bite me. Thanks.


    • Oh, Lori, do I hear you on that one. Number 7 is an ongoing struggle for me too. Right now I am struggle to ask my hairdresser to cut my hair, that’s how bad it can get (cause, you know, she is very busy, boy that sounds ridiculous when I type it out!)

      Thanks for the comment 🙂


  3. Oh yes, I’m a big people pleaser.
    I don’t have advice, but I think the more you practice the easier it will become.
    At least I hope so.
    Peace and hugs,

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do this too, I hold my hand up. But I see it from the other side, too. My mother-in-law is someone who struggles to say “no” – she is a lovely woman and we have a great relationship, but it can be hard to ask for help from someone who hates to say no. I do ask her for help, frequently (particularly for help with my kids as they love her, and she them), but I do worry about it when I ask. I worry it is an imposition, or that she will resent me. I worry that I am taking advantage. Sometimes I don’t ask for help at all when I probably could and it would not be a problem, but the fact that I know she won’t say no makes it harder to ask. Honestly, I would love it if she said no more. I guess what I am saying is that saying no isn’t all about letting someone down – it’s just honesty, and it can make it easier for those around you to ask for your help, to be more confident and happier about asking you, because they will know that when you say yes, it is OK, it said with a glad heart, that they are not imposing on you. The people who know you and love you would not be offended with a “no”. They would understand.
    Obviously I am not very good about practising what I preach – goes without saying.
    I hope this makes sense! xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • It makes more sense that I can ever write here, MTM, reading this was a true light bulb moment… I never considered that angle before! I am really going to go forward with that perspective, and I hope it will create even more honesty.

      Thanks so much for this comment, you have really given me a lot to think about! Hope you are doing well!


  5. I could have written this, Josie. And I probably have, if I dig through my own archives. The idea of people who can make those seemingly quick and heavy decisions – I am not sure if they are so sure as we make them out to be. One thing I remembr is working with some dudes who used to make decisions and stand right behind them. Even when I knew they were wrong, or that I would have done differently. I used to marvel at these guys and how cofident they were. Then years ago I ran into a wonderful leadership slide show based on teaching by Colin Powell (who I really admire, considering I am Canadian and so not into military). He says this:

    Part I: “Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands
    for the probability of success and the numbers indicate
    the percentage of information acquired.”
    Part II: “Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range,
    go with your gut.”
    Don’t take action if you have only enough information to give yo
    u less than a
    40 percent chance of being right, but don’t wait until you have
    enough facts to
    be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too lat
    e. Today, excessive delays in the name of information
    – gathering breeds “analysis paralysis.” Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk

    So, what he’s saying is that by the time you wait until you are 100% sure of something, it’s too late! Now, that’s a general thing, but I see it true in many ways. My fear of looking stupid makes sure I am frozen and not make a decision. My FEARS always lead me to putting mysef in a position where I acquiesce and play small.

    This all boils down to self-worth and self-value. You and I both are open about this struggle, as it is for so many of us. Doesn’t mean that we wake up one day and become military drill sargeants or be ego-driven monsters. But we have a sense that no matter what, we will be okay. We WILL make mistakes and have poor decisions at times. But that’s okay. As long as we are okay with ourselves and not worry what others think, it’s okay. Obviously we try to gather the info we need to go with a decision, but not get paralyzed by it. Another thing Powell says that if we’re not pissing someone off, we’re not doing our job right…which in personal ways, means boundaries.

    Anyway, this is a post in itself here in your comments section. Sorry.
    But this clearly speaks to me, so I am grateful for your words and thoughts.


    Liked by 1 person

  6. This absolutely could be a post, and one I hope you consider writing… I believe a lot of people could benefit from it. I absolutely love that equation, and it truly helps… as I ponder “next steps” in the situation that prompted this post, I believe I can truly use it. Because, and I’m sure this will come as no surprise, I quite often wait for the 100% sure, and I can testify that is is, indeed, too late.

    And you are spot on with the self-worth and self-value, even in this situation: I believe I am right, but standing up for myself in front of another and announcing it feels too daunting. I’m trying the best I can to not get paralyzed. I’ve had a moment or two of paralysis in the past week, but I’d say I’m doing better than I once would have. Progress, not perfection!

    I will be taking Colin Powell with me going forward, and I will let you know when I successfully employ this tactic. As always, 1,000 thank you’s for this comment 🙂


  7. I hate conflict. I really do. I used to replay conversations over and over in my mind after a confrontation with my sister-in-law, someone I’ve had many conflicts with. I just couldn’t let it go and I couldn’t stand the fact that she didn’t adore me the way I thought she should. Then one day I realized that she hates confrontation as much as me and we’re both just doing our best. I may not like what her best looks like but believing that her intentions were as sincere as my intentions somehow made the conflict less gut wrenching. It’s kind of like what they say about wild animals; they’re just as afraid of you as you are of them. I think that’s true for most people in conflicts, even if some people are good at hiding it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm, I am going to chew on this perspective. Right out of the gate my mind wants to egotistically argue, “but NO ONE hates conflict as much as I do!” But you do raise an excellent point, and simply considering the other side of things calms me even as I am typing this response. Now, to put it into action as I am in the thick of it will be the trick!

      I really, really appreciate this comment, Karen. I actually think this week there may be some follow-up, so I am really going to attempt to put this into practice, and I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The first image was exactly what I needed today. What a confirimation of my instincts!

    Liked by 1 person

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