If you are person who spends most of your time thinking about others and how you can be helpful, you might be caught in the need-to-please trap.
We are familiar with this predicament. We were raised in families with completely different backgrounds, but we both decided at an early age that being helpful and pleasing is a good way to go through life.
Rescuers in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ are often in the pleasing trap. Messages heard when growing up such as, “Don’t be selfish,” were taken on as “truth.” Scared of being selfish, pleasers get trapped in the idea that everyone else’s needs are a priority over their own needs.
The desire to be pleasing starts innocently—-an attempt to get love in return for good deeds. Gradually the need to please becomes driven by a belief that others are incapable of taking care of themselves. Facing this belief is hard because it means admitting a degree of arrogance that you are the only one that can fix a situation.
This can be true in family relationships and in the workplace, as well. David reflects on how his need to fix and please drove his early career and even manifested in taking on the role of “hero manager,” in which he felt he needed to be the one with the answers to everyone’s issues.
Eventually the burden of constantly needing to help can become more of an obligation than a joy or may stem from the guilt you would feel if you didn’t help. Pleasers may feel indispensable, while exhausted at the same time.
When someone suggests that Rescuers focus on their own self-care they privately wonder, “What is self-care? I don’t even understand what that means. If I take a day off or even a few hours to myself, I feel guilty. My people need me.”
That’s how the pleasing trap works. This is a distorted view of what is an empowering relationship with yourself and others.
When in the pleasing trap, you can avoid intimacy with yourself and understanding your own needs. Even though you wouldn’t want other people to ignore their needs, you don’t see how you have eluded yours. Nor would you ask others to work so hard pleasing and accommodating others that they lose sleep, overwork or ignore their health.
Another consequence of the trap comes by jumping in when not asked. In doing so, pleasers prevent others from taking responsibility and choosing their response to situations. They limit the other’s capacity to grow as a Creator.
When you face the reality of being in the “need-to-please-trap,” you are taking a powerful step toward your own well-being.
The only reason we can write this essay is because we have begun the journey out of the pleasing trap. Gradually we have experienced how it interferes with the way we want to relate to ourselves and one another. We’re getting better at acknowledging our own needs in the moment, making clear and powerful requests, while setting boundaries on what we are willing to say “yes” to, and when it is appropriate to say “no.” We support (rather than “help”) one another by being a Coach and, at times, a constructive Challenger to one another. Other times, we appropriately choose to roll up our sleeves and help out.
Beginning the journey out of the pleasing trap, you will feel more energy and joy to truly be of service in the world.