What words come to mind when you hear the phrase “people-pleaser?” The title is usually associated with people who are kind and helpful.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a people-pleasing person as someone who has an emotional need to please others, often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.
In the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) the Rescuer role is usually associated with people-pleasing qualities. Thank goodness we have people who want to be helpful and kind. As social beings, we must pay attention to others’ needs and how we can support one another.
The dilemma becomes when your need-to-please becomes a compulsion rather than a choice. You begin to feel it is your duty to make others feel good and betray your own needs while diminishing your healthy boundaries. Sacrificing your own needs may lead to:
- Being overly sensitive to criticism or feedback;
- Unable to stand up for yourself;
- Worrying about disappointing others rather than taking joy in being kind;
- Constantly proving your self-worth; and
- Feeling resentful that your needs may be ignored.
This way of living is exhausting and a recipe for burnout!
That’s when setting healthy boundaries becomes so important. Strong personal boundaries can prevent your energy from being depleted so you can still be kind and helpful to those you want to support.
A metaphor is useful to understand how healthy boundaries can stabilize your energy. Think of yourself as a river with secure riverbanks. The riverbanks keep the edges of the water flowing clean and clear inside the boundaries. But if the riverbank is porous and unstable, the river floods, causing damage to the countryside.
The world needs caring people more than ever—people who have the capacity to remain stable, resilient, and genuinely kind during difficult times.
Here’s three differences between being a “people-pleaser” and developing healthy boundaries that support you to be the helpful person you want to be.
- Develop genuine kindness. Is your kindness based upon the hope that you will get something in return? Are you willing to acknowledge sometimes your desire to be helpful may not be genuine? It takes courage to set a boundary to authentically support others because you want to help them, and not because you are expecting something in return.
- Reset your mindset from worrying about others, to clarifying what you want to contribute. What are your gifts? What brings you joy? When you take responsibility for fulfilling your needs first, you have more energy to genuinely support others. You cannot authentically serve others unless you first serve yourself.
- Notice if you feel resentments associated with your people-pleasing ways. If you came from a family that had poor boundaries and pleasing others was the only way to keep the peace, you may eventually feel resentments. These resentments can come from feeling that others don’t pay attention to your needs, whether true or imagined. Either way, the resentments can be a wake-up call that something is out of balance, and establishing healthy boundaries can support you.
Brene Brown in her book, Rising Strong writes: “Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They are compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.”
No one will respect your boundaries—appreciate and honor your needs—if you don’t set them in the first place. As a Creator, clarifying and communicating boundaries is an essential practice to maintain your own energy so you can be the helpful and pleasing person you want to be.