Hi. I’m Liz. And I’m a People Pleaser.
Says NO ONE! Because, as far as I know, there aren’t any meetings for People Pleasers. Am I wrong? If so, please write something in the Comment box below.
You would think being a People Pleaser would be a great character defect, right? At least way down on the list of those to let go of. For sure it hasn’t been my priority! Let’s face it, I wanted to stop the more glaring defects of cheating, lying, and – oh, um, I don’t know – FUCKING OVER ANYONE WHO EVER DARED TO CARE ABOUT ME before getting around to looking at how I OVER-please people. At least, I thought this was one that needed to wait until waaaaaaayyyyyy later. Silly little me.
I also didn’t think I needed Al-Anon.
To be sure, I thought People Pleasing was a problem like when I was asked in job interviews what my biggest flaw was. Heck, that one was easy! I always said perfectionism. It’s the perfect answer in a job interview, right? It makes me look like a hard worker who is detail-oriented and will not stop until I have found the RIGHT ANSWER FOR THEIR COMPANY!!!! (cue the music from “Psycho” here).
Unfortunately, employers caught on to the whiff of psychosis in that response and no longer desired it. As that answer went out the window, so too did my ability to keep up the bullshit game I was running behind my People Pleasing. Both the perfectionism answer and the People Pleasing were designed to illicit a response in others. One where they would like me more. I would be doing things that genuinely made me happy and others would be pleased. That was what I have always believed. Truly. I thought this with my perfectionism (before I found out that was a serious problem). And I am seeing it now with helping others.
As with all the others before it, this character defect has run its course and can no longer mask the pain it is trying to cover up.
I genuinely like to help people. It has been my life’s work. It is one of the intentions behind this website and it is something that brings me the greatest satisfaction in my sobriety and getting out of bed every day. There is nothing wrong with this. I know this. Much like human instincts, which are also perfectly fine, there isn’t a problem until they become too big for their own britches. Here, I have to quote a book that’s helped me a lot throughout the years, the “12 Steps and 12 Traditions” from Alcoholics Anonymous. (It’s just one of the MANY tools in my toolbox of cool books and helpful stuff!):
Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man’s natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles. Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities. (p. 42-54)
So, I think I’m being “good” by helping people. That is my intention. Truly. Seriously. Then, when I look deeper…way deeper. I see how I feel when I’m not able to help them; or when they don’t want me to help them; or when my help isn’t – God forbid – good enough; or they DON’T LIKE my help; or RESENT my help; or DIDN’T THINK I WAS HELPING THEM!!! (Those examples are absolutely unbelievable to me as a People Pleaser because they go completely against what any good People Please wants…to please!!!!) And, when these examples happen, I get to see my “emotional security” mentioned in the previous paragraph (from the “12 Steps and 12 Traditions”) go out the window! I have found that nothing makes THIS People Pleaser come unglued – emotionally – more than a FAILED People Pleasing venture.
And, here’s the real kicker…guess what THIS People Pleaser does when she fails at People Pleasing?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
SHE TRIES TO PEOPLE PLEASE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In addiction communities we have a fun definition for insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
Yet, I’m here to tell you, that’s what I do. When I am triggered, I try to People Please more. This, of course, only aggravates the person who DOES NOT want to “be pleased” more. And so on. And so on.
Mind you…I didn’t get any of this until recently. I always knew something was very, very wrong with me and them. I just didn’t know WHAT. I knew that I was trying to help. I knew they didn’t like my help. I just didn’t know WHY it all felt so awful.
Two more fun facts: Most people can smell a People Pleaser a mile away, AND People Pleasers are seen as disingenuous. That’s a very long, fancy word for “full of shit”.
I need to say the following for you. For everyone that knows me. For me…
I’m not full of shit. I’m scared. I want people to like me. I don’t want to be abandoned. AND, I genuinely want to help people. That is the truth.
What I need to STOP DOING is helping people when they:
- Do not ask for help
- Do not want help
- Do not appreciate help, or show any signs of being grateful, for my help (therefore, letting me know they don’t need my help)
- Get angry when helped
- TELL ME THEY DO NOT WANT HELP
So, I’d love to know if any of you out there have this same struggle. If you do, what do you do about it? Are you a recovering People Pleaser? Have you solved your problem? Do you have any advice for me or others? Your input would be greatly appreciated!