By its very nature, people-pleasing means protecting someone else, rather than yourself.
Trauma often creates people-pleasing habits, because it teaches you that others will hurt you (emotionally or physically) in order to achieve their goals. It can feel safer to avoid this hurt by just giving people what they want in the first place.
Trauma can also teach you that your own needs and opinions cause others discomfort, leading to a habit of self-abandonment and agreeability.
While chronic people pleasing can result from trauma, it can also cause trauma. That’s why it’s so important to replace your people-pleasing behaviors with self-protective ones.
This worksheet is good for people who have experienced:
This is a menu of common people-pleasing or “codependent” behaviors and habits. Circle what looks familiar in the first column.
For those items, find alternative examples for what to do or say in the second column. As you go through the list, make notes of thoughts and feelings that come up–you may want to talk these through with a trusted friend or your therapist. Does anxiety arise? What might happen if you stopped people-pleasing?
Try to add any people pleasing behaviors in your life that aren’t listed here. Then, brainstorm how to replace these behaviors with self-protective ones. (We’ve left space for that!) Adding new items will get easier as you practice and identify new ways to be more authentic in daily life.
“‘People-pleasing’ only gets adopted when people have not had the interpersonal experience of feeling safe to disagree with others. As such, “people pleasing” is not a character trait or defect but a measure of how safe it was to assert oneself in relationship to early caregivers.” – Jay Reid, LPCC
“People-pleaser children act more like the adult in the relationship, and take on a caregiving role towards their own parents.” – Ann Stoneson
“People pleasing + codependency will have you bending over backwards for people that haven’t shown any interest in wanting to develop a relationship with you…” – Ayesha Lovee
“A life spent ceaselessly trying to please people who are perhaps incapable of ever being pleased, or trying too hard to always be seen as doing “what’s expected of you,” is a sure road to a regretful existence.” – Angel Chernoff