What is the difference between a genuinely nice person, and a people-pleaser? On the surface, they can look very much the same. They both have the same intention: to be a good person. But the people-pleaser takes this one step further, and ties their intention to something insidious: the subconscious desire to make people happy -independent of themselves.
On a deeper level, the people-pleaser loathes conflict, and will do just about anything to avoid it. They figure, if people are happy, then there won’t be conflict. But if people are not happy, there is a high chance of conflict.
And you can easily see why this becomes problematic, because even in a perfect, utopian world, there will be clashes of desire and of belief, which will naturally trigger conflict and competition. And if your primary aim is to appease people, you will have to shift your desires and beliefs in every situation, responding to everyone’s beck and call.
Beyond the surface, they are petrified that asserting themselves will lead to a loss of love and acceptance. But the irony is that they will not know true love and acceptance through the lens of a people-pleaser, because true love and acceptance can only come to someone who is true to themselves.
People-pleasers often don’t feel entitled to much. They are naturally very selfless – but they need to realize that they are here to realize their dreams and actualize their potential, and that requires a healthy dose of assertiveness.
The trouble is, the people-pleaser is left without an identity to hold onto, without dreams to fulfill – because life requires movement, and any movement poses the threat of conflict and competition.
They will ultimately face resentment in their relationships, because every time they conceal their true feelings to please others, they betray themselves. They lose themselves.
And so, people-pleasing is synonymous with self-betrayal; and while it may be done as a service to others, it is a cruel disservice to oneself.
So what is the solution, then?
The remedy for self-betrayal is to practice self-reliance. Lean into your heart and intuition. Act on it. Instead of aiming to please people, your aim should be to adhere to your values and principles.
Progress is possible, and it will give you your life back.