07 Mar 2024

How People Pleasing Can Impact Our Self Worth

By Kirsty Stacey, Counsellor at The Eaves

Pleasing other people can be a positive experience, whether it is helping out a friend, going that extra mile at work or maybe supporting family members. But when we continually put other people’s needs and feelings ahead our own, it can feel as though we have nothing left for ourselves, that all the good energy is being sapped out of us and we are left feeling exhausted, drained and empty.

Common signs include:

  • Struggling to say no,
  • Always available when other people need us,
  • Put plans on hold to help others,
  • Taking on too many tasks which do not really involve us,
  • A need to feel indispensable to other people but we are not sure why,
  • Denying our own needs to please others,
  • Feeling guilty when we put ourselves first,
  • Always wondering what other people think of us,
  • Pretending to agree with people even if we do not,
  • Wanting people to like us,
  • Feeling annoyed when people are not grateful for everything we do for them,
  • Feeling like we cannot say no because we are fearful of feeling rejected or disliked.

Putting other people’s feelings ahead of ourselves is usually a behaviour learnt when we are very young, where we have unconsciously internalised a belief that unless we are ‘good’ and keep our negative feelings hidden, we will not be accepted as who we are. This can occur if our caregivers are emotionally unavailable or neglectful to our needs. They might be always working, verbally, mentally or physically abusive, absent or maybe dealing with their own mental health struggles. It is known as ‘fawn’ and is included in one of the four trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze, fawn) and can have a negative impact to our sense of self, leaving us feeling low self-worth.

Unconsciously, we continue to put our own needs to one side by being ‘good’ throughout our school lives, maybe striving to get the best grades we can. We take these patterns into the work environment where we might push ourselves to over-achieve, and into our relationships where we might view our partners feelings as more important than our own. Feelings of anxiety, low mood or burn-out can all be clues to noticing that something does not feel right, and we are neglecting our emotional needs.

It can feel scary talking to anyone about how we are truly feeling as we are highlighting our flaws when expressing we are not as ‘perfect’ as we want others to think we are. Talking to a therapist can be a useful way to gain a deeper insight into our patterns, explore and process the impact of putting other people’s needs ahead of ourselves and ultimately find ways to move forward to live a more authentic life, placing ourselves and our emotional wellbeing ahead of others.

The Eaves Counselling and Psychology

Kirsty Stacey, Counsellor at The Eaves, is based in Farnham. To find out more about Kirsty, or to enquire about her latest availability, please visit her profile here

The Eaves Counselling and Psychology Ltd is a select professional body of Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Psychologists, providing high quality psychological care Monday to Saturday between 9am and 9pm from our practices in Guildford, Godalming, Farnham, Haslemere and online.

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