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  • Miriam Gilmore

Lost in your Late 20's: People-Pleaser Syndrome

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

"Yeah, I'll take the sofa bed (again) … that's no problem"

People-pleaser syndrome, and what you can do about it

Do you find yourself agreeing to go to the sushi restaurant, when you really wanted to eat pizza? Perhaps you seem to always end up on the sofa bed, when your friends sleep soundly on a proper mattress? Well, you may be suffering from people-pleaser syndrome.

In this blog post we'll explore what people-pleasing is, why you might be prone to it (especially as an individual in your 20's or 30's), and what changes you can make to address this trait.

What is People-Pleaser Syndrome

Please can you define People-Pleaser Syndrome to me, please, if it's not too much trouble?

If this sounds like you, then you are likely someone that puts other's needs ahead of your own. You are probably described as someone that is adaptable and easy-going. You are also constantly aware of other people's opinions and emotional states, something which I have written about previously on this blog.

The tendency to prioritise others' needs over your own is a characteristic many are familiar with – people-pleaser syndrome. This behavioural pattern, deeply rooted, often originates from our childhood and can have lasting impacts on adulthood. Common characteristics include:

  • Saying yes to everything, and ignoring the part of you that wants to say no.

  • Taking on things which you do not have the capacity to take on, e.g. extra work.

  • Keeping your true feelings hidden, so as not to (potentially) upset someone else.

  • Adapting your opinions, so as not to standout.

  • Re-reading emails, or messages in order to convey the 'correct tone'.

  • Doing everything to avoid conflict, including over apologising, over explaining, or adding please/thank you to every sentence.

If you relate to any of these, keep reading.

The Origin of your People-Pleasing

One common origin of people-pleasing behaviour lies in childhood family dynamics. In many cases, individuals take on roles to maintain equilibrium within the family system. Whether it's appeasing parents, caring for younger siblings, or being the mediator, these roles shape a person's identity and impact their adult behaviour. Psychodynamic theory suggests that these patterns unconsciously manifest in adulthood, leading to a tendency to prioritise others' needs over their own.

Attachment styles developed in childhood can further influence the emergence of people-pleasing tendencies. A person with an anxious attachment style, for example, might engage in people-pleasing as a way to gain approval and secure relationships.

People-Pleasing in your 20's and 30's

Those in their 20's and 30's are living very different lives to the generation before them; their parents. We find ourselves in a world where it is much more difficult to hit the milestones of our parents, for example, buying a house or having children and a successful career. This may lead to sense of unsuccessfulness, driving millennials to people please, either for recognition or status in their professional and personal lives.

In addition, the recent societal pressures to present the 'perfect' version of yourself and succeed online can amplify the drive to please others. The desire for validation through social media can exacerbate these tendencies, creating a cycle of seeking approval from peers.

The Pros and the Cons

Being a people-pleaser can have both positive and negative aspects. On one hand, this trait is often driven by a genuine desire to help and support others, promoting healthy relationships and teamwork. On the other hand, it can lead to self-neglect, burnout, and a loss of authenticity. Over time, excessive people-pleasing can erode self-esteem and leave individuals disconnected from their true desires.

So what can we do to move away from people-pleasing?

Where to Start

Understanding and acknowledging the people-pleaser tendencies within yourself is a crucial step toward personal growth. Recognising the origins of these behaviours empowers individuals to break free from unconscious patterns and make conscious choices. This self-awareness can lead to increased self-esteem, improved assertiveness, and healthier relationships.

After recognising your people-pleaser syndrome, you can begin to make changes in your behaviour to empower yourself. Here are some simple ways to start:

  • Tune into your preferences, listen to your feelings

Start by noticing your feelings and identifying your preferences. If you really wanted pizza, but you notice your friend is presuming you'll be happy with anything, make an internal note that you had a preference. In the future you could voice this preference, your feelings are important.

  • Start saying 'No'

This can be really difficult for some individuals, so it is important to start small. Perhaps your friend has asked you to join them on a shopping trip, but it clashes with a gym class you really wanted to attend. You could kindly and gently say no. This could involve asking to rearrange the shopping for a day that better suits you.

  • Set boundaries in a compassionate way

As well as being understanding of others, start showing compassion to yourself. This can be done by setting boundaries, for example: 'I will only answer calls before 10pm, because I recognise that my bedtime will be impacted if I begin a phone call any later'. This not only shows compassion for yourself, but also demonstrates to others that you have respect for yourself, as well as them.

  • Access therapy

Exploring the roots of people-pleasing behaviour in therapy can provide valuable insights into your upbringing, attachment style, and generational influences. A skilled therapist can guide individuals through self-exploration, helping them untangle complex emotional knots and develop healthier coping mechanisms. Therapy offers a safe space to heal, grow, and navigate the complexities of the people-pleaser syndrome.

To Summarise, if you don't mind

People-pleaser syndrome often has its origins in family dynamics, attachment styles, and generational influences. While it can be both a positive trait and a hindrance, self-awareness is key to understanding its impact on your life. Recognising these tendencies opens the door to personal growth, authenticity, and healthier relationships. If you resonate with the role of a people-pleaser in your life, consider embarking on a journey of self-discovery through therapy. Counselling with FIR Counselling and Psychotherapy, offers the opportunity to explore difficulties at depth, uncover the roots of your behaviours, and pave the way for a more empowered version you.

Why not contact me today to book a free 20 minute initial conversation and start working on yourself?

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