Fixed limiting beliefs that drive people-pleasing behavior.
In our society, we tend to place a high value on pleasing other people and taking responsibility for how others feel. While this has traditionally been a part of the conditioning of women, men are increasingly falling prey to the fixed beliefs of the people-pleaser mindset.
Most humans have a true desire to help others and have generosity of spirit that comes from caring about the experience and well-being of others. This is an aspect of our authentic self. We want to alleviate suffering where we can and feel motivated by this desire. The self-protective side of people-pleasing is when we are compelled to put the agenda of others first because we become anxious when we don’t and fear negative consequences.
Self-protective people-pleasing has more to do with our own needs than the needs of others, our need for harmony, security in relationships and the approval of others. We automatically put ourselves in the service of others, abandoning our own agenda, often at some cost to ourselves. And, because we like the way it makes us feel, we keep doing it. The neural pathways in the brain to the automatic people-pleasing decision making and behaviors make us feel like we have no choice but to put the needs of others before our own.
People-pleasing is an adaptive survival strategy. We try to figure out what it is that other people need sometimes before they are aware of it themselves. We use our intuition or anticipate what someone might feel and decide for them what they can and can’t handle without even asking them. Energetically, this is intrusive and crosses the boundaries of other people. It assumes that they can’t handle their emotions or master new skills. That we are competent, and they are not.
3 Fixed Beliefs of People-Pleasers
There are 3 main beliefs that compel us to continue the people-pleasing behaviors that cause us to feel anxious. Fear is triggered when we are faced with a choice of self-activating and putting our own agenda and needs ahead of those of others or even negotiating to get our own interests and needs met.
Belief #1 – Others depend on me and can’t survive without me.
The belief that we are indispensable to others comes from our own dependence on others to value us for what we do for them. While we believe that they are dependent on us, we deceive ourselves so that we don’t feel alone and vulnerable. Our relationships are codependent because we tend to put ourselves in the service of others to feel connected, valued and needed.
Belief # 2 – I am responsible for the feelings of others.
This belief causes us to worry about how others will feel if we make a decision that is in our own interest. We fear the disapproval of others and are concerned that others will feel disappointed or hurt if we are honest and authentic. When we take responsibility for the feelings of others, we assume they aren’t capable of handling their own emotions. We remain codependent, making ourselves small so we don’t offend anyone by being ourselves.
Belief #3 – If I express myself, my opinions and beliefs, I will lose the relationship.
Growing up feeling that love was conditional on conforming and being good, imbeds in us the fixed belief and fear that if we don’t align ourselves with others, they will leave us or penalize us in some way. We stop ourselves from expressing ourselves, instead finding ways of agreeing with, deferring to, or affirming the ideas and opinions of others. We keep ourselves dependent on the approval of others, keeping our authentic self in exile.
People-pleasing must be seen as an adaptive, fear pattern run by fixed, limiting beliefs that cause us to feel we have no choice, and it is just who we are.
Challenging our fixed people-pleasing mindset starts with recognition that we are not the caretakers of other people’s emotions. It is not our job to regulate their feelings and emotions or constantly put energy into taking care of others to feel loved. People-pleasing is an indication that we are stuck in the codependent stage of development with our next developmental challenge which is to separate from and let go of the need for affirmation and approval by others to feel secure.
To do this, we must instill and reinforce the belief that being loved and accepted is not conditional on conforming to what others expect. We need to hold our integrity and use the power of our authentic self, which is love and acceptance, letting go of the limitations of that our fear pattern holds over us.