People Pleasing: at what expense?

I can’t remember when it started to become difficult for me to let anyone down. Maybe it’s when I started to realize my own importance, and how it was determined based on how helpful I could be. The more I could make someone happy, the more they’d want me around. This same cycle is what got me through elementary, middle, and now high school. People pleasing isn’t something I consciously focus on, rather it’s natural to reassure my insecurities. It’s a harmful habit a lot of teenagers tap into that’s implemented through friendships or relationships.

People pleasing is associated with a trait known as sociotropy, characterized by excessive investment in interpersonal relationships. When you develop this desire to appease everyone at your own expense, it’s normal for it to start blurring the lines of your relationships.

Any friendship should be two-way, both individuals mutually connecting with one another. However, it’s easy for some to put in more than the other, whether that be in the hopes they’ll be taken more seriously or regarded in a higher manner. It’s more prevalent if you didn’t have positive friendships growing up; the stakes are higher and you would do anything to keep this person wanting to spend time with you. A 2018 survey showed that for people pleasers, their most important social goal was to make more friends.

In relationships, prioritizing the needs of others can damage self-identity. It’s easy to become lost in the cycle of continuously giving, but the disappointment of not receiving the same in return can lead to resentment and dissatisfaction. We should only be responsible for ourselves; holding another person accountable for their actions is a common sign of overcompensating in a relationship. It’s essential to establish boundaries with your partner; going with what makes them happy is not fair to either individual. Feeling enough for each other and yourself is key to the happiness of a relationship, nothing less.

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