The Myth About Pleasing

” I am such a pleaser.” I hear this all the time. It sounds like an indictment, a disparagement, and a shame. Perhaps it is not the entire truth – let’s see if we can get some perspective.


So many people treat pleasing like it is a character flaw. At the same time, if we do not please others, we likely do not have any work, we have poor relationships, and probably cannot even please ourselves by taking care of ourselves. How and why did pleasing get such a bad rap? 

The truth is rooted in the past, of course..

Pleasing – It Can Be Life-Saving.

In the past, and in some places in the world today, you do as your are told, or in the worst cases, you could lose your life. Obedience and submission are the law of the land in many places and it has been so for a VERY long time. You, (we) have inherited the legacy of this domination dynamic. 

Most of us have had experiences with people who have a high need to dominate others. There are still many authoritarians in the world and many authoritarian regimes. We hear over and over about the disappearance of those who do not please the authoritarian ruler. So if you have a tendency to want to please, then you come by it honestly; we all do. It is a life-saving strategy from the past.

The question is: is it still useful?

Reframe Pleasing

We need to reframe pleasing in its toxic form. We can see it as rescuing and compensating for the weaknesses of authoritarians or people with a high need to dominate. Many such individuals are not necessarily wise, but they do expect others to cover for them. Think of it as rescuing rather than pleasing.

You need to protect your energy from those who would waste it getting you to cover u for them. Your time and energy are more valuable than that.

So here are some questions to ask to determine if a desire to please is a good thing.

Question #1: Is my “pleasing” just another way of doing my part?  When we do our part, we make life easier for others and that will please them.

Question #2: Is my “pleasing” good for me as well as others? When what we are doing is good for us as well s others, it feels natural and constructive.

Question #3: Does my “pleasing” make healthy demands of me? When we contribute we do so from our talents and natural gifts. When we are pleasing we are taking risks that are not good for us.

Healthy pleasing is simply doing one\’s part, contributing to the world to make it a good place to live. It is doing your part to bring joy to the world. Do not sell yourself short by disparaging your desire to bring joy to the world, but you will benefit from curbing any desire to rescue reckless authoritarians. You will feel better about yourself and what you do and your self-regard will soar.

Photo by GR Stocks on Unsplash

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