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Pleasing People and Low Self Esteem

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
Updated: November 17th, 2020

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One common trap that causes people to suffer from poor self esteem is the need to please people.

When you were a child growing up you probably sought the approval of your parents and chances are when you did something they didn’t like they got angry with you and maybe you got into trouble. That’s where this all starts. Many people spend their lives trying to please people and make this their main aim in life.

This way of living causes a lot of problems for you. Why?

Firstly, by trying to please other people you may ignore your own wishes and this will make you feel like a victim. You need to have a balance between your own wishes and those of others. When this balance tips over so you feel like your whole life is controlled by your need to please everybody the result is not only stress and unhappiness but low self esteem.

If you suffer from this problem and want to break free then you need to do several things.

The first thing you must do is ask yourself why you are trying so hard to be liked by everyone else. Let me ask you this – do you think it is even possible for everyone to like you? How difficult is it to keep everyone happy?

Pleasing others means you start to forget how to say no. If you try you’ll feel guilty. Maybe you believe that a good person thinks of others more than themselves. Well, yes up to a point. If you want to be a saint then go ahead but remember that you can have a balance where you continue to think of others but give your own wishes and desires higher priority.

Self esteem means valuing yourself and that means being a friend to YOU. Weigh up your own needs against those of others and understand that you simply cannot please everybody.

Pleasing others all the time can give you a victim mentality and that is no good for you or for others. If you believe you are a victim then even though you try you will do things for others and feel resentful and this will give you low self esteem. Stop feeling like a victim and learn to say no. Put your own needs first, that is not selfish because if you do not look after yourself you can’t be a good partner, wife, husband , parent or whatever. Learning to say no and to stand up for yourself will boost your self confidence too.

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Now many people pleasers try this and go to the extreme so be careful. Don’t become the opposite and ignore others completely as this kind of reaction is just as bad. You are looking for a balance.

How to stop trying to please others

Here are some suggestions:

  • Know yourself – this is the first step towards self-awareness. When you know your own wishes and goals then you can decide to make it a priority to doing what you want to do in your life and restore balance so that you put your needs forward.
  • If you have been looking for the approval of others and spent your time trying to please everybody but yourself you need to do one very important thing. You need to look for your own approval. What is more important, what others think of you or what you think of yourself?
  • Become your own friend. You need to start taking care of you. The first and most important step towards becoming your own best friend is self acceptance. Be happy with who you really are and then you can learn to like that person.
  • Set your own boundaries and stick to them. You decide what your priorities are. What do you want to give your time to? You have the right to decide and you have the right to say no to others. Create your boundaries so that you allow yourself time to fulfil your needs and allow that balance between saying no and helping others to develop. There is no need to feel guilty about these boundaries as they are necessary.

So stop playing the victim and no matter what your past has contributed to your need to please people, you can change. Your new attitude will bring more happiness, confidence and self esteem into your life and you’ll be a more balanced person.

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Website Author and Editor Bio

Photo of Karl Perera, MA, DipLC Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.

4 thoughts on “Pleasing People and Low Self Esteem”

  1. Judi fox

    You are a lovely person, and don’t ever loose faith in that.
    Value yourself as an individual and believe in youself, stand by what you think and In doing so you will gain respect.i wish you well.

  2. Judi fox

    My mother died of Hodgkin’s disease when I was 4 days ol, my brother aged two and a half, dispite two ect treatments our father couldn’t recover from the death of our mother.
    My brother graduated from Cambridge ( the first in our family) to go to University, and I graduated as a midwife, yet still I want to please, my father when I was fifteen said “ if it wasn’t for you, your mum would still be alive” and as a fifteen year old I said “ I never asked to be conceived” I couldn’t go to school the next day, as the bruises would have been picked up.
    I after what my father said have always strived to achieved, probably to substantiate my why I survived and my mother didn’t.

  3. Anonymless

    I could not have related more to your comment. Has anything changed?

  4. Anonymous

    I had this need for people to like me. I would do just about anything for peoples approval. The thought of people disliking me seemed horrific and unbearable. It was as if i had become addicted to peoples approval. I was unable to say no and i could not make decisions. When i was forced to make one i felt the urge to make my decision based on others opinions. I had given into this urge each time. The four horrific words “i don’t like you” were unbearable. I try to please everyone. I avoid confrontation by forcing others opinions onto myself. Instead of having self values i let others affect how i live my life. That is what is easiest. Wanting everyone to like you seems like an ironic situation to be in, but the want to be liked was not my problem. It was the need to be like. Every time i turned around i was distancing myself from my beliefs to make me more compatible with others. I knew that was my problem and i understood it i just didn’t know how to get rid of it. My friends had question this addiction. I tried my best to explain it to them in so many words but i could not force them to understand how i felt. They told me i should just not care. That i should just be me. Seemed simple when the said it like that. They made me feel like what was going on in my head was my fault. I believed it was but at the same time i knew i had no control over my actions when it came to this. Every move i made became harder to explain to them. They were confused with my actions and the only way i knew how to deal with this was to distance myself before i let them get close enough to see my disorder. I had put a front up to make my life understandable and easy to relate to. I thought they did not notice this distance so i started coming back and then i realized they did notice it but they were still confused why i had done what i did. I wanted to tell them why in a way that they could understand but i could not find the words. I was babbling but at the same time i was silent. I was dancing around the main reason. Instead of getting to the point i played cat and mouse with my words. They would get close to understanding and id throw them off.

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