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  • Matthew Frank
    Matthew Frank

    How to Spot If You're Trapped in The People-Pleasing Trap

    People-pleasing often starts off as an innocent attempt to nurture better relationships. You try to be a supportive friend or family member, help make someone happy, or show them your love. Unfortunately, by constantly prioritizing others' needs above yours, people-pleasing can often do more damage than good. This can take a toll on your overall sense of well-being and self-worth unless strong boundaries are established.

    The first step to breaking the people-pleasing trap is to understand why it's so appealing. When you do something to make someone else feel special, you become a source of joy and comfort to that person. Meanwhile, internally, it helps you avoid facing tough issues or dealing with problems head-on. It serves as an easy out for difficult emotions. On some level, it also offers a sense of control — when things don't go the way you expect, you can manipulate those around you to create the outcome that you want.

    Sadly, these temporary pleasures soon give way to deep-seated unhappiness, especially when it happens often. It doesn't take long for people-pleasing to become an ingrained habit — hence, the term "people-pleasing trap" — but here are some signs that will help you identify whether it has a hold on you:

    • You don't feel capable or confident in making decisions, so you let others decide instead.

    • You always offer to help out or volunteer at any opportunity available — even when your plate is already overflowing.

    • You apologize excessively or feel bad when something goes wrong — even when it's not your fault.

    • You always put others' needs ahead of your own.

    • You feel like you have to be perfect every time — you expect perfection from yourself, and you want others to think highly of you.

    • You quickly back down to defuse conflict when it arises.

    • You get easily overwhelmed when talking to people you don't know.

    • You find yourself saying "yes" to every request, even when you really want to say no.

    The key to ending the people-pleasing trap is to accept and respect your own limitations, needs, and wants — without seeking external validation from others. Identifying what triggers you to people-please and setting boundaries is essential. Reflecting on ways to maintain healthy relationships while still taking care of yourself is important too. Think what you have to gain or lose in any given situation and check in with yourself often to see how you're feeling.

    Of course, it takes time and practice to break free of the people-pleasing trap, but it's well worth the effort. After all, only when you start to value yourself and take ownership of your decisions will you regain control over your life and carve out your own path to happiness.

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