Empathy is the ability to compassionately feel others’ feelings and empathise with them. To ‘walk in their emotional shoes’.
While empathy can be wonderfully helpful, it can also cause you to make mistakes that can hurt your relationships and lead to toxic/unhealthy ones.
One of these mistakes is becoming a people pleaser.
What is a people pleaser?
Sacrificing your own needs and wants to take care of the needs and wants of others when they are capable of doing it themselves.
Giving to others from fear, rather than from love.
Giving to receive or having an agenda.
Taking responsibility for another’s feelings.
In a relationship, people pleasing is a covert form of control, which may include compliance, niceness, praise, seductiveness.
It is one of the ways your wounded or maladaptive ego tries to protect against pain, such as from rejection.
When you are people pleasing, you put your own broken inner child to one side and take care of another’s broken inner child with the hope that the other person will feel loved and then eventually bring your inner child in to be loved.
You struggle with a lack of empathy and understanding when it comes to yourself, even though you are greatly empathetic to others.
Due to this empathy, you give of yourself to try to help others with their pain, which you think is showing a loving and caring side, but giving yourself up is never loving to you or to others, and it doesn’t create healthy sustained relationships.
If you give to others and end up unhappy and unfulfilled, you are receiving no appreciation or acknowledgment, you are people pleasing.
When you are giving to receive, you may end up feeling that others owe you for what you give and eventually you will realise that what you offer is not reciprocated, leading to resentments, feeling you are being treated unfairly, taken for granted… and may even end up in ‘victim mode’!
When you give to receive, you may not feel loved until things are ‘fair’ ‘even’ or you have ‘justice’!
This is very unlikely to happen, because if you are a people pleaser, you are likely to attract takers… and that is how your relationship will work. You give, they take.
As soon as you need something in return they say – ‘but that is not how this relationship works’. But you knew that from the start, that is why you are with them.
You may give to try to avoid rejection, but you may also be coming from a desire to fix the other person so as to avoid their pain.
You can’t stand the thought that they are hurting and you need to take this away from them. You become responsible for how they feel and making them better.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this.
But it can lead to people pleasing. And that is not healthy.
It is likely that you have long believed you are the one who has to make people feel better, you felt responsible for people’s feelings as a child and now have a need to take that pain away.
If you don’t, you are a failure. Their pain continues and you feel you have let them down or are not good enough to make them feel better.
But, if someone is in a bad place inside and are not helping themselves to feel good, you will never be able to do so either, or you can for a very fleeting amount of time.
You may even think that ‘I can do 99 things right for this person, but number 100, the thing they don’t like is the only thing they comment on’!
People pleasing is a one-way street to you never feeling good enough.
If you continue to have empathy for others but not for yourself, you will find yourself as the people pleaser in relationships over and over again.
You need to care for yourself and then decide if it is healthy for you to try and keep helping others.
What needs are being met inside you that mean you have to please?
What beliefs do you hold around relationships that mean that this is your default position?
Who led you to think that you can only receive love if you do what someone else wants?
What are you avoiding in relationships to keep pleasing and ending up in the same space, over and over?
You are not connecting with you in some way and until you do you will always aim to please!
Feel free to comment or discuss this topic, especially your experiences of being a people pleaser or even someone whose need is to be pleased.
To discuss how coaching can help you with any of these issues then please do contact me for a complimentary coaching consultation or details of one of my free Relationship Mastery workshop events.
I look forward to speaking to you.