People Pleasing: Characteristics of Being a People Pleaser

By: Sharon Dolak

People Pleasing is not about being kind. It is about someone trying hard to make others feel better, driven by deep-seated insecurity to be needed and receive approval.

Society thinks it is a good thing to please others, but people pleasing has a dark side when we do it to our own detriment.

We have a hard time saying no and have guilt (albeit misplaced) when we do. We shy away from articulating our needs because we were never allowed to give voice to them.

Someone else’s needs, wishes, or demands came first and, if their needs were not met, there were consequences.

Characteristics of People Pleasers

Always on High Alert

Always on high alert, people pleasers are controlled by smiling and pouting of others. So being a smart young person, we learned how to read the emotions of others and, even as a child, went into “fix it” mode. We give and fix, then give and fix some more.


People pleasers are hyper-responsible, and this conditioning played a big role in choosing a career in dentistry.  We hustle hard for our worth. Proving we are enough, but frequently our worth is not validated. If our self-worth is not intact, we will shapeshift into “I will be whoever you want me to be,” not cared for and connected with the people who lead them.

Need for External Validation

External validation informs you of your worth and informs you if you are good enough or not. This comes from others’ judgment of you. We want to have internal validation independent of others. This can be so painful when that external message is harsh or mean and says you are not doing enough. If someone criticizes you, you may feel less than or wrong.

Growing Sense of Resentment Toward Themselves

People pleasers can feel a growing sense of resentment, not that anyone would see it because it is directed towards themselves.

Here is a Big Clue: Do you wonder why you don’t really know who you are or what you want? The reason for this uncertainty is because to form a personality, the characteristics, and qualities that formed your distinctive character, your nature, your likes, and dislikes, you had to be encouraged, not discouraged to have a self. If you are a people pleaser, sometime in your life, you were criticized for being yourself, maybe for even acting normally like a carefree child does.

Change or Hide Your Beliefs or Behaviors

Do you feel like you need or needed to be a chameleon? Do you often change or hide your beliefs or behavior in order to please others? If yes, somewhere in your life the word “no” was extinguished from your vocabulary.

To say “no” would mean you had an opinion, thoughts, beliefs, and guiding principles that were your own and differing from the powers that be. You received a message loud and clear that “no” and your self was not allowed or, worse, somehow wrong … and you feel guilty when you do say no.

Struggle to Find a Healthy Balance

You learned not to develop your likes, dislikes, and desires for your life because, if you did, others became upset or unhappy with you, so you learned to not have a self.

Fast forward to your present adult life and you’re struggling to find a balance between your needs, self-care, and helping others, or you have friends or relationships that are one-sided and hurt-filled.

You may wonder what is wrong with me. Who am I? What do I like to do? Why is it so difficult to make a decision for myself? Why do people mistreat me? It is never too late to start figuring out that people pleasing leads to others taking advantage of you and you resenting them.

You Are Everything You Need

Listen up you wonderful person, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

You are everything you need to be and worth getting to know.

There is good news. Your “no” isn’t gone. You can heal FROM SACRIFICING YOURSELF ON THE ALTAR TO PLEASE SOMEONE ELSE.

When you begin to say “no” to others and their perception of who you should be, you are expressing your identity, what you like what you don’t like, and what you are about.

“No” is the start of getting to know yourself now. Say “no” if “yes” would be a lie.

Your identity and what you want for yourself in life and in a career is on the other side of healing people pleasing and perfectionism.

Discover your unique self and free your mind (quiet the inner critic voice) to explore what happens when you stop people pleasing.

People pleasing is exhausting. You have done your time. Learn to receive. It is your turn to experience a world of reciprocating relationships.

Up Next: Confronting Denial is No Small Task

Photo by Fox

Sharon Dolak

Sharon Dolak

Sharon Dolak specializes in family and organizational workplace Mediation services at the leadership level and employee relation level, reducing tension and helping people resolve long-term, intractable disputes in their personal or professional relationships. She also is credentialed through the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Center For Coaching Certification. She can be reached at