Pleasing Others


As a child I created a belief that if I please others I will be loved. Then in a bad csa experience I used that in the thought that it would keep me safe. Pain was followed by comfort by the man. As a young adult, another bad situation led to rape. I was thinking that It would keep me safe to do as I was told. Followed by no comfort, then comfort, then harassment. Now adult work place. You kind of need to please people higher than you to stay in the game. Had a recent workplace conversation in which they weren’t pleased. This triggered past traumas and fears.

We are working on it in therapy. Flash emdr stuff. However, I’m now really confused. If pleasing others to stay safe or loved is a cognitive distortion, is pleasing others in general wrong? How would anyone remain employed? I don’t know what the healthy replacement behavior is.


Please yourself without being a dick?

It’s that black and white thinking thing (all this OR all that, no in between) that makes it a cognitive distortion. That, and the faulty logic. Because pleasing people doesn’t keep you safe. You can still be nice to someone, or neutral, without your life on the line.

Think about how many strangers you’ve passed on the streets without violently assaulting them, or stopping them to lick their boots. Most people? You probably just pass, without a second thought. That’s how people keep jobs. Not people-pleasing doesn’t mean they start hitting their coworkers with 2x4s, or being an Uber-bitch to them, or not showing up on time, etc. There’s a HUGE middle ground between people-pleasing & anti-social-f*cktard. That you undoubtedly inhabit in at least some of your life, if not most of it.


Pleasing your boss, without compromising your own values? Is one of the best strategies to make a job work, and usually one of the necessary steps to getting a promotion, or the extra shifts you need, or the days off you need.

Random acts of kindness? Can be incredibly fulfilling, and give a shitty day more meaning.

But maybe most of all I think? Compassion and kindness towards others, while not usually necessary for pure self-presevation, is often at the root of the most meaningful interpersonal relationships.

What isn't helpful, is people-pleasing that compromises you, or more specifically: your needs (which goes beyond, but includes, personal safety), and your values.

Our needs include things like being treated fairly (kindly even), ensuring we're looking after our stress levels, and not exhausting our emotional stamina. They're all needs that get compromised when we people-please without reasonable limits. And it's unsustainable. We burn out.

People-pleasing (the Fawn response) is reactionary with me. I learned it as a toddler to make my life more safe, and my caregivers more reliable in attending to my basic needs (some of that was normal socialisation, but some of it went beyond that, and ultimately became oftentimes destructive for me personally).

So, when I find myself people-pleasing, I try and notice (that's hard to do in the moment, but usually the first step in changing ingrained behaviours, particularly ones that we learned as a survival response). And if I can (and this is the step where change is possible), I try and check in with myself whether I'm meeting my own needs and acting in accordance with my values.

One of my values is being kind to people where I can. I like that about myself. So, I'm not trying to abandon pleasing people around me altogether. I'm just trying to reign in the situations where I do it reflexively, and in contradiction to my needs and values.

I don't know if that helps at all. Hope so:)

Rani G2

Had a recent workplace conversation in which they weren’t pleased. This triggered past traumas and fears.
Skywatcher, Do relate in a a few ways. Growing up in a violent family household, I only was able to survive if I was good in adjusting my external security systems depending on my Sorrounding. It was about reading faces, cautiously studying others and their steps. If I was to be punished, I could see it on my caregivers face, or the nuns in the boarding school. Submission is a tactic = I survived now and then.

don’t know what the healthy replacement behavior is.
Teleporting myself to 2020, the moment I feel that fundamental need to feel secure again I must give that by my own, for me body awareness has worked well, the moment I’m focusing on my breath, or imagining a father figure (For me it’s Spock or captain Picard) captain Picard saying things like: „it is possible to commit no mistakes and still Loose“. Not sure if that’s your style? Because it might sound too childlike, but it has worked for me once or twice.


I’m finding what many of you are saying very helpful. 1. I was trying to find the gray. 2. Combat flashbacks that this work conversation brought up. 3. Figure out if I should try to work a miracle in a situation that I didn’t cause (because I know my colleague is under pressure and trying to deflect that pressure onto me and a few others since we are contract workers). It’s possible that he has no clue that his solutions to the problem aren’t going to work. I’m older. I know this industry from experience. —I like him which is why I don’t want to walk away.

I went to lunch with a friend today and she told me that I need to do what I know works for me and not change or compromise this. It seems that each change I was making to follow these new suggestions was making the problem worse and worse. —I think this was a very helpful suggestion because it helps me maintain my integrity in my craft.

I told my therapist that it would be as if they told her to use a style of therapy that she knew from work experience wouldn’t help most clients, especially the ones she was seeing and if she didn’t follow suit they would give her clients to another therapist. They would be trying this because their center was failing. —in the end, if they were to give her clients to someone else it would end up hurting them even more because they would most likely quit therapy.

I think that I’m mostly trying to process this. I was in a work bullying situation years ago and don’t know if that person is continuing to attack my reputation or if my ptsd is applying things that are unrelated.


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This is one of those cases where (at least in my understanding) language gets tricky. I think the first question is what is pleasing others look like or mean for you? Do you even know when you are doing it? Also (at least again for me) pleasing others is emotional thing not intellectual thing like doing my job even though again I can see how splitting emotions and intellect can be a problem for some.

I think for me the most important thing is not so much I stop doing something but I become more aware of when I am doing and then determine at that time, if this behaviour, thoughts, feelings are warranted.

I should admit, I am not a people pleaser often, but I am more on the other side of the spectrum, of I do not care what others think but with a caveat. I often ask myself why am I avoiding, withdrawing and not caring what this person think and that gives me the information to move myself from a state of isolation to state of re-connection. I wonder if you could consider similar tactics of questioning, am I trying to have this person love me, pay attention to me, give me something and why? and move yourself toward a state of equanimity not wanting something back from that person...all in moderation really....not extremes.

and if all fails, I accept I am at most avoiding space - call spade a spade...cause that is my childhood temperament and when I see myself falling into it, it means for me I am under a lot of stress to fall back that far in my coping in the here and now. Just information. not more a punishment.


I think part of it that connected it to the abuse is that the competent professional adult in me knows that I did nothing wrong, yet the child in me had multiple panic attacks prior to even knowing what the phone call was about. Then, as I sat through the meeting I was still that child on the inside, wanting to please this man rather than stand up for myself. I spoke to another colleague and he approached it as... if they don’t fix this—they will have the problem, because none of us will stick around. It sounded so logical. Do contract work in a place that has work to give out. Don’t hang on to this place because you want to please the guy... even the guy that is sort of inferring that you are a big reason for the problem—when professionally you know that you aren’t.

so... it’s both emotional and intellectual. My problem is that it always seems to become personal, when it shouldn’t. In therapy, I scanned all the way back to elementary when she asked me to think of the earliest time that I could remember feeling this way. It started with needing perfect grades and teacher praise spoken to my mom. Then it got even more twisted up when my friends dad noticed me a couple years later. I’m just now starting to notice how ingrained pleasing people has become. Earlier on, I would even notice if my therapist praised me on something, I felt so loved to the point where I was afraid to tell her some things that might disappoint her. It’s not like that anymore. We have been working on this for quite some time.


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It sounds quite complex area and I am glad to hear you are diligently working on it. I am little confused about the interaction between you and your colleague though was he agreeing with your flashback experience or confirming the objective of the experience in the here and now.

I wonder what you feel after you are quite removed from the incident where your inner child felt unsafe and resorted to pleasing those in power and you are let us say in the safety of therapy or at your own you see the totality of that experience from the distance? I can completely understand when we are immersed with a flashback in a situation that is triggering, but I am curious about your ability to see it after the fact and re-assessing that experience with fresh perspective.


@grit that is where the work is. I rationally know where the flashbacks come from. We are working on the emotions of it all, but it’s hard to get beyond the fear. So we do flash and in my processing my brain got hung up on the cognitive distortion of being a people pleaser and what the healthy behavior is supposed to be. Also, the flashbacks from this situation were college rape stuff, but as she had me explore back in time, I ended up as a child. And the fear grew.

My colleague was presenting a healthy logical response to the situation since it applies to him as well. The only difference is that I have more invested in this situation than he does. (He has more eggs in a different basket, so to speak). It did help to hear that he doesn’t view me as the problem or solution to it, as the meeting seemed to be focused on.


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Thank you so much for explaining and I really appreciate you took the time.

Now I understand the actual experience at work is also problematic at the top of your own struggles from the past so your colleague was acknowledging something is rotten in the situation as well and that you were not alone. Honestly I feel you are brave and courageous in dealing with this in the best possible way you know. Thanks again for giving me more understanding of your view. I am sorry you had such a traumatic experience from college and your childhood.