It’s Bad to Be a Pleaser, Is it True?

A basket of cherries is something that would please most people. What's your motive in buying them for someone?
The pleaser in me would buy these cherries for you. Is it a bad thing?

I’m a Bit of a Pleaser

What I mean by that is that I’m pretty good at reading what people want and then giving it to them before they are sometimes even aware that they want it. This is typically seen as manipulation and judged as a bad thing. But is it really? And if it is, does it mean that there’s something wrong with me?

Let’s explore a little.

Being a Pleaser Definitely Has a Down Side

The problem is often this point about manipulation. When I use the ability to read what people want in order to give them what they want, it can be done with the motive to extract their gratitude. This is pure manipulation and it feels bad.

I know, whenever I’ve done this, that I can’t even accept the gratitude that comes because it feels like I actually tricked them to give it to me. For this reason, I actually often purposely don’t give people what they want, even when I wouldn’t mind giving it to them. I do this just to avoid any hint of manipulation.

But This Opposite of Pleasing Doesn’t Work Either

When I purposely don’t give people what they want, it feels like an immature kind of no. It’s better than manipulating, yes. But it is reactionary and not flexible, and can lead to isolation too. Many times, people have judged me as being selfish for this when I was only trying to not be manipulative.

So Where Is the Happy Medium?

For me, this comes through inquiry. As I do my work on the hidden motives behind pleasing or not pleasing, I find that the only problem is my motive. If I am wanting to get someone’s gratitude by pleasing them, then it is stressful.

But without that motive to get their gratitude, if I do the same action of noticing what they want and giving it to them just because I’m naturally moved to do so, it can feel like generosity and love. It all depends on what I’m believing inside.

Likewise, when I purposely don’t please others, it also depends on my internal motives. If I’m judging pleasing others as bad, and my motive is to avoid being bad, then I also experience stress. But without the motive to avoid being bad—if I’m just experimenting with different ways to act—then there is no stress in not pleasing them when I don’t.

I Don’t Have to Stop Pleasing, I Just Need to Include Myself in the Pleasing

Stress is not pleasing to me.

I feel stress if I manipulate, and I feel stress if avoid pleasing like the plague. These two extremes show me where I am in the equation. It’s a part of my nature to please. I was brought up that way. To make that bad would be like saying that my hand is bad and I want to cut it off. I can’t ignore my nature, but using it for manipulation is equally painful to me.

What I’m trying to say is that listening to myself, pleasing myself, is the missing element for me. When I listen to my own internal experience, and start to try to please that one inside—the wise one who feels the difference between pain and peace—then my pleasing nature works for me.

It’s All About Listening

And ironically, I’m good at that.

It’s just a matter of switching my fine-tuned listening from being focused solely on others, to being focused as much on me as on them. When I include myself in the mix, then I’m on solid ground. There is no harm in pleasing others if I am also feeling in my integrity to do so. As long as I’m listening to me, I can go anywhere.

I find that the more I include myself in the conversation, the more I want to please that quiet, wise side of me that knows how to be honest and true. That becomes the one I serve more and more.

I’m finding that I do not have to change my nature to be a pleaser, I’m just making that quiet sense of integrity inside of me the one I please primarily. If it is happy for me to please someone, why shouldn’t I please them? But if it is not happy for me to please someone, I try to listen to that quiet call of wisdom more and more.

The beauty of this for me is that there are no longer multiple masters to please (the most confusing part of being a pleaser). There is just one benchmark inside of me by which all else can be measured.

I love that The Work of Byron Katie puts me in touch with myself in this way. Join me to do The Work this fall online with The Work 101 or in person in Austria.

Have a great week,

“The experience of love can’t come from anyone else; it can come only from inside you.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Further reading: Why Do I Care What Others Think of Me so Much?

  • Marcela says:

    What a great topic!
    I started to critisize me after realizing how much I like to please others.
    It is helpful to understand that I don’t need to judge myself for loving to make others happy.
    I just have to remember pause take breath and check first with myself before I say or do anything.
    It is much kinder way to be…

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