People Pleasers in Relationships : How It Affects the Self and Your Relationship

In this blog post, we will explore the concept of people pleasing in relationships, the attachment styles associated with it, how it can impact your overall well-being and your relationship, and tangible tips to break free from this pattern.


Kaylee Procter


people laughing and talking outside during daytime
people laughing and talking outside during daytime

Do you find yourself constantly trying to please others in your relationships? Do you often prioritize their needs and wants over your own? If so, you may be caught in the people pleasing trap. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of people pleasing in relationships, the attachment styles associated with it, how it can impact your overall well-being and your relationship, and tangible skills to stop people pleasing.

Understanding People Pleasing

People pleasing is a behaviour characterized by an excessive need for approval and a strong desire to avoid conflict. It often stems from a fear of rejection or abandonment. People pleasers tend to put the needs and wants of others before their own, often sacrificing their own happiness and well-being in the process.

While it's natural to want to make others happy, people pleasing becomes problematic when it becomes a pattern that dominates your relationships. It can lead to a lack of boundaries, difficulty expressing your own needs and desires, and a constant feeling of being taken advantage of.

Although people pleasers often identify as helpers and are some of the most caring individuals you will meet, it comes at a great cost to their mental health!

Attachment Styles and People Pleasing

Attachment styles play a significant role in our relationships and can influence our tendency to people please. They are formed in childhood based on our relationship/experiences with our primary attachment figures (i.e. parents).

Let's take a closer look at the different attachment styles and how they relate to people pleasing:

1. Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment style have a healthy sense of self-worth and are comfortable with both intimacy and independence. They typically had parents who set healthy expectations and met their children's physical and emotional needs. Those with this attachment style are less likely to engage in people pleasing behaviours as they have a strong sense of their own needs and boundaries.

2. Anxious Attachment

People with an anxious attachment style often seek validation and reassurance from their partners. They typically had parents who were inconsistent in meeting their children's emotional and physical needs; sometimes they were there, and sometimes they weren't. Those with this attachment style may engage in people pleasing as a way to maintain the connection and prevent abandonment. They fear that expressing their own needs or setting boundaries may push their partner away.

3. Avoidant Attachment

People with an avoidant attachment style tend to value independence and may struggle with intimacy. They typically had parents who were dismissive and rarely met their children's emotional needs. People with this attachment style may engage in people pleasing to avoid conflict or emotional vulnerability. By prioritizing the needs of others, they can create a sense of distance and protect themselves from getting too close. People pleasing prevents them from vulnerability because they can focus on the needs of others, rather than the spotlight being on themselves.

The Impact of People Pleasing on Relationships

While people pleasing may seem like a selfless act, it can have significant negative effects on your relationships:

1. Resentment and Burnout

Constantly putting others' needs before your own can lead to feelings of resentment and burnout. Over time, this can erode the foundation of your relationships, leaving you emotionally drained and dissatisfied. This is especially true in relationships who have a new baby. It can be increasingly difficult to continue putting the needs of those you are in a relationship with first when you have a child to care for. There truly does become no chance to look after yourself in a way that helps you show up as your best self for the people in your life.

2. Lack of Authenticity

People pleasing often involves suppressing your true thoughts and feelings in order to please others. This lack of authenticity can prevent genuine connection and intimacy in your relationships. It becomes difficult for your partner to truly know and understand you, which impacts emotional intimacy. This impact may eventually have an effect on your level of relationship satisfaction.

3. Imbalanced Power Dynamics

When you consistently prioritize the needs of others, it can create imbalanced power dynamics in your relationships. Your partner may come to expect that their needs will always be met, while your own needs are consistently overlooked. This can lead to feelings of resentment and a loss of self-esteem. This may additionally lead to a feeling of "walking on eggshells" in the relationship, due to a fear of conflict if you disrupt the "status quo."

4. Difficulty Setting Boundaries

People pleasers often struggle with setting healthy boundaries in their relationships. They may fear that asserting their own needs will result in conflict or rejection. As a result, they may find themselves constantly overextending and neglecting their own well-being. Over time, this may start to impact your mental health and level of relationship satisfaction.

Breaking Free from the People Pleasing Trap

At this point, you might be asking yourself, how to stop people pleasing in a relationship? If you find yourself stuck in the people pleasing trap, the following are some steps that can help you break free:

1. Reflect on Your Needs and Desires

Take the time to reflect on your own needs and desires. What brings you joy and fulfillment? By understanding yourself better, you can start to prioritize your own well-being. Developing a journalling practice can be helpful for this.

Tangible Tip: Next time you feel joy, happiness, contentment or fulfillment, write down what you were doing and why it sparked you to feel this way. By doing this, you can pick up on themes surrounding what truly makes you happy and give you insight into your needs/desires.

2. Practice Assertiveness

Learning to assertively communicate your needs and set boundaries is crucial in overcoming people pleasing. Start by expressing your thoughts and feelings in a calm and respectful manner. Remember, your needs are just as important as anyone else's.

Tangible Tip: practice empathic assertion - start by empathizing with the individual you are asserting yourself with and then set your boundaries. For example, "I know you must be so swamped with work right now and are probably exhausted. I don't have the capacity right now to add another task to my to do list."

3. Seek Support

Consider seeking support from a licensed Calgary therapist (or one that practices virtually throughout Alberta) who can help you navigate the challenges of people pleasing. They can provide guidance and strategies to help you develop healthier relationship patterns. Recovering from people pleasing is challenging because the behaviour is so ingrained in us; you don't have to navigate it alone.

Tangible Tip: reach out to book an appointment or complimentary introductory call with Tri Lotus Psychotherapy to work on stopping people pleasing. Click here.

4. Cultivate Self-Compassion

Be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Recognize that it's okay to prioritize your own needs and take care of yourself. Practice self-care and self-love to build a stronger sense of self-worth. Often times people pleasing is associated with feelings of shame, that we won't be good enough if we aren't meeting others' needs. The antidote to shame is self-compassion and vulnerability.

Tangible Tip: Click here for a previous blog post on cultivating self-compassion. Click here for more resources.

People pleasing can have a detrimental impact on your relationships and overall well-being. By understanding the underlying attachment styles associated with people pleasing and taking steps to break free from this pattern, you can cultivate healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Remember, your needs matter, and it's essential to prioritize your own well-being in order to build strong, authentic, and long-lasting connections with others.

By working on people pleasing, not only can you be a better person for yourself, but you can be a better person for your partner. I only use the term, "better," because it would naturally feel more satisfying being able to honour your own needs while also being able to connect deeper with others.

Tri Lotus Psychotherapy offers both individual counselling for people pleasing, as well are couples counselling in Calgary or virtually throughout Alberta. Complimentary introductory calls are offered to ask any questions you may have and see how you can find relief and start honouring your own needs.