Mental Health

Mental health: the 6 key differences between people-pleasing and being nice, according to a therapist

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Leah Sinclair
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Are you struggling to figure out if you are a people-pleaser or simply a nice person? These key differences will help you to figure it out.

Establishing whether you’re a people-pleaser or simply a nice person is not always easy.

After all, several of the typical signs of being a people-pleaser may ring true to some, so is there a simple way to determine whether you’re just a nice person or if you’ve picked up a few people-pleasing traits along the way.

Therapist Amy Tran has analysed this in a recent Instagram post, and explains that while there may be some crossover between the two, the intentions behind someone who is nice and someone who is a people-pleaser are totally different.

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“Drawing the line between people-pleasing and being nice can be a little challenging, especially when you don’t know the difference between the two,” Tran wrote.

“Today, I’m highlighting some key differences between people-pleasing and just doing something nice.”

In the post, Tran starts by highlighting that people-pleasers often want people to approve of what they are doing, whereas those who are being nice don’t worry about being accepted or recognised for what they’re doing.

She adds that people-pleasers’ words and actions are often determined by their perception of how others think and feel about them, which differs from people being nice as they don’t rely on others’ perception of them and just do what they feel is right.

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Next up, Tran says that people-pleasers tend to be nice even when it violates their own boundaries and values, while those who are nice do not put others before themselves if it means violating their own boundaries and values.

She adds that people pleasers associate their self-worth with the other person’s satisfaction from their good deed, whereas those who are not people-pleasers don’t have their self-worth impacted by how others react to their good deed.

Lastly, Tran says people-pleasers find it hard to set boundaries because they are afraid to disappoint others. Those who are simply nice know that they can set boundaries and still be nice about it.

In the post, which has received over 5,000 likes, the therapist added that those who are more likely to be a people-pleaser can delve deeper to discover where that comes from.

“If you’re wondering why you have a tendency to people-please or where this behaviour may come from, it is possible that it is a coping behaviour you developed to gain validation and love,” she wrote. “It may also be a response to please others to avoid conflict and keep yourself safe. This is often referred to as fawning.

“There may be many other reasons that are not covered here today because we are all unique people from unique backgrounds. That is why I highly encourage you to talk to a mental health professional to learn more.”

Many took to the comments to share their thoughts on the post. One user wrote: “So true! As a recovering people-pleaser, I often found it so challenging to set boundaries out of fear of abandonment. This was challenging to work through but now I support my clients in building self-trust to gain their identity back.”

“Thanks for sharing this! It can be hard for some of us to recognise the difference and make better choices for our wellbeing and relationships.”

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Leah Sinclair

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