Mental Health

Friendship psychology: the 5 signs of a people pleaser and how to overcome it for your wellbeing

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Precious Adesina
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Leah Sinclair
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Psychology, psychotherapy and mental health care concept.

Supporting those around us is a key part of our relationships  but when we put ourselves on the backburner, it could be a sign of something far more concerning.

Being a good friend is being there for one another – something we can all pretty much agree on. Having reliable friends who can provide a hand when you’re in need is a key aspect to all friendships and is something which is expected and desired from those closest to us.

But, when you begin to put other people’s needs in front of your own, this can be a signifier of something much deeper, especially if your own wellbeing takes a backseat.

This is often defined as being a people-pleaser and has been associated with a personality trait known as ‘sociotropy’ or being overly invested in earning the approval of others. 

Combating this isn’t easy for people-pleasers, but according to a popular online counselling platform BetterHelp, there are ways to figure out whether you’re putting other people’s needs before your own. 

In a TikTok, a BetterHelp therapist noted five simple signs to look out for.

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Saying yes to everything was the first indicator on the list. 

“You find it impossible to say no to other people and you find yourself saying yes even when you don’t have the time,” the therapist says. 

Next,  she says a need to be seen positively was also a sign of a people pleaser, as “you always want everyone to like you and you go above and beyond to make that happen. 

“Even when you’re not wrong, you still apologise because you don’t want to upset the other person,” they also added.

The third sign of a people-pleaser is someone who holds back their thoughts. “Even when you don’t agree with someone, you agree with them to avoid confrontation and to avoid them not liking you,” the therapist explains, also adding “when someone hurts you or does something that wrongs you, you struggle with telling them and usually keep it to yourself.”

According to Catherine Beach, a counsellor from Kent with particular experience working with people dealing with anxiety, low self-esteem and anger, there are simple tasks that can aid a people-pleaser in becoming more in tune with their needs. “Express your ideas, preferences and non-negotiables,” she writes on the Counselling Directory website, noting that not being clear on your boundaries can create even bigger problems in a relationship later down the line.

Taking time to find out who you really are and searching for balance in your relationships can also help. 

“If you find fulfilment away from other people, you will feel less reliant on pleasing others,” she says. “Healthy relationships are created when the needs of each party are acknowledged and met in equal measure.”

People-pleasing isn’t something that can be overcome in a day, but acknowledging the signs and making simple steps towards it is a good place to start.

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