My college sex experience was with a sweet guy, but he never lived up to the expectations of my relationship. His dad once said to me something along the lines of “Don’t do everything for him” or “Don’t be You can also nice to him.” I remember being confused by the comment because it implied that it was possible to be too nice. This thought did not work.
My pattern of “niceness” would continue throughout my adulthood in not all but many of my relationships. My secure relationships were those where I felt comfortable. I wasn’t necessarily needy in the unhealthy ones or my unstable ones. anxious attachmentAfter being triggered I tried to cover up any deficiencies in our relationship and was overly kind. For both of them, I did my best.
It seemed that by giving myself up, I would be able to make myself indispensable for them so they wouldn’t turn me down. My kindness, I thought, would keep me safe from being left behind.
I had conditioned myself to be what Pia Mellody describes as “needless and wantless” in her book “Gifts from a Challenging Childhood.” This all seemed normal to me until my life began to unravel about five years ago, when I started to come out of the closet from a straight marriage with a then-2-year-old child.
I believed that my coming out would lead to the greatest revelation of my life. But, a few years later, I discovered that the deeper layer I had been keeping hidden, including from myself for many decades, was people-pleasing.
When you’re a people-pleaser, you unconsciously wear a facade of niceness that hides your true feelings from your family, colleagues, friends, lovers — essentially giving up your needs for the sake of everyone else’s. I believed that being nice was one my greatest and most noble qualities. This was my attempt to protect myself, and it was also a way to influence what others think of me.
As Harriet B. Braiker said in her book “The Disease to Please,“ niceness is the psychological armor of the people-pleaser.” It is a coping mechanism that can develop for a variety of reasons: to prove your worth or get attention from a distracted or dismissive parent, to avoid conflict and risk upsetting an explosive family member, or, in my case, to attempt to gain closeness or approval and to be a “good kid” for an already-stressed-out parent.
It can be detrimental to all types of relationships but I found it most evident in the most intimate, both in my personal and professional relationships. I seemed to transfer my hyperawareness of my family’s expectations of me into my love life, which made me overly preoccupied with what others thought of me.
In dating, I sometimes displayed a creepy amount of thoughtfulness in my anticipation of what might make my partner happy, often going the extra mile ― personal gifts based on a random comment they once made, attempting to fix their problems, even comforting them through a recent breakup that was, in retrospect, way too close to the start of our dating to be healthy.
My first date with a woman was based on her telling me her mother sent chocolate covered strawberries to her for her birthday. I took that information and put it in my mental notebook, thinking about how I could incorporate this into my next gift.
The same reason is why I own a Frida Kahlo Candle that I bought for someone I was with who once spoke of wanting one.
I look back and see I was trying to impress them by being thoughtful, as well as to leave an impression on their feelings about me. But it was often too soon for any trust to exist between us ― a process I was trying to expedite and a feeling that I was trying to artificially manufacture ― so it was always more than they were comfortable with.
When the relationship inevitably ended and I was left confused and hurt by the rejection, I’d say to myself, dumbfounded: “But I was so nice to them!” as though that should have made this end result impossible.
Rejection stung, deeply, because I had tried so hard and given so much of myself, or what I thought was me, and it still wasn’t enough. It is now clear that I was hurt by my own expectations. My system was designed so that my generosity should have been rewarded in some way, in the form of admiration or in kind. I was passive-aggressive, yet coercive in my affection.
After being with someone who triggers my anxiety so strongly that it causes me to feel like my inner world and outer world are at war, I realized this revelation. My anxiety was never higher and my downs and ups were never greater. Never before had I ever been so unhappy for someone else that I felt I was choosing happiness over my health. Although my emotions were screaming from within, I tried to ignore them.
It was clear that my ex-partner had been quite the opposite to me. She had clearly defined her goals, knew exactly what she needed, and gave less than I did. It was obvious that there was a stark contrast between them.
RReflecting back on my relationship, I began to wonder why I had allowed myself such a bad treatment. Why was I allowed to let my emotions be manipulated? How could it have been that I had to keep being tossed about every week? Flashbacks to all the other times I’d been so deeply hurt or disappointed in relationships made me consider that I had a hair-trigger level of sensitivity. I was able to be so hurt by certain people or things. Could it be that I had been, in truth? You can also NiceWhat is the best way to get started?
I Googled “What is a people-pleaser?” and immediately saw myself in the list of characteristics that popped upThis is: being afraid of hurting other people’s feelings, avoiding conflict, difficulty saying “no,” over-apologizing,Conforming to others, and ignoring my needs in order to please them.
WomenParticularly have they been socially conditionedYou can find more information here seek social acceptanceThey neglect their needs to the extent that they ignore them, and are constantly fighting with the temptation to see self-interest as selfish and to care for others. To put family and children first; be breadwinners while caring for the elderly. It’sA series of problems, apparently very commonVerhaltens.
As if someone held up a mirror, it was as if someone saw me. I realized that this is someone who will abandon their self. apologize first to avoid conflict“,It was easy to turn what I believed someone wanted into my own desires and lose all sense of self.
I was so deeply influenced by the desire to please others that it had prevented me from being authentic for most of my life. I’d been playing a role instead of being a person.
Who was this person beneath all the people-pleasing. The question itself was confusing.
My identity was not my own after living for so many decades like a chameleon. In my early days of people-pleasing recovery, I had to start defining myself: my boundaries, my values, what I’m looking for in a partner. A good friend suggested I ask for an example for a boundary. After that, I spent months brainstorming my possible values and kept a log.
I’ve had to unlearn the habits based on this faulty people-pleasing logic that my childhood self carried into my adulthood. I don’t overgive anymore, knowing now that the depth of my external “niceness” before was reflecting an equal depth of unworthiness I felt on the inside. I’ve had to learn to give to myself instead, in order to have enough for those around me: to spend time with myself, do things I love, parent myself, sometimes just allow myself time to rest.
The biggest irony of people-pleasing is that no one is actually “pleased” in the end ― not the person who overgives and contorts, all while accumulating resentment underneath their forced smile, nor the object of the people-pleasing who wants to connect with an authentic person, not a facade.
My adulthood has seen me face my greatest fears and most daunting challenges. But there’s a kind of calmness that ultimately comes from making peace with all the earlier versions of myself who thought they needed to try so hard, and loved themselves so little. Now, I am able to see them all when I look into the mirror. I don’t hate what I see. In fact, I know that they’re all really proud of me.