While people pleasing is often (but not always) a symptom of Nice Guy Syndrome, it’s worth noting that People Pleasing Syndrome – or sociotrophy – is a condition all on its own.
Defined by obsession with making people happy, and sacrificing all other areas of life to keep your relationships comfortable, People Pleasing Syndrome is possibly one of the most common and yet least recognised mental illnesses on the planet.
In this video, I explore what it means to be a people pleaser in terms of psychology and behavioural traits, and how this both complements and differs from Nice Guy Syndrome. Most importantly, I look at some basic behaviour changes that can help you recover and become more self-confident and secure in your relationships.
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Full transcript (unedited)
When we’re talking about nice guy syndrome, we should also be talking about people pleasing syndrome, which is kind of like a sister syndrome. See nice goes on people pleasers, and not quite the same thing. There’s a lot of overlap a lot of shared traits, but there’s some distinct differences as well. And it can help in your recovery to kind of know which one you are. And people pleasing syndrome is actually somewhat recognized in the field of psychology, whereas nice guy syndrome isn’t so much. It’s even got a name socio trophy, which is only heard about that the other week, it reflects somebody whose primary behavior is to make others feel pleasure. And you’ll sacrifice everything to maintain happy relationship and prevent conflict, you’ll sacrifice anything in your life, so that the people in your life feel pleasure in your presence. Now, there are some nice guys who don’t do this this way. It’s not exactly the same as nice guy syndrome. The wallflower type of nice guy, for example, just tries to avoid disapproval, they just hide in the background and fly under the radar. They’re not actively trying to please people, or at least not that much. And that the former type, which is the total nice guy I was, we’re quite happy to sometimes cause controversy, we’re happy to upset people as long as overall we’re entertaining. I used to tell quite offensive jokes, for example, whereas a people pleaser would never dare offending anybody. One way to think of it as people pleasing as a potential symptom of nice guy syndrome. So nice guy syndrome is the overall umbrella perhaps, that people pleasing can also be a little syndrome on its own, completely unrelated to nice guys. Or another way to think about this is a nice guy with an anxious attachment style. So previously, I’ve talked about nice guys with an avoidant attachment style, which I believe is the majority of Nice Guys. And we’re trying to keep people at a distance where they like us, but don’t love us. But there are a subset of nice guys who really want that love. They want codependence they want Never Let Me Go again. And as close as you want that type of nice guy who had oversharing never tried to push you away or never tried to get space. They’re rare, but they do exist and they are more likely to be people pleasers as well. One way to know if you’re a people pleaser is you hate yourself unless you’re pleasing someone or a situation where people around you are not happy with you. And that makes you hate yourself. And then it turns around as soon as you make someone laugh or they say you’re a good person or they tell you how helpful you are, then you’re probably a people pleaser, specially if you have no real standards about who this applies to anyone and everyone, whoever you can make happy will do basically means that unless you’re all by yourself, if you’re in any situation socially, you are constantly thinking about how to give people pleasure. That’s like your top priority. You’re constantly vigilant for it, you’re constantly worried that it’s not happening, you’re always anticipating and planning how it could happen. So the basics of people pleasing syndrome is caretaking and fixing. So this is not the same as being helpful. caretaking fixing is actually taking problems away from people, either preventing the person from having the problem in the first place, or taking the problem away from them by fixing it. This can take the form of just being very, very helpful. So you’re always reducing people’s burdens. Zero is self sacrificing. You can’t say no, you’re just any chance you get to ease someone’s burden you’re on there, no matter how much of burdens you you’re going to be quite agreeable. You’re always encouraging challenging, I can see your side of the argument. You’re always trying to kind of adapt your beliefs and your worldview, to make the other person feel like they’ve got someone on their team. You’ll sacrifice honesty for consensus. So if you’re in a group, you’d rather go with the group, then speak out and reach some sort of ostracism. Even if a group has only you and another person, it’d be quite protective. For example, helicopter parents, we just hovering over people all the time to try and make sure nothing bad happens to them. Protectionism is pretty classic. I mean, perfectionism is a kind of general pleasing approach from perfect and everyone’s happy. It’s a kind of motto of the people pleaser, and wrongness comes with a lot of shame, something being inaccurate, wrong, late, anything like that a mistake. There’s so much shame and pain attached to that far beyond the actual damage it does. And vigilance, constantly looking constantly assessing, hyper aware of how everyone feels about you at any given time, worrying about it thinking about it when they’re not around, just constantly assessing their subsidy that this behavior is the avoidance of disapproval as well. So being humble and modest, falsely, so like downplaying strengths that you actually have and never trying to outdo other people, even if you’re more skilled or stronger, trying to just basically never talk about yourself in a positive way. Never say or do something that might make someone feel worse about themselves, who is trying to moderate conflict and play the mediator you know, you’re hyper vigilant potential drama so you can prevent it and they want it does happen you’ll be falsely agreeable or mediate. Eating or you’ll flip flop on your beliefs as needed to bring the conflict to an end as soon as possible. Regardless how much you have to compromise your integrity, you’re extra careful, especially around like disappointing people offending them, you’re tiptoeing. You don’t want to say anything too strong or take a position that’s sort of too extreme just in case someone in the room might be offended by that, or insulted by that you never do something that can’t be undone. So you might take a stance, they disagree, and you go, yeah, actually, that’s what I meant to and you kind of reverse your position. Always checking, asking permission, getting people to confirm and validate that you’re doing the right thing and never so just trusting your gut instinct. So it’s a horrible position to be in, you’re spending all your social time anxious and vigilant to it constantly calculating, anticipating correcting, trying to provide value all the time exhausted, by trying to provide so much value so much pleasure. Your closest relationships suffer the most people pleasers generally hurt those who they love. Because once you’ve got someone in and you know that you’ve got them, and they’re not going to leave you, you kind of dismiss them, and you save all your energy for the people who aren’t yet sort of secured. It’s very common for a people pleaser, to burn themselves out pleasing people they don’t even like at work, and then come home and be grumpy and distant and even a tyrant with their family. And you lose track yourself. You’re so busy adjusting and agreeing with everyone all the time that after a few years or decades, you can’t even really recall what your original position on anything was. You’re so used to adjusting to your environment you don’t actually know where you stand on things. And your preferences, and your opinions and beliefs form who you are. If you’re not in touch with those things, you’re not sure what they are, then you don’t know who you are. And a lot of my clients come to me in their middle age with this being the main crisis’s. They kind of wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night. Like who the fuck am I? What do I even believe in, and they just don’t know. Of course, all your relationships are conditional, or at least they feel conditional. You know, you can’t take a break. You can either be sick or be depressed. You can’t be real. Any of these things. If you’re even slightly unpleasant for even a small period of time you think you’re going to lose everybody. So what’s the cure? The key is to just stop, stop the pleasing behaviors. That’s the first and foremost thing you need to do. So identify all of your pleasing a superficial behaviors, everything you do, that’s designed to either make people feel good or prevent them from feeling bad. And just start phasing them out. Stop doing them reduce doing them. Pull them back when you start doing them and stop doing it in the moment. Even if you’ve started. Just see what happens. Take a risk. See if people really do abandon you. See if the people you love actually leave you when you’re not constantly providing pleasure. What you’ll notice is Yes, some people will lose interest or get upset with you. But if you look at who those people are, you got to ask yourself, are those the people I want in my life are they they’re good ones. And then you’re newly freed up time start taking care of yourself that pleasing you treating yourself like you’re someone else that you’re trying to please and prioritize your loved ones and yourself over complete strangers or work associates. All that effort you put into making your boss happy. Put it into being a good father, and a good husband and a good self. And just take a risk let people not like you. Let people leave. And just notice that it doesn’t kill you. The world does not come crashing down. You’re not a little kid anymore. You can handle it. Of course going to be scared doing this and if you want some help overcoming that fear and you want some more practical tips, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll walk you through it