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Alan G. People-pleasing isn't really people-pleasing

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Hi, I read that people-pleasing is a common trait with tms. I want to get over this, but have a hard time not always putting other people's needs ahead of mine. How do i become less of a people-pleaser?
    Margo likes this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Oh, the people-pleaser, that altruistic being...Always putting other's needs ahead of their own, taking care of everyone but themselves...

    Except, it isn't really true.

    Someone asks you to take them to the airport during rush hour traffic...you say yes even though you have a million things to do...

    You want to break up with your girlfriend but you know how hurt she'll be, so you stay in the relationship...

    People pleasers do not sacrifice their needs for others, they sacrifice their needs to avoid anxiety.

    Some people have a very difficult time with conflict. Maybe your parents fought all the time and as a result conflict makes you anxious.

    Some people have difficulty tolerating guilt. Maybe your mom or dad would use guilt as a weapon, and as a result that emotion makes you anxious.

    People-pleasers are not people-pleasing to please other people, people-pleasers are pleasing people to avoid the anxiety that comes up in the face of conflict and/or guilt.

    As bad as neglecting your needs might be, it's not as bad as the anxiety you get when conflict arises or when guilt comes up.

    People-pleasing should really be called anxiety-avoiding, since that's the true motivation behind the behavior.

    So to answer your question, the way to become less of a people-pleaser is to increase your capacity to tolerate conflict or guilt.

    And how to do that is a post for another time.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
    zclesa, N_M___2, Katy Elise and 22 others like this.
  3. futuredancer

    futuredancer Peer Supporter

    Very enlightening! Thank you, it was really helpful to understand why it happens.
  4. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Alan, that was one of those sublimely elegant answers that leaves the mind feeling as if it had drunk a long, cool glass of water. Thank you.
  5. Mac07

    Mac07 New Member

    Alan, First off huge Kudos and many thanks for offering the SEP program here! It has been a glorious resource and even though the road gets rough, rocky and seemingly insurmountable at times; I have managed to stay my course and endure the potholes, knowing that a smoother ride awaits me; mostly in part due to the techniques and antidotes that I have discovered here. Also, your take on "people pleasing" really resonated with me and opened my eyes, body, mind and heart to a new way of understanding this trait.

    Much Obliged and I'm Grateful for your presence on this forum.
    Lily Rose and plum like this.
  6. Hummingbird

    Hummingbird Peer Supporter

    Well this has turned my opinion of my tendency to "please others" upside down. I for one will be marinating in this post for some time. Thank you so much for sharing it.
    Lily Rose, sportychick and plum like this.
  7. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, Alan hit the TMS nail into the head. Are you doing that goodist "good deed" because you want really want to--or because you feel compelled to by society??? If your "goodism" is an autonomic reflex like your TMS, you're probably not feeling that good about it, because goodism has become a compulsive act and an obligation rather then something from the heart . You are perhaps being coerced by others into doing things because you can't STOP and find a good enough excuse to say no, or to take pause and think about whether the request is something you really want to comply with.

    Practice random acts of NON-goodism. Practice saying "NO"--or--"I'll think about it, and get back to you later." Judges never rule from the bench, they take the matter under submission, and render a verdict later--they don't want a riot in the court. Don't feel pressured into doing something you don't really want to do. Cons in the non-TMS world know how to use the pressure of psychology to get what they want from nice people--don't succumb to it--practice saying no. It takes a while but then you feel really good about the things you do from the heart rather then from the autonomic TMS nervous system.
    gipfel65, Kat, Lily Rose and 2 others like this.
  8. justmike

    justmike Peer Supporter

    This was helpful. I've never really considered myself a people pleaser, because I knew my real motivation for saying yes, was to avoid feeling guilty for saying no.

    I hate feeling guilty. I'd add also that some of the compulsion to say yes may also have to do with that fear of abandonment that some of us struggle with. "If I say no, this person will not love me anymore."
    Lou, Kat, Lily Rose and 1 other person like this.
  9. RozieHolland

    RozieHolland Peer Supporter

    In my profession as a taxidriver for disabled people I am the biggest people-pleasers there is. But in daily life I'm not.
    When someone is asking me to do something I Always ask myself;
    Is there a reason why I shoudn't do it? When I can't find a reason why I shoudn't..I just do it.
    Do I have enough time? Is there something more important to do? If I don't have time, I won't do it.
    Do I like what is asking to do? If I don't like it, I won't do it.
    Can I do what is asking? When I can't, I don't do it.

    I make choises all day, not because of the fear but importancy.
    I can feel already in advance if I get regret afterwards and when guilt come up I won't do it.
    I am not afraid of any conflicts and when I refuse to do something I always tell the true reason.
    Lily Rose, plum and Tennis Tom like this.
  10. Lunarlass66

    Lunarlass66 Well known member

    This post gets to the real underlying motivation in most all of us who characterize themselves as people-pleasers, I recognize that I've been this way most of my life... And it really is to avoid the myriad of negative emotion/ anxiety after saying no to someone.
    My question now is, I know I do it...and I need to learn to tolerate conflict and guilt in a heathier way, HOW is this accomplished? Some "habits", behaviors become so ingrained, it seems like a nearly impossible change..
    Lily Rose and plum like this.
  11. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    After Alan posted this I did submit the inevitable question asking for his thoughts on how to tolerate tension and conflict. He has yet to respond but he is a busy man so we await his reply. Meantime I have found simply feeling the tension, the guilt, the conflict, what-have-you in its physiological form is a start, and this I combine with some good old-fashioned assertiveness and boundary-setting. I am also honest with people about where expectations and limitations meet and I am golden about taking time out and away from trying situations. I guess this is one of those times when there is no way out but through. I like @Tennis Tom's suggestions.
    Lily Rose likes this.
  12. Lunarlass66

    Lunarlass66 Well known member

    Dearest Plum,
    Me thinks if I had possessed the healthier life skills over the last ohh, three decades or so, I would never have had to know the three most dreaded letters in the English lauguage! (TMS)
    I suppose my self disdain is showing this morning. Self compassion is another issue entirely. I still feel like a "one man army", trying to slay dragons coming at me from 360° angles...
    Lily Rose and plum like this.
  13. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    You've already started the process of change. It begins with the awareness that this behavior isn't serving you well. You can just observe it for awhile, continuing to shine the light of consciousness on it, but the time will come when your awareness effects your behavior. One day, without really thinking about it, you will just say "no" when you previously would have said "yes". You may not even realize the change occurred until later. This kind of real change just creeps up on us. It's part of the miraculous nature of healing and evolving as humans. Write us a post when you begin to notice the changes. It will inspire others.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
    Lily Rose, Lunarlass66 and plum like this.
  14. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Aye, I hear you. Same story here until recent years but I am edging my way into ever-healthier changes. It is very much as @Ellen describes, a gradual and very organic process.

    Posting on the forum is excellent practice too. Where else will you find such a supportive crowd? I've grown such a lot from posting here and at tmshelp over the years. Sure, I'm aware that there people who don't like me but I honestly don't give a rats ass, a fig or a hoot. That has been a learning curve in itself and I'm grateful to the peeps who've been instrumental in that. I can't control how people feel about me but I can compassionately do a lot about my responses.

    Once you start being authentic in one part of your life it begins to spill out everywhere and most people, most of the time respond incredibly well to it. It's such a relief to be free and natural. It feels like coming home.
    Lou, Lily Rose, sportychick and 3 others like this.
  15. Lunarlass66

    Lunarlass66 Well known member

    Quite frankly, WHO the "bleep!" wouldn't like you? You're kindness and wisdom and sensitivity ( my personal favorite trait in humankind.. Not my own though..) were probably what first caught my attention after browsing through a few entries in this forum...
    Sorry, just had to respond to that part of your comment...
    Kat, Lily Rose, Ellen and 1 other person like this.
  16. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    God love you, thank you for that. I can be a cheeky monkey with a tendency to favour slang that would make a sailor blush (actually I think I'm quite well-behaved, especially here). My partner despairs though :p (except in the boudior but that really is a whole new thread on a slightly different form of...ahem...people-pleasing.)
    Lily Rose and Lunarlass66 like this.
  17. sara_cynthia

    sara_cynthia New Member

    Ugh, I'm 61 and I've been doing this people pleasing all my life. You hit the nail on the head "people pleasing are pleasing to avoid anxiety" ugh ugh now what. Am I too old to change? And this being aware and conscious of my behavior ugh, I'm doing that but its very hard....what do i do with this anxiety?
    sportychick likes this.
  18. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    The oldest tennis player I knew was Ken Beer, winning tournaments at 95, and hitting balls up to the day he died at 102--so you still have some good years left in you.

    If you pay close attention and practice something for about two weeks you can learn to do most anything, including rudimentary brain surgery, like a basic lobotomy where if you mess up you can't do too much damage.

    Anytime someone asks you to do something, just say no, and that you'll think about it. Don't let yourself be put on the spot, set your boundaries. As for anxiety, maybe some wine or half a Xanax.
    ladyofthelake likes this.
  19. ladyofthelake

    ladyofthelake Peer Supporter

    This answer is so amazing and spot on.
    Tennis Tom likes this.
  20. TG957

    TG957 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Alan, nothing to add or remove. Perfect. I have a relative who is sacrificing her life for others even when she is not asked for any help. She is a showcase for TMS, from IBS to fibromyalgia to migraines to back pains, sciatica, you name it. Her outwards always very pleasant personality is tainted by angry outbursts towards her closest family. I see every bit of her in this description.

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