The Fine Line Between People Pleasing and Genuine Kindness

“Never trade your authenticity for approval.” 

What’s wrong with pleasing people? Weren’t you were raised to be nice and to always be polite?

The main difference that sets people pleasing and genuine kindness apart is the intention behind each one. People-pleasers have an uncontrollable need to please everyone because they are addicted to their approval. In order to be loved, they feel obliged to do everything for everyone, usually at the expense of sacrificing their own basic needs. They end up feeling empty, stressed, frustrated, and drained.

People-pleasing is about placating. People-pleasing is based on guilt, fear of abandonment and rejection, and usually stems from low self-esteem and insecurities.

People pleasers have ulterior motives since they give to others and expect something in return; in this case, constant validation and the recognition that they are good people. It’s not about giving themselves a pat on the back for their good deeds; it becomes a matter of survival, which is dependent on others. They give their power away to others as they neglect themselves and continuously seek to fulfill others’ needs. People-pleasing is a reflex response where you force your self to keep others happy so everyone will like you.

Kindness is authentic because it comes from being true to yourself, with no hidden agendas. Being kind is more than just a behaviour. It is a quality of being and a conscious choice, where you have empathy and are considerate. You get pleasure from helping others with no strings attached, some even doing it anonymously with no need for credit or appreciation from others, just from the genuine act of self-expression. When you give unconditionally, it lifts you up. You feel connected and energized.

In being kind, you want to make others happy with your self-love intact and without abandoning yourself. Your self-love and self-acceptance are about believing that you are lovable just the way you are, as opposed to being lovable only if others say you are. Your self-worth is not based on external validation, which is conditional love. Fear is at the root of unhealthy people-pleasing behaviour and needs to be replaced with self-love. Self-love is essential to your mental and spiritual well-being, your physical health, and your relationships.

People pleasers go out of their way and will bend over backwards to please everyone.

They say yes to everything because they want to be liked and accepted. They are afraid of upsetting others and want to avoid conflict at all costs. They never express their true feelings or stand up for themselves.

This leads to having no boundaries and allowing people to use you like a doormat. You become easy prey for those who like to take advantage of you and who don’t respect you, your time, or your energy.

Kind people honor and respect each others needs whereas people-pleasers place everyone’s needs above their own. They need to stop saying “Yes” and learn to start saying “No” to others. If you have problems saying no, you can practice the “delayed no response.” For example, you can say, “Let me get back to you.” No need to give a response right away. And there’s no need to give excuses either. Replace the words, “I should,” “I must” with “I don’t want to,” or “I choose to.”

Set healthy boundaries by being assertive and standing up for your rights. Make yourself a priority by tuning into what you want in life and making sure you attend to your needs. Avoid sacrificing your needs and happiness for others. 

People-pleasers have a desperate need to be loved, and like an addiction, they get hooked on people-pleasing. They see themselves as a hole that needs to be filled every day as they crave people’s approval and acceptance. No matter what you did the day before, the next day, they need to start over again and keep filling up the bottomless hole. Kind people come from a place of wholeness within. They feel complete and want to share and be generous.

People-pleasers never have time for themselves because they are always on call for others. They are not even on the list of people they want to please. It’s important to put yourself on top of the list, to schedule time for yourself, and to prioritize your needs just like you do for others. People-pleasers believe their goals are not worthy; they feel guilty about setting goals and boundaries for the fear of others seeing them as being selfish. 

They over-apologize even if it’s not their fault; they feel responsible for others feelings and reactions. Their own feelings and opinions are not of importance. They never argue for fear of being criticized or rejected. They also criticize themselves very harshly and set unrealistic expectations. They believe that they have to be perfect in order to be loved and that nice people don’t get angry, don’t make mistakes and don’t disappoint people. Guess what? We all have emotions and we all make mistakes because we are all human. These false beliefs only perpetuate the people-pleasing behaviours and keep them trapped in the people-pleasing cycle.

People-pleasers need to turn their attention inward and focus on nurturing their inner self. This learned pattern may have started in their childhood and perhaps could have been a way of getting attention or keeping the peace. There may be a history of anxiety, dependency, trauma or even having grown up with parents who displayed similar people-pleasing tendencies. Regardless of what the emotional baggage holds, it can help to seek guidance and to start developing new coping skills and habits.

By maintaining healthy boundaries and building emotional intelligence, you can eliminate the maladaptive coping mechanisms you develop in order to survive. Humans are social beings and we all have the need to connect and a sense of belonging. We thrive when we connect with others and feel loved and valued. People develop people-pleasing habits in order to protect themselves from the pain of feeling disconnected and rejected.

As you build your self-confidence, it becomes much easier to become aware of what makes you feel good. You seek healthy relationships with people who accept you as you are. It’s time to get rid of toxic people and fake friends, as well as old belief systems that weigh you down. You will feel lighter as you free yourself from these resentments. 

Be honest with yourself and become aware of your true feelings. People-pleasers are disingenuous with their true selves as they have strayed and lost themselves. By loving and accepting yourself, you start to find value in yourself. And if you take care of yourself first, you’ll be in a better position to help others in a more wholesome, balanced way. 

True kindness starts with being kind to yourself. Practice self-care by making time for yourself and aligning yourself with your truth as you honour your needs and your limits. Treat yourself as you would treat others. Recognizes that you are worthy of love because of who you are, not because of what you do.

Remember, you can’t please everybody. Nice people can say no. It does not make you any less valuable. Say yes on your terms. Give without expectations and know that is enough. 

Reclaim your true self and live your authentic life by learning to love and approve of yourself. Make yourself happy.

You owe it to yourself because you are worth it.

“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone”

 Ed Sheeran

Antoinette Giacobbe