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Last Updated on December 8, 2020

5 Warning Signs That You’re a People Pleaser

5 Warning Signs That You’re a People Pleaser

Do any of the following sound familiar?

You cringe at the thought of saying no. You obsess about what others think of you and whether you’re doing something to make them dislike you. You live your life based on the opinions of others because you are deathly afraid of disappointing them.

If you say yes to all of these, you are likely a chronic people pleaser.

It’s hard not to struggle with people-pleasing at one time or another in our lives. As social beings, it’s in our nature to get along with others; our survival and success depend on it.

However, there is a fine line between healthy social behavior and the experience of emotional depletion caused by chronic people-pleasing.

In addition to being emotionally drained, you may find yourself compromising your principles and values in order to be accepted. As you help others to get what they want, your own health and well-being will suffer.

As a recovering people pleaser myself, I’ve observed these five common signs of chronic people-pleasing and some ways to overcome it:

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1. You’re Incapable of Saying No

Do you find it painfully hard to turn down the requests of family, friends, and even acquaintances or strangers?

You really want to say no, but instead, you say yes to their various demands.

Before you know it, you’ve become the go-to person when something needs to get done. From the small to the large, you take on every task. You may even be considered a hero to some.

On the inside, you’re suffering. You genuinely want to help others, but you also know that you are depleting your own resources with every “yes.”

You may fear that you’ll lose your friendships and good reputation by saying no. After all, the last thing you want to be called is selfish.

Solution

First, realize that your capacity to care for others and your capacity to care for yourself are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the two are intimately related.

Second, understand that you are not responsible for the happiness of those around you – they are. Let these two realities give you permission to say no. Start practicing with small requests. Refuse kindly and without apology.

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2. You Avoid Making Decisions or Sharing Your Opinions

Do you have a hard time voicing your opinions and feelings in a group setting or with close friends? Do you constantly allow others to make decisions for you?

You understand a deep truth about decisions and opinions: they divide. However, it’s not in your nature to cause division by speaking up, so you remain silent to avoid conflict.

Over time, this behavior is deadly, because as you defer to the opinions and decisions of others, you are silencing your own voice. This will rob the world of your unique perspectives and gifts.

Solution

Remember that you can disagree without being disagreeable. People can have divergent opinions and still treat each other with respect and kindness. So give voice to your thoughts, concerns, and needs.

By speaking up, you may rock the boat. You may even be outvoted. But if you treat others with respect, they will respect you even when they disagree with your opinions and choices.

3. You’re Crushed When You Discover Someone Doesn’t Like You

This is a hard one. It seems reasonable to assume that if you go out of your way to please everyone, then everyone will like you. But it’s not true.

Some people will dislike you simply because of who you are or for reasons outside of your control. You understand this intellectually, but you cannot stop trying to win the few holdouts.

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Solution

Closely examine your desire to be liked by everyone. Did this originate in your childhood, as you tried to win the affections of family members or friends at school?

Use tools such as reflection, meditation, and counseling to help you let go of past negative experiences.

As social beings, we need to be loved and accepted – but not by everyone. Decide whose love and affection is worth the effort and whose is not.

4. You’re Resentful of Others but Are Not Sure Why

This often happens when we suppress our feelings and needs over the long term. Do you feel unexplained anger toward your close friends, spouse, or boss?

The anger is your subconscious telling you that you have been neglecting yourself while helping others advance their goals. Think of this resentment as the “check engine” light turning on in your car. Don’t ignore it.

Solution

Face the truth of what is going on in your life. If you’re feeling overextended or taken advantage of, acknowledge these feelings. Avoid second-guessing yourself. Find time for self-care, and make this a priority.

5. You’re Unaware of How Far You’re Willing to Go – Until You’re in Over Your Head

This is a sure sign that you lack proper boundaries. You avoid setting limits because you believe this runs counter to having a generous spirit. But this simply allows people greater latitude to intrude into your life.

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The requests may become more and more unreasonable, and you may not realize it until someone has crossed the line. If you’ve taken on too much, you may experience passive-aggressive behavior, crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, or depression.

Solution

Be willing to admit that your time and energy are limited, not because you’re selfish, but because it’s the truth.

Boundaries are simply a recognition of that truth. Do not be afraid to set your boundaries and enforce them. It will take a while for you and others to get used to it, but you’ll experience an increased sense of well-being, and people will learn to accept your limits.

Learn to set boundaries for good: How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries.

Final Thoughts

You can be generous without allowing yourself to be used. You can be kind without being a pushover. You can be well-liked without having to sell your soul.

Don’t allow your fears and insecurities to turn you into a chronic people-pleaser. Instead, make time to please one of the most important people in your life: you.

Why? Because when you care for yourself, you can care for others out of the abundance of your own well-being. You will do this not because you are afraid of losing their affection, but simply because you want to. You will experience true freedom.

So decide today to give yourself the same love and attention you give to others. This is one decision you won’t regret.

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Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

More by this author

Cylon George

A spiritual chaplain and blogger who writes about practical spiritual tips for busy people.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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