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How People Pleasing Can Cause Chronic Pain

Isn’t it funny that when you get something new or recognise something for the first time you start to see it everywhere!

I remember getting the first car that I bought myself. It was a bright yellow Metro. I thought, ‘Great. Yellow! No one else has a yellow car. I'll be able to find it on the car park!”. Blow me. On the way home from buying it, I saw four other bright, yellow cars! I couldn't believe it.

I can also remember being called a people pleaser by a colleague a long-long time ago. It felt good. It felt like I belonged to an exclusive gang. I started to wear it a bit like a badge of honour.

Then I started recognising people pleasers everywhere!

When I started researching it, I could remember loads of people pleasers I had known over the years. Recently I checked for stats. The only study I could find stated that 54% of the female participants exhibited people-pleasing behaviour, and 40% of the men did. (That makes me pretty average!🙄) I also came to realise that it was not necessarily a good behavioural trait to have.

It's not the positive thing that I thought it was at first. Let me tell you a bit about it.

When you're a people pleaser you try to do everything you can, to help everybody else. Your needs come bottom of the list. You try to second guess what everybody else wants you to say and do, so you don’t upset them. Well, that's not possible. And it’s not healthy! And it causes incongruence in yourself.

It means that you often go against what you think and what you want to do. You say, ‘Yes’ when what you want to say is ‘No’ and then you feel resentful afterwards. This causes actual tension in your body and in your mind. Over time that leads to Chronic Stress and can eventually cause several Chronic Pain conditions and Stress Illnesses. That tension can be picked up by others as well. It is felt like a subtle distrust by others.

You do anything to avoid potential conflict, including ghosting people, telling white lies to prevent an argument or upset them, apologise, or even take the blame for things that aren’t your fault.

It causes self-doubt because you don't fully know yourself. Because you've spent a whole lifetime absorbing everybody else’s values, thoughts, and beliefs. Which can be part of the reason a people pleaser finds it hard to switch off and relax in their free time…because you don't know yourself, you don’t know what you like and what helps you to relax.

But further still, nobody else can get to know you either. And if we don't know who we really are, we can't align to true values.

So where does people pleasing come from? Where does this inner need to help others more than we want to help ourselves, come from?

When we're born, we're not born to please in everybody else or in fact anyone else.

We are born egocentric. We're born just to please ourselves.

We cry to try to get our own needs met.

If we get messages early on that those needs are not going to be met, or not going to be met consistently when we cry, then often what happens is that we learn that to enable us to survive, we have to go above and beyond to get those needs met.

So, we will start doing things to try and please the carer to get those needs met.

If crying doesn't work, we might try not crying to see if that works.

We soon learn what works and when. And we learn the underlying message that to get needs met you must please other people. Or risk getting rejected, failing to get fed, and ultimately risk your own survival.

We learn to be the good girl or good boy to survive. It becomes a way of life and is seen as a ‘character trait’. However, the true person, the true character, is hidden beneath that. The true character is hidden beneath the layers of anxiety, behaviours that are required to create a sense of safety.

This leaves the person unsure how they really feel, how they really think, what they really want to do.

They are unsure about themselves. They have a lot of self-doubt. They have a lack of confidence or lack of self-worth because they don't know themselves. They have never been taught about the full array of emotions. And they do not know what their needs entail or how to get them met.

There's a huge misalignment in people pleasers which comes down to needing to get to know themselves.

To truly connect with your own values, you need to get to know yourself. You need to have spent time with just yourself. Either in meditation or in therapeutic journaling, ideally both. Then you need to learn how to be the truest version of yourself. And how to be okay being that version. You have to learn how to let go of people pleasing without fear of rejection. And that's difficult to do. But it's not impossible. I think I've got there. Almost!

People Pleasing is one of the main behaviours that lead to Chronic Stress and Chronic Pain and Stress Illness. If you are a people pleaser and want to change, come join us in Beyond the Label



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