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The Dangers of 'People Pleasing' in Recovery

It is nice to be nice, but if you are too focused on pleasing others then it could be holding you back in your recovery from addiction. It is also likely to mean that you are preventing yourself from ever reaching your potential and finding the true happiness you deserve. If you hope to build a solid recovery and a better life, it is important to try to become less of a people pleaser.

What Is People Pleasing?

Do you regularly have similar thoughts to the following:

  • I don't want to speak my mind in case it causes problems
  • I want to become the person he or she wants to be
  • I'll change to make him or her happy
  • It's easier to just go along the plans of others
  • If I say 'no', other people will stop liking me
  • I wish somebody would come along and fix my life
  • I had better hide my emotions because I do not want others to view me negatively.

If these are some of the thoughts that often go through your mind then you can be pretty certain that, to at least some extent, you are a people pleaser.

People pleasing can be defined as a pattern of behaviour in which you are more concerned with what others think than being who you really are. It means being a fraud in an attempt to get others to like you. This type of behaviour usually happens unconsciously, which is why the majority of people who are limiting their life due to people pleasing are not even aware that this is what they are doing.

The Dangers of People Pleasing

Getting others to like you can seem a reasonable thing to do. After all, if people like you then they are going to be more likely to care for you and help you - aren't they? The problem is that people pleasing may make you feel even more of an outsider and there are many other dangers with this behaviour, including:

  • living below your potential
  • trying to please others all the time can be incredibly stressful
  • neglecting your own needs and aspirations
  • this behaviour can come across as a bit sleazy - it can make people less trustful of you
  • it makes it easy for others to take advantage of you
  • potential employers try to avoid hiring people pleasers because they are too much of a risk (this type of person is more likely to take on responsibilities they can't manage)
  • people pleasing may lead to depression
  • it can lead to maladaptive behaviours such as passive aggression.
The Dangers of People Pleasing for Those in Recovery

The people-pleasing pattern of behaviour can be a real danger to those who are trying to recover from an addiction. In order to make progress in sobriety, you need to be able to take charge of your own life and not rely on others to fix you and make you feel good. This need to make others happy can become an excuse to relapse, and there is the danger that people pleasing can suck all the joy out of sober living.

How to Avoid People Pleasing in Recovery
  • Learn to say 'no' to anything that could threaten your sobriety
  • don't depend on others for your self-esteem - develop some self-compassion
  • be prepared to share your opinions - although it is better to do this in an open-minded type of way (i.e. don't insist that you are right about everything)
  • understand the things that make you feel uncomfortable and establish some boundaries
  • know that any friend who dislikes you for being you isn't really your friend
  • if you need something, you should ask for it - don't wait for people to read your mind
  • listen to the opinions of others; this doesn't mean you have to accept these opinions though
  • don't expect the stuff you want out of life to be the exact same as your friends
  • don't be afraid of being different
  • when you are in disagreement with a family member of friend over a plan, work on a compromise rather than just giving in to their demands.
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