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The Psychology of Being a People Pleaser

& How to Overcome It

Are you a people pleaser?

And I’m not talking about saying yes to go to a friend’s birthday party because they call you and even though you prefer not to, you go to make them happy.

I’m talking about compulsively seeking the approval of others almost like an addiction, where you become subservient to other’s the needs and goals.

If you do, don’t worry, you’re not alone! It’s actually more common that you’d think, but, when your self-worth and overall wellbeing depends on how you believe others see you, it can be really damaging.

In this Clubhouse session I co-hosted in the current largest club on the app, the Human Behaviour Club, I shared the psychology behind approval-seeking behaviour, why it can be such a strong motivator and strategies to help you let go of this insecure mindset.

Session Summary - How to overcome your desire for social validation and approval

1. Make a pledge to grow & build a habit of responsible choice.

  • Consciously remind yourself that you are more than the approval of others.

  • Give yourself permission to change and to grow, and by doing so, you’ll be able to really step into your power and reach your potential.

  • You want to consistently remind yourself that:

    • You are worthy whether or not you have the approval of others - their views do not have a bearing on your worth.

    • You have free will and can determine the direction of your life without the need for others to approve of validate you.

    • You are a rational person with inherent dignity.

    • Your worth is not linked to how others see you.

2. Pay attention to the self-betraying traps.

  • Take time to search, reflect on and identify the underlying source of your need for validation.

  • For example, if you’re obsessed about what others post about you on Facebook or you’re obsessed with your connection numbers on LinkedIn, you may be suffering from low self esteem (in fact, countless studies demonstrate how social media is detrimental for people with feelings of low self-worth and encourages social comparison, reinforcing feelings of inadequacy).

  • By becoming aware of when you tend to be a people-pleaser, you can gain the awareness you need to start to move forward.

3. Reflect on who you really are, beyond what others want you to be.

  • Often those who compulsively seek the approval of others have lost touch with their true selves and the unique gifts that they have – Here are a series of reflective journal prompts for you to ask yourself to help you get closer to your true self:

    • What do I value most?

    • What’s most important to me?

    • What do I want for myself?

    • What keeps me awake at night?

    • How do I prefer to spend my time?

    • What are my goals?

    • What will truly make me happy?

    • How do I make a difference in the world?

  • Once you take time to explore these you’ll gain a clearer view of who you are, beyond your need for the approval of others – this way you’ll be better equipped to start to make decisions aligned with what’s right for you, rather than making decisions based on what you think will make others happy.

4. Become comfortable with the idea that not everyone will approve.

  • Next time a new task or commitment comes your way, instead of immediately defaulting to "yes, of course’,” only to make the other person happy, take a moment – Don’t accept immediately.

  • Take a step back, gain some perspective, and review what’s important to you. Check-in with yourself to determine whether it’s aligned with your true self.

  • Then, make a decision based on this information, not how you think the other person will feel about it. You’ll need to become comfortable with setting personal boundaries and saying “no”.

5. Detach yourself from outcomes.

  • Instead of focusing on the outcome and attaching your sense of self-worth on that, focus on the process:

    • What did you learn?

    • How did you develop yourself?

    • How did you improve your patience? Your determination? Apply courage?

  • By focusing on your virtues and your positive traits, you remind yourself that you are inherently worthy.

6. Remind yourself of your higher purpose.

  • Your higher purpose is the purpose for your life beyond yourself. By consciously reminding yourself that you can make a difference, and focussing on how you be of service to others, it increases your sense of self-worth, enhances your confidence and gives your life meaning.

  • When you have a reason for living beyond ‘making everyone around me happy and seeking their approval’, you become detached from your ego and rise above your inner critics.

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