Fawning: The Hidden Trauma Response That Sabotages Your Well-being

Over the last few months, I've been grappling with personal stressors and seeking ways to heal. One discovery that's captivated me is "fawning," a trauma response that's often invisible to others but deeply damaging. Fawning is about prioritizing others' needs and opinions to the extreme, even if it means sacrificing your own well-being. It's a sign of a power imbalance and can leave people vulnerable to emotional abuse.

My goal with this blog post is to raise awareness so you can recognize fawning in yourself and those around you. By understanding this response, we can prevent unnecessary pain, manipulation, and self-betrayal. Hopefully, we can empower people to stand up for themselves and express their needs more freely.

The graphic from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) shows six common trauma responses. "Please & Appease" is what we often call "people-pleasing" in everyday language.

What is People-Pleasing?

People-pleasing involves putting other people's happiness first, to the detriment of your own. It's characterized by a strong need for approval and a fear of conflict. While there are positive aspects to being considerate, people-pleasing can become harmful.

The Dark Side of People-Pleasing

People-pleasers tend to be overly accommodating, always striving to make others happy. They struggle to say "no" and often sacrifice their own needs. They fear disappointing others or being rejected, leading them to constantly put others first.

This behavior can lead to resentment, anger, and frustration when they feel taken advantage of. The constant effort to please can also lead to burnout, exhaustion, and feelings of isolation.

Furthermore, people-pleasers may feel pressured to hide their true selves to gain approval. This lack of authenticity, along with difficulty setting boundaries, can make it hard to form healthy relationships.

The Roots of People-Pleasing

People-pleasing often stems from childhood experiences in environments that didn't support healthy emotional development. It's a survival mechanism triggered when your nervous system senses a threat – usually a person who has power over you or whom you depend on.

If you grew up constantly adapting to others' needs, you might have internalized this as your personality. This makes you a prime target for people who want to exploit your kindness.

Examples of fawning can include:

  • Always wanting to see the good in people, even when they've hurt you.
  • Feeling an overwhelming need to save the world from suffering.
  • Giving up the last piece of chocolate, even if you really want it.
  • Adding smiley faces to every text message, even if you don't feel like it.

Breaking the Cycle

Fawning is not a conscious choice; it's an automatic nervous system response. The key is to recognize the cues and identify what makes you feel uncomfortable.

Fawning often distracts you from healthy aggression or the ability to say "no" when something doesn't align with your needs.  Relearning how to feel and express those "ick" feelings – disgust, repulsion, discomfort – is crucial. Validating your own experience is the first step towards breaking free from fawning.

Hailey Magee explains the steps to setting boundaries when you're fawning.

How to Stop People-Pleasing

  1. Acknowledge Your Needs: It's perfectly okay to prioritize your own happiness and well-being.
  2. Learn to Say "No": Setting boundaries is essential for healthy relationships and self-respect.
  3. Understand Your Motives: Explore why you feel the need to please others. Are you afraid of conflict, rejection, or disapproval?
  4. Seek Support: A therapist can provide guidance and tools to build self-esteem,set boundaries, and overcome the patterns of people-pleasing.

Remember:  It's a journey to prioritize your own needs while still caring for others. Be patient with yourself, and don't hesitate to seek professional support if you're struggling.

Disclaimer: I write my content with assistance of AI technology. It is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional therapy or clinical advice. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek guidance from a qualified professional in your area.

Written by
Jura Glo

I’m a certified NARM Practitioner and a former Radical Honesty Trainer with over 9 years of experience working with individuals and couples globally.

I specialize in addressing trauma-induced relationship dynamics and am known for my ability to cut through superficial issues to focus on what truly matters.

My efficiency in identifying core problems and implementing solutions, coupled with my commitment to psychological and emotional safety, underscores my approach, characterized by full transparency and authenticity in my work.

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