The Danger of People-Pleasing and What’s Behind It?

I have been dealing with a number of stressors in my personal life for the past four months, and as a result, I am looking for answers and solutions to my pain. One of the many things I got fascinated with is FAWNING (the trauma response to threat) and how it affects my life and those around me.

I find it fascinating because it's invisible to the public eye, yet, it can be extremely harmful because it indicates power imbalance and can set people up for psychological and emotional (self-)abuse.

With this post, I wish to interest you so that you can recognize fawning in your daily life and make sure you're taking care of yourself and the people who fawn around you. Hopefully, this awareness will prevent unnecessary acts of violence, gaslighting, and self-betrayal and empower people to stand up for themselves and speak up more freely.

Here is a little graphic by NICABM to show you the 6 trauma responses. Please and appease is what is known as people-pleasing in pop culture.

What is people-pleasing?

(according to ChatGPT)

People-pleasing is a common behavior that involves prioritizing other people's happiness and opinions over one's own. It is a personality trait characterized by an overwhelming need to make others happy, gain approval, and avoid conflict. People-pleasing can be positive, but it can also lead to negative consequences for the individual, including increased stress, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with life.

Qualities of people-pleasing

People-pleasers tend to be extremely accommodating and always look for ways to make others happy. They often have difficulty saying "no" to requests, even if it means sacrificing their needs and wants. They might also be afraid of disappointing others or being rejected, which can drive them to put others' needs ahead of their own.

While people-pleasing can be seen as a positive quality, it can also lead to negative outcomes. For example, people-pleasers may experience feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration when they feel they are being taken advantage of or their needs are not being met. They may also become burned out and exhausted from constantly trying to make everyone else happy, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Another potential downside of people-pleasing is that it can lead to a lack of authenticity. People-pleasers may feel like they have to hide their true selves in order to gain approval from others. They may also struggle with setting boundaries, making it difficult to form healthy relationships and prioritize their needs and wants.

What's behind people-pleasing?

(according to Jura & other trauma professionals)

People-pleasing results from growing up in an environment that was not supportive of our natural development.

People-pleasing indicates that your nervous system is picking up on a threat outside of you - the threat being someone who has power over you/you depend on. If you were chronically misattuned, you learned to live in this mode of the constant need to be friendly, kind, and convenient for others in the way that you consider this to be your personality, and that makes you a yummy target for anyone else who wants to take advantage of convenience.

The "wanting to see goodness in people" is a fawn response.

The "wanting to save the world from suffering" is a fawn response.

"You take the last piece of chocolate" is a fawn response.

Putting smileys after each sentence in a text message is a fawn response.

Remember that you are not in control of fawning; your nervous system does its thing to increase your chances of survival. What you can do is learn its cues to see what makes you feel uncomfortable.

Fawning is designed to distract you from the discomfort or so-called healthy aggression - protest - when people or situations don't align with your needs.

The danger is that you cannot know what healthy aggression is when you live in a state of fawn. Without healthy aggression, you cannot protect yourself from predators - people who seek power and control over others or create an environment that is attuned to you.

Gaining back your sense of ick, repulsion, or disgust - subtle cues of discomfort - is essential to moving out of fawning into action directed to making your needs and well-being more important than how you'll be perceived or judged by people.

Validating your own experience of that discomfort is key!

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

How to break the cycle of pleasing?

(by ChatGPT)

If you are a people-pleaser, there are steps you can take to break the cycle.

First, it's essential to recognize that it's okay to prioritize your own needs and wants. Learning to say "no" and setting boundaries can be challenging, but it's essential for maintaining healthy relationships and achieving personal fulfillment.

It's also important to recognize the underlying reasons behind your people-pleasing behavior. Are you afraid of conflict or rejection? Do you feel like you need to earn approval from others constantly? Understanding these motivations can help you address them and move towards a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Finally, seeking support from a therapist or counselor can be helpful in breaking the cycle of people-pleasing. A mental health professional can help you develop strategies for setting boundaries, building self-esteem, and learning to prioritize your own needs and wants.

While it's important to prioritize others' happiness and opinions, it's equally important to prioritize your own needs and wants. Learning to set boundaries and understand your motivations and subtle cues of your nervous system can help you break the people-pleasing cycle and move towards a more authentic and fulfilling life.

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.

Where to start?

Book a free assessment call to find out if and how I can help you improve your life and relationships

Book a free assessment call
Have you worked with me before? Book a single session