Narcissistic Abuse Recovery: People Pleasing

 I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.

Ed Sheeran

I am not getting hurt again, I am going to make sure that they like me no matter what. For some, making others happy can be an addiction. You want them to feel joy and love, and you will do whatever it takes to reach that outcome. Being kind and helpful is a good virtue that can open doors for you. However, that unconditional kindness comes at a steep price. Sometimes you give so much love, that you forget to leave any for yourself. Unfortunately, narcissists are a sponge for love. People pleasing is a common behavior, but it can be especially difficult to break if you grew up with narcissistic parents. Narcissistic parents often have unrealistic expectations and demands, and they may use guilt, shame, or anger to get their way.

This can lead children to feel like they have to be perfect and to make everyone around them happy in order to avoid punishment or rejection. When you focus all your energy on taking care of others, you don’t leave much for yourself. Satisfying all their needs and wants to the point where you lose track of what you need or want. Always scared of failing to meet their expectations because you don’t want to deal with the emotional outburst. Even being afraid to set clear boundaries with people because you were never allowed to in your oppressive household.

The Anatomy of People Pleasing

In a world of expectations, I stand so small,
A chameleon blending, heeding every call.
My voice unheard, my needs unseen,
A people pleaser, a role I've been. 

I mold and I bend, like willow in the breeze,
My desires suppressed, my spirit ill at ease.
I strive for approval, for a smile, for a nod,
Seeking validation, a path I've always trod. 

Like a puppet on strings, I dance to their tune,
My authenticity hidden, lost in the gloom.
I yearn to break free, to shed this guise,
To embrace my true self, to open my eyes.

But fear holds me captive, a relentless tide,
Whispering doubts, where my dreams reside.
"What if they reject me, what if they turn away?"
The fear of rejection, a price I pay.

At it’s core, people pleasing is a trauma response called the fawn response. It is when an individual tries to avoid anger or distress by appeasing the threat. We all choose to make other people happy occasionally, but a people pleaser makes it an obligation rather than a choice. For them, people pleasing is a defense mechanism where the other individual is happy no matter how expensive it is to the people pleaser.

Typically the one trying to please others is more sensitive while the one being pleased is more emotionally volatile. It manifests in all areas of life. Parents will encourage their children to try to make friends with other kids bullying them. Countries have a diplomatic policy of giving resources to larger countries to avoid conflict. It is a short-term conflict avoidance tactic. The intention being to build a large enough bond with the aggressor that they eventually stop.

In the context between a victim and a narcissist, it’s a losing one. A narcissist at their core feels they are entitled to whatever they are given. The narcissist has tricked the victim into believing that their wants and needs do not matter, so they continue to people please at their own expense. The victim tries harder to please the narcissist, who does not improve and thus the behavior is reinforced. In fact, too much pleasing can improve the ego of the narcissist who will then raise the standards of their entitlement and demanding even more appeasement from the victim. In which case, their narcissism becomes even worse.

The Symptoms of People Pleasing: Why People Pleasing is Bad and People Walk All Over Them

People pleasers are usually kind and helpful, which makes them great targets for those who are willing to use and abuse them. Most people will notice your inability to say no. It can make you a mark. Self-sacrifice is not something you should be willing to do regularly. It causes you to neglect yourself which isn’t good for anyone. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

  • No, is not part of your verbal vocabulary. Because you weren’t allowed to say no in your home. Your parents decided it was their household and you couldn’t say no until you left. It’s alright to say no, because you are not required to do everything you are told.
  • You are so preoccupied with what other people might think. “Do you know how much you embarrassed me in front of company?” Or maybe you had to worry about what your parents were thinking so they wouldn’t harm you. In either case, what other people think is not something you can control.
  • You apologize excessively, even when it’s not your fault. Narcissists have trained you to believe that you’re responsible for everything, so you take blame for things beyond your control. For example, you apologize for the actions of others or what other people think about you. This is abnormal behavior.
  • You are intensely conflict avoidant. Even small comments of annoyance can make you feel uncomfortable. Not wanting to start conflict is normal behavior. Avoiding conflict at all costs means you will not be able to stand up for yourself, others, or the people you really believe in.
  • You invalidate your own feelings. You will refuse to admit when your feelings are hurt and can’t form authentic relationships because you give a superficial “I’m fine.” If you were fine, they would not have noticed a change. It is normal to feel angry, embarrassed, and other negative emotions.
  • You rely on external validation and praise as motivation. This is common for people who’s self worth has relied entirely on what their parents think of them. You may even want to earn people’s approval before you commit any action.
  • You become passive aggressive towards others. Being constantly taken advantage of by people can cause you to become generally resentful at others. This resentment can actually destroy the relationships with the people around you.
  • You use up your free time to help other people even when you’re burnt out. This is the most dangerous aspect of people pleasing. The world is going to move on with or without you, so if you waste too much time helping others you won’t have enough for yourself.
  • You afraid to speak your mind and pretend to agree with people. You are allowed to have opinions and your own version of what’s happened. Opinions are needed to focus on what we understand about the world.

The People Pleaser – Narcissist Relationship

You wouldnt worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Narcissists and people pleasers are often drawn to each other like magnets. Narcissists are preoccupied with their own needs and desires, while people pleasers are preoccupied with the needs and desires of others. Especially since children who grow up under narcissistic households can be come intense people pleasers. It is an incredibly destructive feedback loop because a narcissist will always want more of their needs met, an da people pleaser will go further and further to meet them. Eventually, both will have a terrible development because the narcissist will expect to always be served and the people pleaser will be come a complete doormat. A people pleaser needs to stay as far away from narcissists as possible.

The People Pleasing Recovery Process: How to Stop People Pleasing

Yet deep within my soul, a spark ignites,
A flicker of hope, a beacon of light.
I'm worthy of love, of acceptance, of grace,
To live my truth, to find my rightful place. 

So I'll start small, with whispers so soft,
Unleashing my voice, no matter how aloft.
I'll set boundaries firm, with kindness and care,
Protecting my spirit, a treasure I'll share. 

And as I emerge, shedding the people pleaser's skin,
I'll find my true essence, the beauty within.
No longer a chameleon, blending into the scene,
But a radiant being, a star that will gleam.

Kindness is not weakness, Your people-pleasing tendencies were a coping mechanism you developed to survive your narcissistic household. To start your healing journey, you need to forgive yourself for all the time you spent trying to please others. You don’t need to cut off your narcissistic family members completely, but you do need to set boundaries. This means finding a balance between your own needs and the needs of others, in a way that leaves you feeling empowered instead of drained. The first step is learning to say no.

Understand Choice: Why The Art of Saying No is Important

When you say yes to others, make sure you aren’t saying no to yourself.

Paulo Coelho

People who have not suffered narcissistic abuse don’t realize how hard it is to say “No.” Narcissists don’t accept no for an answer. They can’t imagine someone not doing what they want. In their eyes, saying no is a sign of disrespect or laziness. This is problematic because no is the foundation of healthy choices. We need to be able to say no to conserve our resources. I want you to realize that putting yourself first is not bad, wrong, selfish, nor evil. Despite what you have been taught, no is ok.

Choice is the foundation of free will. It is is the element that makes us human. It allows us the ability of self-preservation when we are allowed to say no. To get started, practice saying no to yourself in the mirror. It may seem like such a simple exercise, but sometimes we can’t even say no to ourselves. Now, imagine that person in the mirror is your parent. Say No. Say it again. Keep saying it, until there is no hesitation in your speaking. Once you a ready, start saying no to any request that does not benefit you. Think, “what do I have to gain?” If it’s nothing, your default should be no. Take care of yourself first.

When to Say No.

  • Whenever you feel uncomfortable. Just recognize that you feel negative and say no and walk away.
  • When you’re burnt out. Whenever you just need some time to think and reflect on your thoughts
  • When someone starts raising their tone of voice at you. It is not that serious most of the time.

Understanding the Difference Between a Healthy and Unhealthy Relationship

A relationship is a bond. A union between two or more entities. There are different types of relationships but the ones you want to focus on are the parasitic relationship and the symbiotic one. A parasitic relationship is where one entity takes from another without giving the same amount in return. A symbiotic relationship is where both entities give us much as they receive. People pleasing is a parasitic relationship. It’s too focused on what the other person wants. Stop thinking about what they want first, and think about what you want. It can be hard when your parent has told you what you want doesn’t matter, but it does.

Remember, the bonds we choose are more important than the bonds we are born with or given. Choice and free will are paramount to creating a relationship where both people are happy and creating something greater than the whole. You don’t need to give up being kind and helpful, you just need to be kind on your own terms. The best way to learn how to do that, is learning how to establish boundaries.

Identifying Your Desires and Priorities

Narcissistic abuse can make it difficult to identify your desires and priorities. This is because narcissists often try to control what you think, feel, and do. They may belittle your desires, make you feel guilty for wanting things, or even punish you for expressing your needs. As a result of this abuse, you may have lost touch with what you truly want and need. You may also have internalized the narcissist’s messages that you are not deserving of happiness or success.

The first step in identifying your desires and priorities is to start listening to yourself. Pay attention to what you feel drawn to, what makes you happy, and what gives your life meaning. Don’t be afraid to explore different possibilities and try new things. It is also important to be honest with yourself about your needs. What do you need to be happy and healthy? What do you need to feel fulfilled? Once you know what you need, you can start to set boundaries and create a life that supports your well-being.

Here are some tips for identifying your desires and priorities:

  • Spend time alone. This will give you the space to reflect on your thoughts and feelings without any distractions. Embrace the solitude and allow yourself the freedom to decompress and recharge. Unplug from the constant stimulation of technology and social interactions.
  • Ask yourself questions. What are my values? What are my goals? What makes me happy? What do I need to be healthy and well-balanced? Questions are great because they give us a challenge to find our own answers. Every dream starts with a question about you.
  • Pay attention to your body. What physical sensations do you experience when you are doing something you enjoy? What sensations do you experience when you are doing something you don’t enjoy?
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings. This can help you to process what you are going through and gain clarity on your desires and priorities.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or therapist. They can offer support and guidance as you explore your needs and wants.

Remember, it is never too late to start living a life that is true to you. You deserve to be happy and fulfilled.

Establishing Boundaries: The Technique for Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Learning how to establish boundaries with others is the most important skill that will last you a lifetime. It’s about changing the way you respond to other people’s behaviors in interpersonal situations rather than expecting or trying to control other people’s behavior. You should establish boundaries whenever you feel deeply uncomfortable doing something. This can occur in every day interactions with other people, or even in deep personal requests. Once you master boundaries, most people will respect you more and learn not to push them. It will allow you to navigate challenges even in unequal power events.

In relation to narcissists, they love to push or violate boundaries because they are trying to get you to give up. Boundaries are a from of emotional and mental blockade that prevents them from stealing your energy. You will have to ignore their complaints and weather the storm until they give up and realize they can’t force you to do something. If at risk of physical abuse, you may have to escape to a safe place when you are threatened.


Your share a phone plan with your mother who is constantly late on the bill. She gives excuse after excuse as to why she can’t pay it on time until she just stops paying it, and expects you to take on the financial burden. You decide to establish a boundary. She pays it on the specified date or you suspend the line as you have control of the account. The date is passed, and you suspend it the next day. You should expect gaslighting, the blame game, and an attempt to make you feel guilty. Remind yourself, she is not entitled to a line of communication, she has to pay her bills. Then, remind her that she must pay her bills and the phone will not be restored on until she decides to pay it. When she pays it, restore the line.

Don’t Let Your Explanations of their Behavior Become Excuses

It’s important to be able to see things from other people’s perspectives. This can help us to understand why they behave the way they do. However, it’s important to be careful not to let our explanations of their behavior become excuses for their behavior. When we make excuses for someone’s behavior, we are essentially saying that their behavior is okay. We are saying that they don’t need to change because their behavior is justified. If we want to see change in someone’s behavior, we need to be clear about what is and is not acceptable. We need to hold them accountable for their actions, even if we understand why they behave the way they do.

  • Identify the harmful behavior. What exactly is the person doing that is causing you problems?
  • Explain the impact of their behavior. How is their behavior affecting you?
  • Set clear boundaries. What behavior will you no longer tolerate?
  • Enforce your boundaries. If the person crosses your boundaries, follow through with the consequences that you have set.

Healing Trauma, Leaving the Past Behind.

Trauma is a deeply personal experience that can have a lasting impact on our lives. It can leave us feeling numb, disconnected, and afraid. It can also make it difficult to trust others and to enjoy life. But healing from trauma is possible. It takes time, effort, and support, but it is possible to leave the past behind and move forward with our lives. Forgive yourself. It’s important to forgive yourself for any mistakes you made in the past. This doesn’t mean that you have to condone what happened, but it does mean letting go of the guilt and shame.

Closing Thoughts: A Short Review and Moving Forward

People pleasing is the biggest obstacle to your pursuit of happiness. It’s like pouring from an empty cup. Every time you stop to help someone else with their progress, you sacrifice your own. Learn how to say no, establish boundaries, and remind yourself that you can’t please everyone. You’re not to blame if you were abused into people-pleasing, but it’s your responsibility to overcome it. Choose to help others out of love, not obligation, and watch your life improve.

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