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Why is Giving Up People Pleasing So Difficult?

The thought of giving up “being the nice guy” can be so overwhelming and paralyzing that we put our heads in the sand.

This question fascinates me because I have observed over many years many journeys where people struggle with this task (myself included.) Let’s take a look at some of my speculations and see what your thoughts might be on why this is so challenging.

Our History and Teachings

For women, it is easy to look back at the history we are and see that we have had to work hard for our rights. We have been considered an extension of our marital partners, the gender to be educated last in some cultures, the gender to serve, the gender to be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen for starters.

Let me be clear: I am not opposed to service, kindness, and taking care of our neighbors; I just believe we need to “put our oxygen mask on first” to help others.-ANNE BROWNIf we take that to an even more detrimental level, we have been considered the “property” of men, which in many cases includes physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. There are many places in the world where this is still the case (and why, in my mind, we need to appreciate how far we have come as a gender and stop this people pleasing). We have a responsibility to carry the light, since we live in a country where we are supposed to have a voice and rights. If we cannot stop this behavior, when our environment allows and supports us to find our voice and claim our rights, how can women in cultures where they are still “property” ever find their way (and yet they are)?

Men are people pleasers as well and this phenomenon can happen in many ways. Many of our religious teachings influence people, regardless of gender. Let me be clear: I am not opposed to service, kindness, and taking care of our neighbors; I just believe we need to “put our oxygen mask on first” to help others. Dysfunctional family life with illness, addictions and other challenges can lead both men and women to become people pleasers.

It Works (We Think)!

When we train our body to say only nice things and hear only nice things, we think “well this is working; everyone likes me and everyone thinks I like them.” When we bring people pleasing into the work situationFree Web Content, everyone loves us because they can pile things on our to-do list and we won’t complain.


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Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN CS of Sausalito, California, formerly from Aspen, Colorado is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. For over twenty years she served as the trusted advocate and advisor to Influential Corporate leaders, Trial Attorneys, Athletes, Leaders, Physicians and their families whose connections extended far beyond Aspen, Colorado.

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Twitter: @scienceofno

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