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Are we all people pleasers?

The meaning of the expression and some warnings

Are we all people pleasers? The meaning of the expression and some warnings

Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a hamburger without sauces and cheese. Once it arrives, you discover that mayonnaise and cheddar are indeed in your meal. What do you decide to do? If the answer is "this time I'll eat it as it is, no need to bother the waitress, the chef, and the whole kitchen" according to TikTok, you might be a people pleaser. But what does that mean? How do we know if we are one and if it's damaging us? As always, when it comes to mental health and related topics, diagnoses and definitions thrown into the wind on social media should be taken with a grain of salt. That's why we asked for an opinion from expert psychologists, who helped us see things more clearly and seek a more profound and complex approach.

What does people pleaser mean?

The phenomenon of people-pleasing was first investigated by social psychology in the 1970s and remains of interest to many researchers and industry professionals today. "Being a people pleaser means living trying to make the other person feel as comfortable as possible, often at the expense of our own well-being. This tendency to be with others can be due to many aspects, often traceable back to our family and the models we received while growing up," explains psychologist Francesca Picozzi.

Are we all people pleasers?

Let's not fool ourselves, we all want to please others. We love to give a good impression of ourselves and sometimes, to do so, we temporarily change our ways of acting or lie about our personal tastes. So, could it be true that we are all a little bit people pleasers, after all? Psychologist Gaia Cavalleri emphasizes the excessiveness: "A people pleaser is excessively available and accommodating with others to gain their approval. These individuals have real difficulties in saying no, in setting limits with others, in creating personal space for themselves, ending up accepting situations in which they wouldn't want to be or that they're not capable of satisfying and dealing with." From her words, we understand that it's wrong, therefore, to generalize and turn social behaviors, often superficial or natural, into a diagnosis. We need to delve deeper.

Is being a people pleaser dangerous?

These tendencies, in fact, are not necessarily problematic in themselves, but they become so when they occur consistently and pervasively and outline a recurring pattern. Picozzi confirms and reminds us that "there's no form of psychopathology that bears this name. Instead, we can say that it adheres more to the dimension of personality, which develops in adolescence and then consolidates in adulthood." How do we understand when this becomes pathological and what caused this pattern? Dr. Cavalleri is rather direct: "It's not possible to pinpoint a single cause that leads people to adopt certain attitudes. Among the possible factors, we have low self-esteem or the presence of disorders with an anxious matrix. In the long run, people who exhibit these attitudes increasingly set aside their own needs, feelings, and emotions just to please others. This could cause a great deal of stress, worsening anxiety, causing a sense of frustration, and a general negative impact on their lives."

@francescapicozzipsico Per voi chi è questo parente? #francescapicozzipsico #salutementale suono originale - Francesca Picozzi Psico

Beware of people pleasing (and superficial attitudes)

Dr. Picozzi invites us to reflect because if this way of being and living relationships compromises the balance of our daily lives - especially when it comes to establishing relationships with others in a serene way - the best and most useful thing to do is to understand the reason behind it. "As a psychologist, I can only warmly advise talking about it with a mental health professional" concludes the psychotherapist. People pleasing has been transformed by social networks, taking on the appearance of a meme or an ironic trend, which ignores the deep roots and the ways of resolving an attitude that, in the long run, can prove almost self-destructive. On one hand, this can contribute to expanding knowledge of the topic, but on the other, it can distance us from it, or worse, minimize it and mask its importance behind superficial jokes.