Why Being a People Pleaser is Selfish

Disclaimer: If you can relate to any of these signs, please do not take this feedback as an attack on your character. This article was meant to be a self-improvement guide for those of you who have been feeling a little stuck.

Do you pretend to agree with your friend’s opinion just because you want to be liked? Do you always say “Yes” to everything because you don’t want to upset other people? Do you measure your self-worth by how well others view you? If you find that you can relate to the above questions, you might be a people-pleaser.  

Of course, we humans crave acceptance and likeability; however, what if your people-pleasing tendency is so strong that you sacrifice your own needs and wants to be liked? You may believe that trying to please people makes you a good person and that it’s a sign of generosity. But… “nope”. Trying to please people is selfish. Are you curious to know why? Let’s delve into them together: 

  1. It depletes your time and energy 

Have you always spent most of your time and energy obsessing about what other people think of you? Perhaps your mind is always concocting strategies to fit in and not upset other people.  If you are constantly feeling depleted and agitated, you may unconsciously pass on this agitation and resentment to others. What if you could get back half of the time and effort you spend trying to make others like you? As opposed to using them as a way to avoid sharing what you really want for fear of upsetting people, refocus your time and energy on being of service without attachment or expectation.

  1. It’s about making yourself feel better rather than a genuine act of service 

What goes through your head when you withhold from expressing your true opinion and switch it into something you presumed someone would like to hear? Perhaps you behave in this chameleon-like way because you fear rejection and potential conflict. It is not out of a genuine desire to help someone that you try to please others, but rather to make yourself feel better and boost your self-esteem. You turn to others to make you feel better about yourself instead of taking responsibility for building up your self-worth.

  1. You look for approval and validation from others 

Do you often worry about being dismissed or disapproved by others? Do you always want assurance that you matter to the people around you? Indeed, it is normal to want to feel that you matter to your loved ones, but it is an entirely different thing if you want to be recognised and accepted by everyone. Requiring external validation stems from your own insecurities. You need to realise that it is difficult to expect people to approve of your choices and actions. What they are thinking about you is out of your control. 

  1. You start from a place of emptiness 

When you want to help people, are you already filled with positive feelings about yourself? Or, do you do it from a place of emptiness, hoping to be filled, rather than out of the intention to share good feelings with the world? Perhaps there is a hole inside you that makes you feel like you don’t belong. Therefore, you start to bend yourself into Pretzel knots, saying things that you know are accepted by others because you want to feel a sense of belonging.

  1. You take away the personal agency of others 

Do you find yourself always doing everything for everyone? You are so busy helping everyone, that you take away the personal agency of others. Think about it in this way; not everyone likes it if you help them at the expense of your own needs and wants. Most of them want to do what is needed for themselves. They don’t want you to be responsible for their feelings, thoughts, and actions. 

Final thoughts 

Stop worrying about what others will think of you. Self-honour is a better path than people-pleasing. Find that middle ground between meeting other people’s needs and meeting your own needs. If you are struggling to let go of people-pleasing habits, do seek professional help so that you can reach your greatest potential and gain the confidence to live authentically, rather than pleasing other people. 


Morin, A. (2017). 10 signs you’re a people-pleaser. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201708/10-signs-youre-people-pleaser?msclkid=b7a51593d0fc11ecb43653d6616715f4

Martin, S. (2020, January 24). The need to please: The psychology of people-pleasing. Psych Central. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/imperfect/2020/01/the-need-to-please-the-psychology-of-people-pleasing?msclkid=08e18eb2d10311ec88245c29cb84e692#Find-the-middle-ground

Psychology Today. (n.d.). People-pleasing. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/people-pleasing?msclkid=08e001a9d10311ec931e2a87354e88bb

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