People pleasing, co-dependency or rescuing – it goes by different names but generally it refers to behaviour where we consistently suppress our own needs rather than risk disappointing others.
This seems to come up a lot for women in particular (no surprise there!) and often presents with a lot of fatigue and stress-like symptoms, where clients have described to me that they feel burned out and overwhelmed.
What does it look like?
These are nice people, they help others and can be relied upon – the problem is, it is often at the expense of their own health and often, they are quite out of touch with their own needs.
Like anything, this behaviour can only go so far. Unfortunately it can often lead to depression and/or anxiety if it runs particularly long, so it is a good idea to understand it a bit more if any of this is resonating with you.
Why do people do it?
People do this type of behaviour for a variety of reasons. Often, it’s a self-worth issue – it feels good to be needed so the person likes that. This isn’t a bad thing in moderation but can lead to issues when the person has a hard time saying no, and continually overcommits themselves.
The person may have been raised by overly critical parents instead of a home where attention and approval was given, so they learned the behaviour as a coping mechanism to try to alleviate stress.
Or, they may have been a ‘parentified child’ where they were supporting an adult emotionally when they were still a child themselves.
It can also be fear of confrontation, or fear of being abandoned in a relationship.
It is also often the dynamic operating in relationships where people find themselves with someone with addiction issues.
What are the signs?
Sometimes the person themselves does not realise they are trapped in this behaviour until they become unwell. Here are some common clues that give it away:
- Feeling responsible for how others feel
- Feeling very uncomfortable if someone is angry with you
- Feeling burdened by the amount of things you have to do
- Going to great lengths to avoid conflict
- An inability to say no
- Your mood is dependant on your partner’s behaviour or actions
- Preoccupation with your partner’s behaviour/well-being
The good news is that even if this has been in your life for quite some time, it is possible to learn some techniques to manage it better, and even break free from it. Clients often express experiencing a great deal of release when they allow themselves to step away from this exhausting, unfulfilling behaviour.