Saturday, 3 Dec 2022

This is why people-pleasing rarely works, as told by a psychotherapist

An intriguing new post from Millennial Therapist Sara Kuburic explains why we shouldn’t seek approval – laying bare the cost that comes with perennial people pleasing. 

People-pleasing is a very easy habit to fall into in life, and it’s made all the more tricky by the fact that it’s often surprisingly hard to identify. 

If you’ve grown up always seeking to make the people around you happy, it could very well be a part of your personality that’s been conditioned from a very young age. You won’t necessarily realise that you’re steamrolling over your own time, needs or desires in a constant bid to keep the seas that you travel in calm. 

Typically, then, you’ll be caught in a cycle of people-pleasing because it’s second nature for you to keep the peace. But you’ll stay locked into the behaviour because of the perceived rewards, too; the rich trade-off that comes from being liked or approved of by the world at large. 

So, one clever way to escape the compulsion of people-pleasing is to flip the perspective and consciously look at what you’re losing by not staying true to yourself. It’s a simple act of self-reflection that was eloquently described by Yugoslavian-born Canadian psychotherapist Sarah Kuburic – aka the Millennial Therapist – this week, with a list that pithily summarises what seeking approval really looks like. 

Framed in the past tense (“I remember when I used to seek approval”), Kuburic cleverly demonstrates how we can move beyond an approval-seeking mindset. 

Her list – which reads like a shopping list for people-pleasing – is a reminder that we don’t have to rely on other people’s approval as a default setting.

We can, in fact, learn to register the ways in which this mentality takes us apart from ourselves; such as hiding elements of who we are or settling for less. And, in taking a step back to recognise these behaviours, we can start to assess whether they’re truly serving us or not. 

Thinking about approval-seeking in this way is helpful because it takes the focus away from other people and onto yourself. It shines a light on the cost you might be paying by saying ‘yes’, going along with things or repressing your own gut instincts. 

Yes, people-pleasing is a strategy that may reap rewards in the short term. It keeps everyone else satisfied and peaceful, with zero chance of conflict. But longer term, it can also be corrosive. Kuburic’s powerful post shows why, along with capturing the sense of freedom that comes from mindful detachment.

Images: Getty

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