Trying to make people happy makes you miserable

Image from The People-Pleaser’s Guide to Pleasing People.

As I have become more self-aware, I have realised that there is a part of me that is trying to make everyone else happy, all time, often at the expense of what I want or how I feel. I call this part of me the People Pleaser, and I’ve discovered that everyone has this aspect to them, to some extent, and that it can end up ruining your life.

It causes me to rush around, feeling tense, anxious and stressed. It makes me try to hide my real emotions, beliefs and desires in case they are not desirable. It feels horrible!

As always with mindfulness, the way to change it is to bring awareness to it. I hope this article will help you with that.

In my coaching, I often ask to speak to different parts of people to help them understand and accept their different selves.

Here is a combined transcript of speaking to two of my client’s People Pleasers:

I would like to speak to the People Pleaser. Who Am I speaking to?

The People Pleaser.

How does it feel to be you?

I’m often anxious, dissatisfied, frustrated. I feel pit-of-the-stomach nervousness. I feel I need to be on show, to perform, I feel light-headed, super alertness, fight or flight, tight in the chest, lots of nervous energy in the feet, adrenaline.

Every moment is a possible failure. I’m afraid of him not being enough.

I’m just there on a loop. I’m happy to be retired but he’s not willing to. He does receive a lot of approval, but it’s never enough. It’s an unsatisfying process because it’s an endless cycle.

It has successfully driven seeking happiness, career and life aspirations but involves constant movement, which is tiring and has no meaning to it. I’m so fixated on not failing that I get in the way of his success.

It can be a check to see if you’re being of service to others but if it came from love and compassion it might be more spontaneous and less anxious.

It means he’s less able to enjoy big career moments.

There’s always usually a low-level hum of checking about others approval. It dulls his ability to be effective. Slows him down. In work, everything’s tightly tied up with constant chatter that serves no purpose.

How do you try to help him?

I’m a part of him that’s existed for a long time, helping him feel better in his parental home, pleasing parents.

I protect him from other people’s anger, disapproval, disappointment or rejection — emotional pain.

I want more for him — to be as good as he can be and be recognised for it. I get him focused and motivated.

He is best when he’s relaxed and confident. I’m not sure whether I’m helping or hindering. Without me pushing and making him anxious he would be more relaxed and probably do better. He’d be less in his head and more his body, more responsive to the environment.

I wonder what the other drivers could be? It’s difficult to imagine.

Thank you, People Pleaser. I would now like to speak to the part that does not need to please people.


How does it feel to be you?

A very clear mind, no internal monologue, no wasting words.

I know I’m good enough. I’m independent, strong and powerful. I exist to do good for the self and the world. I’m grounded, centred, clear, deliberate, relaxed… no anxiety.

Without needing approval, he feared there would be lethargy, despondency and laziness. But I’m able to be myself, loving, compassionate, caring for the world. He can be very successful without needing approval. It’s not a dead end. It is a safe place from which to operate. I can be in the moment here.

What would his life be life if you were present more of the time?

With me he’s more effective, confident, faster, he can turn things out quickly, defend ideas articulately and he has an ultimate belief in himself. If I were in charge more, people would respond better to him and value what he has to say more.

If I was in charge more it would hugely improve his work life because he would be able to just do what he needed to do in the moment without checking with others if he was perceived to be doing something right. He would feel calm during the working day rather than anxious.

I’m the key to doing longer-term pieces of work because the block he feels about taking them on is the fear of failure. Big projects get postponed due to the high stakes. It’s my purpose to do the big things, it’s what I should be doing, the other stuff is more meaningless.

He’d be more productive and less busy, in the flow not the fluff.

What stops you being in charge more of the time?

He doesn’t allow me in. He’s afraid of looking arrogant. He has a fear that it will make other people feel less confident about themselves. But he’s not responsible for others’ feelings. Don’t be the People Pleaser. Don’t be afraid to be challenging — it has the opposite effect to what you imagine.

How can he live from this place more of the time?

By being kind to himself and forgive himself for not always being in this state. Anxiety and frustration about the people-pleasing is counterproductive. This place comes from self-love compassion and care.


Just bringing this part of the self out into the open can be enough to bring it more into balance.

Do you want help putting these ideas into practice?


You can listen to my meditations on InsightTimer.

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My work is all about love. Loving yourself, loving other people and loving the earth. I do that through writing, podcasting, coaching, running workshops.