People-pleasing is a standard behaviour in which an individual prioritizes the needs and desires of others over their own. While it can be helpful in certain situations, it can also be detrimental to one's mental health and well-being. The causes and effects of people-pleasing are complex and multifaceted, and in this article, we will explore the psychological factors that contribute to this behaviour. 
 

Causes of People-Pleasing   

There are several potential causes of people-pleasing behaviour. 
 
One of the most common causes is a desire for approval and validation from others. Individuals who engage in people-pleasing behaviour often feel they are not good enough or worthy of love and acceptance, so they strive to please others to gain these things. They may also fear rejection and criticism, so they avoid confrontation or disagreement to maintain positive relationships with others. 
 
Another potential cause of people-pleasing behaviour is a lack of assertiveness skills. Individuals who struggle to assert themselves and communicate their needs effectively may resort to people-pleasing to avoid conflict or to get their needs met indirectly. They may also tend to avoid making decisions or taking responsibility for their own lives, so they look to others for guidance or direction. 
 
Childhood experiences can also play a role in the development of people-pleasing behaviour. Individuals who grew up in households where they were constantly criticized or made to feel inadequate may have learned to prioritize the needs of others to avoid further criticism or punishment. They may have also learned that their needs and desires were unimportant or that expressing them would lead to negative consequences. 
 

Social Comparison 

 
 
One key aspect of people-pleasing behaviour is the concept of social comparison. Individuals who engage in people-pleasing behaviour often compare themselves to others and strive to meet the expectations and standards of those around them. This can be a powerful motivator for people-pleasers, as they may feel that their own value and worth are tied to how well they can meet these expectations. 
 
Research has shown that social comparison can positively and negatively affect an individual's self-esteem and well-being. When individuals engage in upward social comparison or compare themselves to those they perceive to be better off than themselves, it can lead to feelings of inferiority and self-doubt. On the other hand, when individuals engage in downward social comparison or compare themselves to those they perceive to be worse off than themselves, it can lead to feelings of superiority and overconfidence. 
 
People-pleasers may engage in both upward and downward social comparison. They may compare themselves to those they perceive to be more successful or accomplished, leading to feelings of inadequacy and a desire to please others to gain approval and validation. Alternatively, they may compare themselves to those they perceive to be less successful or accomplished, leading to feelings of superiority and a desire to help or rescue others. 

Attachment Theory 

 
Attachment theory is another psychological concept that can help explain the causes of people-pleasing behaviour. Attachment theory proposes that the quality of early relationships between an infant and their primary caregiver can profoundly impact the individual's social and emotional development throughout their life. 
 
Individuals with insecure attachment styles may be more likely to engage in people-pleasing behaviour to seek validation and acceptance from others. They may have learned to prioritize the needs of others over their own to maintain relationships and avoid abandonment. This can lead to anxiety or fear when expressing their own needs or desires, as they may worry that doing so will lead to rejection or disapproval. 
 

There are three main attachment styles: 

 
Secure Attachment Style: 
 
Individuals with a secure attachment style have a positive view of themselves and others. They are comfortable with intimacy and can seek and provide support from their partners. They are confident that their partners will be available to them when needed, and they trust that their needs will be met. 
 
Securely attached individuals tend to have positive childhood experiences with their primary caregivers, in which they receive consistent and responsive care. They learned to trust that their needs would be met and that their caregivers would be available to them. This positive early experience translates into a sense of security and confidence in their adult relationships. 
 
Anxious-Ambivalent Attachment Style: 
 
Individuals with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style have a negative view of themselves and a positive view of others. They are preoccupied with their relationships and often worry about being abandoned or rejected by their partners. They may cling to their partners, seeking reassurance and validation, but may also push them away due to their fears of rejection. 
 
Anxious-ambivalent individuals often have inconsistent childhood experiences with their primary caregivers. They may have experienced unstable or unpredictable care, in which their caregivers were sometimes responsive and sometimes not. This inconsistency led to anxiety and insecurity, as they were never sure when they would receive the care and attention they needed. 
 
 
Avoidant Attachment Style 
 
Individuals with an avoidant attachment style have a negative view of both themselves and others. They are uncomfortable with intimacy and may avoid or minimize the importance of their relationships. They may view emotional attachment as a weakness and may struggle to express their own emotions or respond to the emotions of others. 
 
Avoidantly attached individuals often have experiences of neglect or rejection in their early relationships with their primary caregivers. They may have learned to suppress their emotions and needs to avoid rejection or criticism. This early experience of emotional neglect can lead to a fear of emotional intimacy in their adult relationships. 

Impact of Attachment Styles on People-Pleasing Behaviour 

 
Attachment styles can significantly impact an individual's tendency to engage in people-pleasing behaviour. Individuals with an anxious-ambivalent attachment style may be more likely to engage in people-pleasing conduct to seek validation and acceptance from others. They may have learned to prioritize the needs of others over their own in order to maintain relationships and avoid abandonment. This can lead to a sense of anxiety or fear when it comes to expressing their own needs or desires, as they may worry that doing so will lead to rejection or disapproval. 
 
Individuals with an avoidant attachment style may also engage in people-pleasing behaviour to avoid emotional intimacy. They may prioritize the needs of others over their own to maintain distance and avoid emotional connection. They may also struggle to express their own needs or respond to the needs of others, leading to a lack of emotional intimacy and connection in their relationships. 
 
On the other hand, individuals with a secure attachment style are less likely to engage in people-pleasing behaviour. They have a positive view of themselves and their relationships, and they can seek and provide support in a healthy and balanced way. They are confident in their ability to express their own needs and respond to the needs of others, which leads to a sense of emotional security and fulfilment in their relationships. 
 
 
Our upbringing has and impact in our behaviour, but without a doubt we all have the ability to change, improve and thrive. If you want to know how, do not hesitate to book your free breakthrough consultation. 
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