Childhood experiences can shape how we value others’ needs over our own, leading to challenges in setting personal boundaries. This often results in individuals prioritizing pleasing others at their own expense. In an episode of the Empowered Relationship podcast, Dr. Jessica Higgins dives more into this topic as she interviews our founder, Dr. Dana McNeil PsyD, LMFT who gave expert viewpoints on How To Repattern People-Pleasing Tendency.
According to Dr. McNeil, people-pleasing behaviors were developed during your childhood years:
Trying to get through childhood, it was the way that you figured, based on your black and white thinking and your limited understanding of how relationships impact each other. It’s a coping skill. Really, it’s like: “I’ve got to get through childhood. I can’t make my own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I can’t change my own diaper. I can’t drive myself to school. I need to make sure that I am not any kind of problem for anybody. I’m agreeable. You want to do things for me, you want to have me around. I must survive childhood.”
In most cases, individuals in a relationship are not often aware of their people-pleasing tendencies. With this, they don’t know (or fail to communicate) what they want to their partners. McNeil advises:
I want my clients, especially in couples, to figure out what it is that you need, not because the other person can even do it. That’s not even what this is about. It’s about asking for it so that you can hear yourself asking for your needs. It’s not whether or not somebody else can do it. It’s you allowing yourself to have them and to find a voice to articulate them, so that you’re more in contact with who you are and what’s important to you.
She also notes the value of setting boundaries for yourself, and talking it out with an expert:
Now you’re clear why you need to do it. What are they? What are your boundaries? That is some of the work that you get to figure out. Nobody can tell you. You can work that out with your therapist, I think that’s a really good option. Because your therapist is also going to help you understand where the pitfalls for you are, or the rabbit holes that you go down.
Listen to this insightful episode here.