2 MIN READ | Positive Psychology

People-Pleasing: The Trojan Horse of Social Anxiety

Laura Donaghy-Spargo

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Laura Donaghy-Spargo, (2016, October 10). People-Pleasing: The Trojan Horse of Social Anxiety. Psychreg on Positive Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/people-pleasing/
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People pleasing is a huge indicator of social anxiety and negatively affects many of the people I work with as a Thrive Programme Consultant.

Social anxiety is often mistaken as being only about extreme shyness; this is a massive overgeneralisation.

While many people with social anxiety do feel very shy and nervous around others, avoiding social interactions, there are just as many socially anxious people who seek out approval from others through their interactions, by being excessively complimentary, overly generous or consistently trying to say and do the right thing. This type of social anxiety may be less apparent, but these people are putting themselves under just as much pressure.  

Remember, social anxiety is about fearing being judged or evaluated by other people and therefore requiring external validation. For some, a way around this is avoidance; for others, it’s people-pleasing.

Here are some ways to avoid the emotionally-draining habit of people-pleasing, in order to achieve a happier and more authentic life.

Give your opinion, even if others may disagree with you

If you have social anxiety, as well as refraining from sharing your true opinions, you may actually say the opposite of what you feel in order to keep another happy. At this point, your self-esteem plummets. How could it not plummet when you’re reinforcing the idea that another person’s opinion should be valued above your own? Give your honest opinion without guilt.

Don’t try to buy people’s affections

Everybody loves gifts, so spending lots of money on people seems like a sure fire way to get them to like you, but real friends will care about you anyway, and their affections will never need to be bought. You may well have genuine reasons to shell out on someone, but make sure that you’re not doing so for people-pleasing purposes.

Say ‘no’ without feeling guilty

If you have social anxiety then you will find it very difficult to say ‘no’ to other people. You may often put your people-pleasing ahead of your own happiness, which will also lower your self-esteem since you are telling yourself that you come second. Some socially anxious clients I work with say “yes” to other people when they really mean ‘no’ and then have to undo it later, so the trick is to answer honestly first time around.

Care less about what others think of you

If you live your life needing validation from other people, then any indication that someone dislikes you, is annoyed by you or disapproves of a decision you have made could feel devastating. It’s vital to remember that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. If this is built on solid foundations, people’s fluctuating responses and reactions to you will be like gentle breezes against ancient structures. You simply won’t feel them.

If you would like help to overcome people pleasing, other aspects of social anxiety, low self-esteem or personal challenges you are facing in your life, book a free consultation with me and we’ll discuss how the Thrive Programme can help you. I consult via Skype, helping people from around the UK and internationally.


Laura Donaghy-Spargo is a licensed Thrive Programme Consultant who works with clients from her office in the North East of England.

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