Content Reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands

It is common to believe that being kind to others is virtuous and desirable. Technically, this is not a bad thing to desire. Being kind and helping others in itself is not harmful. However, such an explanation can serve as a justification for people-pleasing behaviors.

This type of behavior is especially common in those that suffer from addiction. By putting others’ needs first, many people with substance use disorders put themselves and their own health last. When people hide their own needs to cater to the desires of others, it can be difficult for them to find their voice, set appropriate boundaries, and get the help they need.

People-pleasing is real and can hurt you.

When engaging in people-pleasing behaviors, you may find yourself caring for others in a way that sacrifices your well-being in some way. People-pleasing often involves putting another’s needs before your own. Such behaviors can include the following:

  • Not telling others when things they do hurt or bother you.
  • Spending all your free time with or for other people.
  • Engaging in activities that others enjoy, but you do not.
  • Constantly “taking care” of others while neglecting to take care of yourself.
  • Being unable to identify your own needs because you are always thinking of the needs of others.
  • Trying to “keep the peace” among others around you

There are consequences for people-pleasing.

Engaging in behaviors such as these can cause significant issues if left unrecognized and neglected. Such behaviors are dangerous to your sense of self. By constantly relating your identity to others, you become dependent on others for your sense of well-being, thus creating a co-dependent dynamic. Depending on others for your sense of self-confidence and overall meaning in life can cause issues when you find yourself unable to be around them or please them. If these individuals are upset with you, it may crush your sense of self, leaving you unable to feel good about yourself. Situations like these are concerning for your well-being, especially if you are in addiction recovery.

People-pleasing is a learned behavior.

If you have a pattern of people-pleasing and are in addiction recovery, it is imperative to begin changing these behaviors. However, it may be very difficult to change these harmful behaviors due to outside influences. For example, you may have seen people in your childhood household engage in these same people-pleasing behaviors for various reasons. Whether you knew it or not, these individuals were teaching you how to interact with others and gain self-confidence through the affirmation of others.

Society, in general, may have also taught you to adopt people-pleasing behaviors. For example, you may see mothers self-sacrificing to care for their children and partner in movies or television shows. Constant exposure to these types of scenarios (whether real or fictional) can reinforce the idea that for you to have meaning and be loved by others, you need to always put others’ needs before yourself.

It works best when you remain focused on yourself.

While in addiction recovery, these behaviors can significantly damage your progress. If you begin sacrificing your needs in recovery for the needs of others, it severely increases the chances of falling back into old, destructive behaviors. Therefore, it is essential to begin shifting your focus from others to the needs of yourself to avoid this scenario.

To begin doing so, you must learn to be in tune with your body, thoughts, and emotions. Although this level of self-awareness may be difficult to attain at first, practicing mindfulness activities can make this process easier. Engaging in activities such as meditation, journaling, and deep breathing can help you begin to be more conscious of your thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Learn to establish healthy boundaries.

Once you are more aware of your needs, it is vital to establish boundaries with your loved ones. While boundaries may seem mean or selfish, they are actually the opposite. Boundaries allow you to have healthy, loving relationships with those around you in a way that allows everyone to be able to love one another even better than before. When you enter a relationship as yourself rather than being a version of yourself that constantly tries to please others, you can take comfort in the fact that you are truly loved by those around you for who you indeed are.

To establish boundaries, begin by considering what your daily needs are. Maybe you are more introverted and need a significant amount of alone time away from your loved ones each day. This may require that you schedule times each day to get some time completely alone. Perhaps there are times when you cannot be emotionally available for your loved ones. In this case, it is crucial to establish the boundary that your loved ones cannot come to you with their emotional troubles for the time being.

Although uncomfortable at first, learning to create and adhere to boundaries with loved ones can make healthier and happier relationship dynamics for all.

While people-pleasing may seem like a positive attribute at first, in reality, it is particularly harmful to your sense of self. If you are in addiction recovery, it is vital to learn how to change your potential people-pleasing habits. However, this process may be easier said than done due to external influences such as household dynamics and societal messages. Despite these potential hardships, it is possible to change these habits through self-awareness and establishing boundaries with loved ones. Sometimes this process requires the help and support of trained professionals, which is why those here at Pinelands Recovery of Medford are prepared to assist you. We can ensure that you will gain the tools you need to develop healthier habits through our diverse programs. Whether through motivational interviewing, family behavior therapy, or other modalities, we can help you achieve your goals in recovery. Please don’t hesitate, call us today at (877) 557-5372.