Everyday Struggle of a Notorious People Pleaser

people pleaser

Guest post by Joanna Rogowska:

I like to reward myself at the end of the week with a delicious meal with friends. It’s my weekly treat. I also like to check out new restaurants. So when my two good friends Lucy and Jane suggested meeting in our favorite burger place, I proposed a new Japanese restaurant instead. I had heard good things about the food and what caught my interest was their new interactive ordering system with overhead projection technology.

I’d read that each table in the restaurant was equipped with a built-in tablet. You could select your virtual tablecloth, explore the menu, project a picture of the meal onto your table, and of course, also order your food. I love new technological gadgets!

When we arrived, I fell in love with this place straight away – beautiful and authentic Japanese decor, lotus flowers, cherry blossoms, bamboo benches, and high-tech tables. A fantastic combination of traditional and modern Japan.

Lucy and I started ordering the meal, getting all excited about it. It was a really cool experience to be able to project the picture of each meal onto the plate in front of you. We played around with changing virtual table cloths, debating which one we were going to choose for our table. I realized that I was feeling something.

Playful, connected, excited, and happy.

As we were exploring the technological possibilities at our table, Jane suddenly called the waiter over and asked for a paper menu. “I really don’t know how to make this digital stuff work!” she told us. “It’s really not intuitive and annoying. I prefer a normal menu.”

Suddenly my pleasant feelings disappeared and a big sense of heaviness took their place. I suddenly felt overwhelmingly bad. I looked at Lucy and she seemed to continue enjoying looking through the menu and ordering her meal. But for me, as soon as Jane asked for a paper menu, I stopped enjoying the evening.

In the past, before learning how to master my emotions, I would have sat miserably throughout the rest of the meal feeling confused and simply “bad.” I would have let this ruin my evening. Now I knew better, and it was time to check in with my feelings to investigate what was going on. So I tuned in to my emotions.

Annoyed, Irritable.

Makes sense. I was looking forward to dinner today and suddenly I was not able to enjoy it. My intention was to relax and have a good time and now I was far from that, so I felt angry. But the big question was, why was I not enjoying the evening? I knew I had to dig deeper to find the right feelings.

Insecure, awkward, guilty, and ashamed.

As soon as I identified shame, I felt a sense of relief. It made so much sense for two reasons. First of all, I know I am a compulsive people pleaser. I tend to always put other people’s needs in front of my own. I cannot have a good time if I see that my friends are not enjoying themselves. So seeing Jane not enjoying the technology made me feel guilty for suggesting to go there.

But I knew there was more behind this feeling so I dug deeper. I had known that Jane was not a big fan of technology, yet I had still suggested this restaurant. How could I have been so inconsiderate? All I could think of was the fact that I was stupid because I couldn’t even pick the right restaurant for my friends…

Going through these feelings in my head brought me a sense of relief. I was feeling less and less overwhelmed and uncomfortable and beginning to feel some new feelings.

Clear, confident, and capable.

My feelings reminded me that the well-being of my friends was important to me. So I thanked my feelings for drawing my attention to the situation. I accepted my feelings and released them. I also accepted that my inner critic blew the situation slightly out of proportion, as things were actually going well. It was difficult to accept that, but it felt liberating to do so.

Finally, I reassured myself that Jane, having received her paper menu, was enjoying selecting her meal in a more traditional way and no one was thinking any less of me for choosing this location.

I once again felt what I had felt at the beginning of the evening.

Connected, joyful, and excited.

The dinner turned out to be fantastic. We had a great time and we were pleased with the new discovery we made and the food we ate.

How quickly I could have let my emotions take over and ruin my evening if I hadn’t paid attention to them and made the effort to understand them. That was a reminder to me once again of how important it is for me to observe myself and try to understand my feelings.

The author, Joanna Rogowska, is a researcher for  FeelingMagnets.com. Feeling Magnets are a helpful tool to get you more in touch with your emotions and learn how to use them.

To learn more about how to recognize, use, and express your emotions see the book, Running on Empty.


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Cecilly - February 23, 2022 Reply

I must have had this experience 1000 times! thank you!

Marj - February 22, 2022 Reply

Thank you so much for this story, I utterly relate to it since I’ m most of the time confused why I can’t enjoy moments that brings me happiness when I feel that the other person or some of my friends are not enjoying the moment or situation as much as I do. It’s so hard to tune in with my feelings particularly when I’m are currently in that moment, I more tend to beat myself up or nag myself for having that kind of feeling. Reading this article, encouraged me to try to practice tuning in to my emotions. Thank you and continue being a blessing to others.

Amy - February 21, 2022 Reply

This subject is very timely for me. I’m in the middle of figuring out how to break things off with my boyfriend. We’ve been together a long time (9 years), and have a 7 year old son together. I’m just not in love with him anymore, and I (finally) told him around Thanksgiving that I wasn’t happy. He’s now begging me to work on things, he’s on his best behavior now, but I’m feeling it’s too little too late. However, I’m having a really hard time being honest with him, for fear of hurting his feelings. I try to phrase things in the kindest way possible, but I fear it’s just making me sound vague and unsure. He knows something is wrong, because I say one thing, but act in another way. How can I get the courage to be honest and just tell him I don’t want to be with him anymore? I don’t want to hurt him but I can’t keep living like this.

lisa - February 21, 2022 Reply

Wow so powerful! Hope I can apply this next time Im stuck in such a situation. I’m a compulsive people pleaser by far and I could so imagine this scenario happening to me.
I pick up everyones emotions in the room in seconds, and my moods go up and down accordingly. It can be so difficlut living such a life. To everyone Im Mrs Nice but my insides are crying for tender love and care whilst I constantly please others and make sure others are happy and comfortable.

Ann Marie - December 28, 2020 Reply

I have noticed many people whom say they are people pleasers are truly not. For instance they may care more to please their friends but not their family. They may tend to please a familiar face such as someone behind a counter they frequent but is technically still a stranger versus someone they have a relationship with. They rarely apply the pleasing to every category of people in their life. Some are more concerned with how the outside world views them than the people they spend time with behind closed doors. So it’s more about perception and appearances than actual pleasing of the people in their close relationships. The rules and regulations they put on the people they are close to such as family, partners, significant others rarely apply to friends or familiar strangers, neighbors. But they go out of their way to please them. Have you ever encountered this?

    Jonice - December 29, 2020 Reply

    Hi Ann Marie, it seems you are talking about something different than I am in the article. People who manage appearances are not necessarily people pleasers at all. They are concerned with themselves, and hiding flaws and problems. People pleasers put other people’s needs before their own and have difficulty acknowledging and expressing and prioritizing their own needs. It’s not about appearances.

      Charlotte - February 21, 2022 Reply

      I too have read articles/watched videos about people pleasing being about controlling other’s perceptions of you which I relate to. Although I care for my friends and family’s best interests I don’t think I ‘people please’ with them, but I find it hard to say no or be assertive with people (especially people I’m not close to) because I’m worried about their perception. Would be great to see an article about that!

Brian - December 27, 2020 Reply

I thought that the story was very complex, but then I am not good at recognizing my feelings, when I feel ill at ease; I am unable to connect with the origin of my unpleasant feeling and so I do not see that the reason for my unpleasant feeling is rooted in my past experience. I tend to be a people pleaser also and I am reluctant to put my needs first or at least on an equal basis with others.

    Jonice - December 28, 2020 Reply

    Dear Brian, it’s time to start paying more attention to yourself. Especially your feelings and what makes you happy, sad, tired, hurt, angry, and every other feeling. You are after all responsible for pleasing yourself and caring for yourself first.

Elaine - February 22, 2016 Reply

Thanks so much for this, I can see my own patterns here. People pleasing, avoiding conflict, self blame..
I feel my kids have picked up on this now ( teenagers) and are making my life miserable. Trying to make everybody happy at great personal cost, feeling empty especially as toxic teenagers are progressively behaving in a way that I see as selfish, but who knows, maybe they ate healthier than me!

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