People Pleasing is the Opposite of Real Love

People Pleasing is the Opposite of Real Love

Ever say “yes” when you want to say “no”? Do you try to masquerade as a perfect example to others? What about going along to get along, or being careful not to upset the apple cart?

If so, how disconnected do you feel from who you truly are?

People pleasing is the opposite of real love because it’s not genuine. It’s a strategy. And it doesn’t give you what you want.

What is People Pleasing?

It’s doing something for others in order to gain something for yourself (attention, points, acceptance, love) or to avoid losing something/someone. It’s a form of manipulation, coming from a place of fear instead of love.

People pleasing is inauthentic because your actions are not aligned with your true feelings. When you are emotionally disconnected from what drives your behavior, you live in a state of anxiety. Everything feels like a push/pull. Anger and resentment are constant companions, and you deplete yourself. Fun, huh?

People Pleasing as a Form of Control

People pleasing is tricky because you think you’re being a giver, but really it’s a form of manipulation. Yep, manipulation because you’re trying to get something in return. You’re attached to (and trying to control) the outcome. And you may not even know you’re doing it!

This is what it looks like:

  • If I do this for you, I expect you to like me (or love me) in return
  • I will give in and do what you want because I need to keep the peace (even though I will resent you)
  • I’ll do nice things for you, then keep score and use it against you one day
  • I will do favors so you like and appreciate me more
  • If I don’t sacrifice myself for others, I’ll be thought of as selfish or a jerk
  • I’ll say “yes” to something I don’t want to do because it’s easier than expressing how I really feel

How People Pleasing is Different From Real Love

Control has no place in a loving relationship. It’s also a false perception because we can never control the feelings of others, even though we try tirelessly to do it. If we really saw ourselves through the eyes of others, it would be a mixed bag. No one is perfect.

So… do you become a chameleon in an attempt to control someone’s perception of you? You can certainly try, but since controlling how someone feels about you doesn’t work, it’s not very effective. It’s a prison of limitation you create by not being true to yourself.

People pleasing is a huge effort with no pay off. Instead, it leaves you feeling frustrated and resentful. Real love requires authenticity and generosity with no strings attached. Any time you need something in return, it is not truly giving; it is manipulation. One of my people-pleasing techniques was baking cookies.

When embodying real love, you find trust in yourself that life will provide what you need. It ceases to be a dance of control and manipulation. Real love experienced through self-acceptance creates the foundation for you to show up with others as yourself, not a chameleon.

How to Stop People Pleasing

The next time you do something that feels inauthentic, catch yourself and ask why. Maybe you say “yes” to something you want to say “no” to, or you wash the dishes to avoid confrontation with your partner, or you call a family member you don’t want to talk to because you don’t want them to be mad at you. You can tell it’s inauthentic because there are strings attached. You’re not coming from a place of love and generosity.

It’s less about the action itself and more about WHY you’re doing it. Your actions should be in alignment with your feelings, so if you’re going against those feelings, get curious. Dig into your motivation and ask yourself why you’re doing it. Be brutally honest and state it out loud. It may come out wonky or abrupt, but do this often and you’ll get into your deeper truth.

Once you understand why, you can re-evaluate your actions and decide how to move forward. For more on this topic, check out the below podcast:

How do you people please? Share in the comments!

(This is an updated version of the original post published 8/10/15)


  1. Sam on May 16, 2019 at 1:01 am

    this is a very interesting article as “people pleasing” has so many facets. Have never really heard it described as manipulation or control before.
    Certainly I never thought you could be too nice to someone. Perhaps some peoples true self is being kind and selflesss. I remember once being accused of being guilty and suspicious after a random act of kindness, took me many years to understand the reason behind this outrageous accusation. Thanks for the new perspective on People pleasing

  2. Lori Nielsen on September 27, 2020 at 11:36 am

    Yikes, yes, yes, yes. I’m learning.

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