Note: The following is a rambling based on life experiences, and is in no way intended to necessarily reflect professional medical opinions.
“People pleasing” is what so many people do, but few either recognize the fact … or admit to it. “People pleasing” will have a negative connotation for those who have had any exposure to our “inner workings”, and a common response to a “people pleaser” is simply “You can never please everybody, so why even try?” The point being that if you want people to be accepting of you, then you can only be partially successful!
The negativity is based around the displayed need for acceptance (“people pleasing”), and the perspective is that we should be secure enough in ourselves, such that we do not need the acceptance/approval of others. This makes sense to me, in that if we are continually adapting to other people’s expectations (at least as we perceive them), then we are in danger of losing touch with our “real” self. Somebody once said – ” Live a lie long enough and you will eventually believe it!” , but is it really that simple?
We are generally a naturally social species (there are exceptions of course), and so acceptance by others is a logical expectation. If we want to be accepted by others, then surely we must be prepared to adapt. If we behave in a certain manner; expand some aspect of our personality to match/compliment that of another … is it simply being sociable … or “people pleasing”?
Like so much of life, at least as I have experienced it, the key is a sense of balance. I will not relinquish my likes/dislikes etc in order to socialize with you. I will, however, make what I consider to be reasonable compromises, and this is simply acknowledging that “you” are different from “me” and so adjustments have to be made.
If I lived a totally self focused life, then I would either have no friends or, more likely, would have friends of a similar character. If I lived in total “people pleasing” mode, then I would probably accumulate a very large social circle, many of whom would also be “people pleasing”, resulting in the question “Which ones are genuine?” and “Would any of them be around for me if my circumstances changed?” I totally accept that “people pleasing” is not a good thing, but compromising ones perspectives in order to enjoy the company of others should surely be a natural position to take.
The apparent contradiction reminds me of the saying (in England) of “Two many cooks spoil the broth”, which is in direct conflict with “Many hands make light work.” You cannot have it both ways!
The answer is surely balance. It is quite acceptable to “bend” to another person’s circumstances, but it becomes a problem when your life seems to be totally dedicated to “bending”. Just thinking!