Being a people-pleaser may be more than a personality trait: it could be a response to trauma.
We each experience trauma —an emotional and physical response to an overwhelming event— in our own way.
When faced with a situation that feels shocking, scary, or dangerous, our brains activate our coping mechanisms to help us deal with what has been perceived as threat.
🧠 Some people become angry or aggressive (fight response), some avoid or run away from the situation (flight response), and others shut down or dissociate (freeze response).
👉🏻 A fourth, less discussed, response to trauma is called the ‘fawning’ response, linked to people-pleasing behaviors. It is a coping mechanism closely associated with overly-appeasing conducts and cycles of codependency, to avoid conflict, pacify their abusers, and create a sense of safety.
The term was first coined by therapist and survivor Pete Walker. According to Walker, people-pleasing can be a coping mechanism developed in response to childhood trauma, relational trauma, and complex trauma: by pleasing others, those who have experienced trauma may feel safer and less likely to be the target of abuse or neglect. However, this behavior can become maladaptive and develop negative consequences in adulthood.
As you read these lines, you can ask yourself:
✨ When was the last time I did something for me, because I wanted to, not because I merged my wishes with the wishes, needs, and demands of someone else?
✨ To what lengths will I go to avoid conflict?
✨ Do I feel shame or guilt when I think of saying no?
✨ Do I think I’m worthy only of conditional love?
🌈 This is your life. It is your gift. You can choose to do with it as you please –you can release the guilt, it is alright to choose yourself first.
Yes, you can!
~ L, 🌷.