Counseling for People Pleasers and Caregivers
Do You Put other people's needs first?
When someone close to you is experiencing a crisis, are you the person who jumps in to smooth everything out? Perhaps you devote your time and energy to “fixing” situations, and then feel overlooked or undervalued for your efforts. In the midst of juggling numerous responsibilities, do you sometimes resent spending so much time worrying about other people? Perhaps this frustration then leads to feelings of guilt and shame. Do you often hold back how you really feel because you worry that it will push people away? Perhaps you avoid conflict or disagreements in an attempt to maintain peace, but this only leads to stress and tension, and you can’t seem to find any sustainable relief. Do you wish you could understand what is at the root of this exhausting cycle and develop the tools to effectively support your loved ones and yourself?
Being a “people pleaser” can be an all-consuming, frustrating experience, impacting everything from your work performance to your ability to feel solid and secure. On top of your own personal stress, you may be preoccupied with how your loved ones, friends, clients, coworkers, or others are meeting their obligations, coping with their illnesses or addictions, or managing other difficulties, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and on edge. Perhaps you’ve been asked to back off, which confuses and embarrasses you. Even when your attentiveness is appreciated, you may feel stressed, resentful, and trapped in your obligations to others, wishing for a healthier balance in your life.
Focusing on Others is Stressful
If you sacrifice a tremendous amount of your time and personal well-being to attend to others, you are not alone. Looking back on your history, chances are you’ve been in a situation in which someone close to you has needed additional care and support. Being a people pleaser is an especially common characteristic of professional and family caregivers, adult children of alcoholics (ACOA), and family members or partners of people who experience mental health challenges or are otherwise emotionally taxed. When you’re around a person who needs additional support, you adapt by learning how to provide that care. As you become more valuable to that person, your self-esteem and self-worth become connected to your ability to be useful, attentive, and supportive to that person. These traits then trickle into your other relationships. Being caring, dependable, and reliable probably makes you a great person to be around, but being so focused on caring for others can also deplete your energy.
You may have a long history of this behavior—even going back to childhood. However, you can shift your primary function in relationships from being useful to being appreciated for who you are.
Counseling For People Pleasers And Caregivers Can Help You Feel Empowered in Your Relationships
Although you may feel frustrated, confused, and overwhelmed right now, help is available. In a supportive, compassionate environment, you can learn to identify patterns that lead to overcompensating behavior and develop practical skills to strengthen all of your relationships, including the one you have with yourself. Together, we can practice effective strategies that can help you express yourself honestly, overcome the desire to rescue others, and create greater peace in your life.
In our meetings, we can identify a new set of relationship boundaries that help you balance respect for your needs and the needs of others. For many people who have people pleasing tendencies, the anxiety that arises when you don't step in to help can be almost unbearable. Using mindfulness-based techniques, you will be able to identify triggers and reduce your stress, so you can stop overextending yourself. As you become more empowered to navigate your relationships in healthy ways, you will also learn to communicate your needs, which will help ensure that you can get them met.
In addition to learning practical methods to better cope with relationship stresses day-to-day, we can explore your family of origin and past relationships to identify the sources of your current challenges. When you’re able to identify how these issues have come to be and how they continue to impact your life, you develop greater self-compassion and agency in choosing how you would like to move forward. You will have the opportunity to explore specific challenges you’ve had with particular people - a parent, partner, or others - and develop insights into their experience. With increased self-awareness and a better understanding of your relationships, you can maintain your empathy for others while also validating your own feelings. In this way, you will learn to influence and care for your relationships differently, by supporting others in a collaborative way, rather than stepping in to fix things for them at all times.
Our work is completely tailored to your needs and therapy goals. I’ve been working with people pleasers, caregivers, and children of alcoholic parents on codependency issues since I first began my training over ten years ago. With the guidance of an experienced, nonjudgmental therapist, you can come to understand that your self-worth does not depend on your ability to be useful to others. You are valuable just as you are. By having the courage to try new ways of being, you can strengthen your relationships with others, have greater compassion for yourself, and experience more peace in your life.
You may still have questions or concerns about people pleasing or the therapy process…
Isn’t taking care of others a good thing?
Providing care and support to others is important and valuable, and it’s not my intention to erase those characteristics in you. In our work together, you can learn to maintain balance so you don’t exhaust your energy caring for others. We're not usually taught how to find balance in relationships - it's something that most of us have to learn in adulthood. This is especially true for those of us who have loved ones who are highly regarded for their sacrifices to others. And if you believe that everyone deserves care, that includes you! Increasing your attention to your needs allows you have the emotional resources necessary to maintain healthy relationships and care for others in sustainable ways.
I’m worried that I’ll lose an important relationship if I change this behavior.
Paying more attention to your needs and practicing self-care does not mean you have to push others away. It’s true that people in your life may have to adjust as you try out new behaviors, since they are used to you saying yes to them much of the time or stepping in to take care of things. Part of our work will focus on how to navigate these adjustment periods. As you pursue more balance in your life, you will have the opportunity to truly see the strength and security of your relationships, which will allow you to make informed decisions about how you proceed with them.
Someone close to me is struggling. What will happen if I don’t step in and try to fix what is going on?
It's so hard to see someone you care about in pain, and it makes sense that you want to make things better for them. There may be times when it is wise for you to step in. And at the same time, one of the unintended consequences of trying to fix things for other people is that they don’t learn skills to handle their own difficulties. When you’re able to stand with someone and be an ally rather than take on difficulties for them, you allow that person to cultivate their ability to make decisions, problem-solve, and cope with distress. We can work together to help you confidently make wise decisions about when and how to support others, while also paying attention to your own needs and limits. When you have more energy to devote to yourself, you become more capable of providing the right kind of support—the kind that feels empowering to those around you.
You Can Feel Calm and Self-Assured
If you’re having codependency difficulties, are in need of caregiver support, or want to stop the cycle of people pleasing, please click the button below to schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation with me. I’m happy to address any questions you have about people-pleaser and relationship counseling and my practice located in New York City.