How to Tell if You’re Being Kind or People-Pleasing

When you express authentic kindness, you tend to believe that you are a kind person and that you have inherent worth as a person. However, people-pleasing often stems from the belief that your value is entirely based on your ability to be of assistance to others. – Amanda Ann Gregory

It can be hard to tell the difference between kindness and people-pleasing because they pretty much look the same from the outside. The difference lies in the internal feeling of the two experiences.

People-pleasing is more fear-based, often fearing disapproval, rejection, or conflict. Rather than experiencing the satisfaction of altruism, the resulting feeling is more draining. This is because people-pleasing involves neglecting your own desires and feelings for the sake of satisfying someone else. It’s more about avoiding potential consequences rather than a genuine desire to help.

YouTube channel Psych2Go put together a helpful video to outline potential signs of people-pleasing, including over-apologizing, struggling to say no, agreeing with everyone, changing yourself to fit in, conflict-avoidance, feeling responsible for the feelings of others, needing external validation, and not expressing your feelings and needs.

Kindness, on the other hand, is genuine, not forced. It feels more uplifting, rather than sacrificial. You’re also more likely to feel connected to others after completing an act of kindness. People-pleasing can feel more disconnected due to the higher likelihood of built resentment for not getting anything in return.

Here are some reflective questions for self-inquiry to determine whether you’re being kind or people-pleasing:

  • What is my reason for doing this act? 
  • Am I expecting something in return (I.e. approval, winning them over, acknowledgment, etc.)?
  • Am I neglecting my own needs in the process of fulfilling the needs of others? (Self- neglect actually gets in the way of being able to help others).
  • After removing the need to be liked, what’s my deeper mission or purpose?

Doing nice things for others is an awesome thing, and you deserve to feel empowered by it! For more help on people-pleasing, read this guide for recovering people-pleasers. Let’s make acts of kindness feel good again!

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