The Need to Please

How Fear makes People-pleasers of us.

Trisha Lewis - Unsquashed!
3 min readFeb 15, 2021
Photo by Henrikke Due on Unsplash

Are you over-giving and under-expressing for fear of displeasing and disappointing? Beware your inner people-pleaser child!

Doh! You did it again!

You just said ‘yes’ when you knew you should have said ‘no — nicely!

You are a confident, competent individual — not a doormat!

You are not alone if you keep falling into the all too human ‘people-pleaser’ trap?

But what are the signs, why is it happening and how you climb back out and own your identity and ideas once more?

Get forensic!

1. The Signs you might be people pleasing

  • Sticking with a social group that does not suit.
  • saying ‘yes’ when you wanted to say ‘no’.
  • Attempting to be perfect in everything you are and do.
  • Going along with popular opinions — and strangling your own.

2. What is driving this people pleasing

Simple answer — fear.

Nothing wrong with a healthy fear of snakes or heights — but what fear has turned you into a people-pleaser?

Fear of rejection.

We don’t want to be thrown out into the wilderness. Abraham Maslow included ‘love and belonging’ as a key need in his hierarchy set out in his 1943 paper — ‘A theory of Human Motivation’.

Our need to be loved and belong, we can easily tip over into self-censuring and over-conforming.

In 1951 Asch’s research on conformity included an experiment in which Intelligent individuals gave answers they knew were incorrect to go along with the group. Driven by a fear of rejection.

Not being ‘you’

I refer to this as being ‘squashed’.

The squashing is being done by you to you!

I define ‘self-squashing’ as:

Supressing your true self due to a fear that revealing and owning your full passion, personality and power will have you judged as an unlikeable show-off or an unprofessional outsider.

3. How to stop unhealthy people pleasing habits

So how do you challenge these very human fears and step away from your self-worth-draining, frustrating people-pleaser habits?

Start with these 3 steps:

1. Press pause and get forensic with your feelings.

2. Find ways of saying ‘no’ that give you a feeling of being more in control — in a nice way.

3. Identify role-models who are ‘unsquashed’ but not ‘unloved’! Strength and warmth combined.

Will you be nasty if you stop people pleasing?

No! Not unless you want to be nasty.

You might well have a bit of childhood baggage that triggers this idea!

An echo of a parental voice — the voice of someone you wanted to be loved by — saying:

‘have you been good?’ or ‘did you say your please and thank you?’

As Tim O’Brien says — time to get off the naughty step!

Breaking the people-pleaser habit will not make you mean — fear not.

This topic is just one of the ‘cases’ explored in ‘The Mystery of the Squashed Self’. Available on Amazon — other booksellers to follow.

I have a YouTube Channel with videos on this topic and other communication and confidence tips and I post regularly on LinkedIn.

I work with clients on communicating authentically with confidence — mindset, content and delivery. Details at



Trisha Lewis - Unsquashed!

What if we spotted and sorted our 'self squashing ®' - what if we used curiosity as an anitdote to comparisonitis and self-consciousness? Let's see!