Enslaved by People Pleasing: How it Will Ruin Your Recovery

Enslaved by People Pleasing: How it Will Ruin Your Recovery

-Mayah Taylor, MA

Recovering from Eating Disorders can be a long journey full of challenges. There are many obstacles that may stand in the way of your recovery from an eating disorder. One particular obstacle is being a people pleaser. People pleasing consists of often trying to be who others want you to be and agreeing  with them to fit in. You may not be consciously aware that you are engaging in people pleasing, but there is a part of you that wants to please others in order to avoid reactions that you are afraid of. You may find that you have difficulty expressing your feelings, desires, or opinions. You may notice that you don’t  know what you want or what you believe because it might be different from someone you want to please. People pleasing can be detrimental to your recovery from an eating disorder. To learn how it can ruin your recovery, continue reading for more information.


Learn to Say No

When you are a people pleaser, you will find that you make no time for yourself in order to devote to others and their needs. In doing so, you can wind up living an exhausting life where you are constantly saying yes to other people’s demands and requests and consequently saying no to yourself.  You’ll find yourself catering so much to others that you are able to anticipate their needs and doing your best to fulfill them at great cost to the quality of your own life. Sound familiar? This can lead to developing lower self-esteem and increased internal criticism on your self-worth when you are unable to meet others needs when people pleasing becomes ingrained in you. This lowered self-esteem and increased internal criticism can trigger your eating disorder.


Additionally not being able to say no to satisfy other people’s needs can place you in situations that are unhelpful to your recovery or cause you to engage in unhelpful activities in an effort to please others or to quell the unpleasant emotions felt when you feel you are not meeting other people’s needs or expectations. For someone struggling with an eating disorder, an example could be over exercising, taking laxatives, restricting diet in order to please another person’s expectation of how they feel you should look.


It is important to learn to say “no” and to set healthy boundaries for yourself in order to better manage your eating disorder. Enforcing necessary boundaries can help you to minimize the people pleasing behavior and allow you to refocus on yourself, attend to your needs, and stay on the path to recovery. When you are people pleasing you will not be able to do this as the focus will not be on you, your needs, or your recovery.



People pleasing behaviors are not a good mix for anyone that is struggling with an eating disorder. People pleasing shifts the focus from your recovery to meeting the needs of others. Not having that focus on your recovery opens yourself up to risk of facing the unpleasant feelings of criticism and low self-esteem in the pursuit of trying to meet other people’s needs that may also be triggers to spark engaging in eating disorder behaviors. You also begin to neglect yourself which can in turn lead to being unfulfilled and unhappy which can also place your recovery in jeopardy. Learning to set boundaries and say “no” is important to your recovery. You may find that breaking the cycle of people pleasing may be a bigger task for you alone to face. Remember that there is always support around you including trusted friends/family, therapists, doctors, nutritionists, and other health care and mental health providers.

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