What causes people pleasing to enter our thoughts and then our hearts?

I’ve shared how I dealt with bullying and rejection when I was a girl in elementary school. Being called names. Ostracized. Made fun of. Pushed around . . . all of these laid the foundation for my tendency to become a people pleaser.

The mantra I developed as a result of my elementary and junior high school years became: “Be accepted. No matter the cost.”

Mistreatment by my peers was one thing that caused people pleasing to become a priority in my heart and my thoughts. 

We are born for connection. When that desire for connection is withheld, we will respond in some way. 

Childhood rejection set into motion unhealthy mindsets and behaviors. I determined I would become whoever I needed to be in order to avoid the gash rejection slashed open in my heart.

I learned to like what my friends liked. Say the things people wanted to hear. Do the things expected of me. Even into my thirties, I lacquered a veneer over my true heart and feelings. 

What caused people pleasing in me was a raw desire not to be rejected. I always saw myself as “less-than”. If I could be “enough,” even for a little while, I pursued the people-pleasing route.

People Pleasing defined

So, what is “people pleasing”? 

According to Medical News Today, it’s defined as: “Generally, it describes a person who consistently strives to please others, often sacrificing their own wants or needs in the process.”

What causes people-pleasing to become a thing in our choices?

And yes, this behavior is a choice we make. But understanding the motives behind people-pleasing can help us to begin to choose differently.

For me, people-pleasing became “a thing” because I didn’t want to face the pain of rejection anymore. My mindset was to do whatever was necessary to be accepted. 

A small bunny hiding in fear, symbolic of how people feel on the inside when they feel "less-than" or like they need peoples' approval.
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What causes people pleasing to become so important?

According to Medical News Today, these are some root causes for people pleasing:

Low self-esteem


Conflict avoidance



Personality disorders


Here’s a truth, what causes people pleasing to become a priority in our thought processes is almost always because we don’t understand our worth in God’s eyes. 

When we don’t understand or believe that we have intrinsic worth, we try to earn our value by doing those things we believe others will be pleased with. Often, we sacrifice who we are. We violate our personal boundaries. And compromise in order to gain others’ approval. 

The results of people-pleasing

Though one of the underlying reasons we opt for people pleasing is because we yearn for connection, in the end, we’ll be lonely. Here’s why:

What happens when we live to people please:

We lose ourselves when we focus on pleasing others

When we’re so focused on pleasing others, we don’t discover who we are designed to be.

We forget who God created us to be

When we try so hard to fit into others’ expectations or molds, we ignore or forget who God created us to be. When we try to please people rather than God, we don’t develop the skills and giftings our Father gave us.

We end up not pleasing anyone

Sooner or later, when we are not our authentic selves, we will disappoint others and face rejection anyway. People are fickle. We can’t please them forever and ever, amen. We may accomplish temporary satisfaction in meeting their expectations. But when we grow weary of jumping to their call, we become resentful. Discouraged. 

When we understand what causes people pleasing to be a priority in our thoughts and hearts, we can change. 

An image of a butterfly with blue-tipped black wings resting in the grass...symbolic of the freedom we can feel when we understand and deal with what causes people pleasing in our thoughts and hearts
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I wish I could say I’ve licked this nasty habit, but sadly, I still fall prey to it sometimes. Next week, let’s talk about some ways to overcome the tendency to place others before our Father and before ourselves.

What about you? Do you know what causes people-pleasing to be a priority in your life? If you’ve struggled with this, what helped you discover your people-pleasing tendencies?

***Fun note: this topic was one requested in the blog survey I sent out last summer.

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