There is nothing wrong with wanting to make the people we care about happy. In fact, we all do it in one way or another and from time to time. We make decisions to do things, whether we want to or not so that the people we love feel joy. Unfortunately, people-pleasing and addiction go hand in hand. Either we people-please so much that we neglect our own self-care, or we feel so guilty about our addiction that we let people-pleasing get out of hand.

According to, a people-pleaser “will often go out of their way to please someone, even if it means taking their own valuable time or resources away from them. People pleasers often act out of insecurity and a lack of self-esteem.”

People-Pleasing Is Hard Work

It’s exhausting work trying to make everyone happy all of the time, and if you try, you will often fail, leading to insecurity.

Imagine you are at work and your boss tells you he needs an important and lengthy project completed by the end of your shift. Then your co-worker asks you to take care of the phones for the afternoon, so she can leave early. You say yes even though you don’t have time. Unfortunately, the phones are extra

People working

busy today, and you fall behind. One of those calls is your husband telling you that he’s invited friends over to watch the game. He asks if you could bring home pizza. Even though you know work will probably keep you late, you say yes thinking you can return to work after you deliver the pizza.

You have just agreed to do far more than you are capable of. As a result, someone will be disappointed. Unfortunately, because you are determined to succeed, that someone will probably be you. You are a people-pleaser.


People-Pleasing and Addiction Go Hand in Hand

Often people-pleasing and addiction combine to become a real problem. In fact, for those of us who drink difficult, days often end in a glass of wine or a cocktail. The more you people-please, the more often you feel the need to relieve stress with alcohol. Before you know it, people-pleasing and addiction have taken over.

For others who are in recovery, people-pleasing and addiction can lead to relapse. For me, the guilt of putting my family through my addiction made it difficult to say no to them. Luckily, I did not relapse, but many do.

To better understand how people-pleasing and addiction connect, check out these five people-pleaser habits.

1. You Can’t Say “No”

People-pleasers fear that if they say no, they will disappoint people. They avoid rejection by avoiding saying “no.” For some people, saying “no” comes with extreme discomfort. As a result, people-pleasers often ignore their own needs to please the people they care about. Sometimes this leads them to neglect their own self-care.

For example, you have a friend who wants you to go with them to a bar on Friday night. Part of you knows that it’s important that you maintain your sobriety, but another part of you wants to make your friend happy. You may even think that you could be the designated driver. As a result, you decide to attempt a sober night out with her. Unfortunately, while at the bar, the combination of your people-pleasing and addiction habits make it too difficult to abstain. In the end, you agree to have just one to loosen up. One turns into…

You know how this goes. You have relapsed.

2. You Set Aside Personal Values to Help Others

Values vary from person to person. When your values differ from other people’s and you set them aside to please those other people, you risk losing sight of what you stand for. That in itself makes staying sober difficult. When you also add guilt and shame from going against your own values, you risk losing self-respect. Furthermore, you take the chance of forgetting why you are trying to stay sober.

You have to be comfortable with your decisions. Going against your own values does the opposite of this. Instead of moving on, you end up stewing in regret. You may even feel resentment towards the other person or yourself for caving into it. These negative feelings could trigger you to drink, especially if your main coping tool is alcohol.

3. You Let People Disrespect Your Boundaries

People-pleasers often don’t know what their boundaries are, much less how to respect them. According to, “Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships.” This could include anything from not letting people touch you a certain way to not allowing a co-worker to coax you into doing their job. Boundaries exist to keep you aligned with your values and to feel safe and comfortable.


Not respecting your boundaries, on the other hand, can make you feel like a victim who has no control over your own life. It reinforces lowered self-esteem when other people disrespect your ideas and talents. When you don’t demand that people respect your boundaries, you put their self-worth above your own as opposed to proclaiming that you too are equally as worthy.

set boundaries

4. You Take Responsibility for Other People’s Emotions

People-pleasers often act as if it is their responsibility to fix everything. When they can’t, they take the blame themselves. If only I could have planned this better, I wouldn’t have disappointed my friend. I should have tried harder.

We all do this to some extent, but a people-pleaser will do it even when they have no control over the outcome. Whether they consciously know it or not, a people-pleaser’s main goal is to earn acceptance by taking responsibility for other people’s happiness. Unfortunately, when the other person isn’t happy, neither is the people pleaser. In fact, they often end up fearing rejection instead.

For the people-pleaser, the feeling is equal to waiting three days for a job call back. They feel held hostage to the phone waiting and wondering if they impressed the interviewer. The people-pleaser also feels this when the person they are trying to please grimaces, doesn’t laugh at their jokes or disagrees with them. And they feel it often. In fact, they may even feel it when the person they care about smiles, laughs, and agrees but not with as much enthusiasm as the people-pleaser would like.

5. You Have No Control Over Your Own Emotions

While the people-pleaser works hard to take responsibility for other people’s feelings, they at the same time give away power over their own emotions. When you give more value to other peoples’ feelings than you do your own, you put yourself in a position to always feel as they do. If you don’t make them happy, you will not be happy. Conversely, if you succeed, you will be happy. In fact, you are at the mercy of their mood.

Overcome People-Pleasing and Addiction

People-pleasing and addiction are very costly behaviors. They bleed you of your values, eat at your self-esteem, and turn you into a victim.


Are People-Pleasing And Addiction Ruining Your Life?

If you read this article and felt like some of it mirrored your own behaviors, you may be a people-pleaser who uses drugs and alcohol to cope. Now Sober can help you can change those behaviors and get you out of the co-dependency cycle. Give us a call to schedule a free session with us, so we can help you get a clearer vision of what’s really going on.

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