Are You A People Pleaser?

by Kelly on September 4, 2008 · 28 comments

in Inspiration. Happiness. Self Improvement,Parenting. Relationships


“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

– Bill Cosby, Actor and Comedian


The people I admire most in the world are unapologetic individuals, secure in their own creative gifts and happy to walk a path that may or may not prove popular with the masses.

People like Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp personify this kind of confidence and personal integrity. They’re not afraid to take risks and a large part of their appeal is they’re quirky and don’t seem to care what people think of them. I am big fan of both these people, and there’s a lesson in that.

I believe the people we admire say a lot about who we want to be and what we struggle with in ourselves.

Nelson Mandela is considered a hero by many and for good reason. His courage and strength of conviction is rare. This is not a man who cowered and pleased others to have an easier life. And when his principles were tested to extraordinary limits he would not back down. Most of us would have and that is why we are mesmerized by him.

I hope my principles are never tested the way Mandela’s were and I can only marvel at the sacrifices he has made, but I do try to live according to a certain code of honour and I am not afraid to take risks for what I believe is right.

For me people pleasing comes in at a very personal level. I may not adopt a ‘sheep’ mentality to better fit in, but I struggle with how to own my choices when they are not supported by my family and the society in which I live.

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out if I had been comfortable with being different from a young age, if I hadn’t tried so hard to do what others expected.

If I had scorned university to go work on a boat and sail around the world

If I had not apologized so much for being emotional, intense and creatively scatty

If I had left MusicMan to live and work in London like I had planned

If I had believed in myself and toiled as hard on my novels as I did at chasing a ‘successful’ career

I have changed course so often in my life because I didn’t want to upset, disappoint or lose a loved one, and the result has been a life of frustration. As I approach my 37th birthday this is what I regret.

I regret not seeing the beauty in my difference. I regret trying to quell the individual within. I regret questioning my values and feeling guilty for what I want. I regret every time I have shut up and let others push aside my needs and desires.

I’m sorry to off-load my life crises on you, but an important part of SHE-POWER is sharing personal growth, and expressing my thoughts, worries and inspirations.

Often growth isn’t comfortable or palatable. It’s just plain hard.

Sometimes I worry I am too pithy and not emotional enough in my writing. Today, I guess I have corrected that. I am emotional about this. I’m sick of being a people pleaser, of holding myself back so others can nod their head with approval.

Today, I say this to please myself. And if I can please you, well that’s good too. If not, sorry but I can’t be funny and positive all the time.


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Know What Is The Key To Failure And Set For Success Convincingly - Come Learn From My Own Mistake | Wakish Wonderz
09.27.08 at 7:47 pm

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Roz Mitchell 09.04.08 at 4:13 pm

Hey Hey Good on you I know we need to some times consider others, but in saying that if its detriment to yourself then you have to think very carefully before you act.
So many people think if you choose your road and its different that its wrong, and what about so and so ……I have always fought with this one not because I want to upset anyone and make a statement, but because it doesn’t sit right with me and I have to say its got a few people upset with me over the years.Thats life and at the end of the day I have to sit well with myself and accept the consequences of my actions.

2 Robin 09.04.08 at 5:20 pm

Bravo I say!

I resonate with all of what you are saying – I am the one who never fitted in and was strange and different, and it has taken me a long time to understand that being “unusual” is my strength, and I don’t need to go without love because of it – to summarise a life-long struggle in one sentence! (my blog is an example of this – notice it is on a topic that no-one agrees with?!)

see you kelly

Robin’s last blog post..Think And It Shall Be So

3 Kelly 09.04.08 at 8:48 pm

“So many people think if you choose your road and its different, that its wrong…” – Roz, this is so true. Why do people feel such a need to have everyone the same as them? Why do we judge others who make different choices? And more importantly, how can I stop caring what anyone else thinks? And if they’re like my husband and I do care what thye think, where do I draw the line between their needs and mine when they are in opposition?

“being unusual is my strength” – I love this. I want to feel this way. And I’m happy to be strange if I’m as cool as you. By the way I agree with MOST of what you write!


4 Shamelle -TheEnhanceLife 09.04.08 at 9:22 pm

I can related to what you mean. This has a negative impact on my career. I want to something but I don’t want anyone to feel bad. Its a something I have been trying to shake off.

Reading your post, pleased me :-0)


5 Lance 09.04.08 at 11:28 pm

Kelly, I think we all learn alot about ourselves as we go through life. And we grow. And sometimes that is just plain hard. You’re making the right choice. Be you. Live life. On your terms. Not on someone else’s. I’m working my way there. So I applaud you in doing your own thing, and being as quirky as you want to be. That is freedom.

Lance’s last blog post..Lost In This Great Big World

6 Evelyn Lim 09.05.08 at 12:26 am

Kelly, good for you! For a long time too, I did not dare reveal my innermost feelings. I feared being judged as weak and emotional. I never realized that in shutting my true feelings, I was hurting myself even more.

Now I choose to express myself freely. I’ve never felt so much in power and control over my life.

I don’t know you before but I sure like the sound of You now!

Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..An Enchanting Vision From My Angels

7 Urban Panther 09.05.08 at 12:27 am

Oh boy, I sooooooo used to be a people pleaser. So much so, I had no idea who I was. And all it ever did was cause conflict in my life because I was second guessing everything! I took a year off from everyone at the age of 44 and figured out who the Panther is. Now, I walk head held high. This is me. Take me or leave me. I treat people with the utmost respect and have no need to display IN YOUR FACE attitude. But if you chose to leave me, that’s okay. We weren’t the right mix for each other. A good friend of mine summed the new me up nicely I think. He said that I walk with grace.

I think to some degree this is a process we all go through. Even Angelina. She may walk with grace now, but I am sure if you were able to ask her, she’d tell you about all the people she’s tried to please in her life.

Urban Panther’s last blog post..Acting under pressure

8 Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations 09.05.08 at 12:46 am

I suspect that as you keep on this path that regret will turn into a light as you realize you are joining a very large group of us who have shaken off the mantle of people-pleasing for the Search of Authenticity. You are growing into your own true self. Welcome to the journey. It is very exciting! Once you begin it is very difficult, if not impossible to go back. But you won’t want to. As a writer, it will enlighten you in so many new ways,and your words will have more honesty, more passion, more depth…
Don’t worry that we won’t want to read what you write. People always want to read what is true to the soul. It is the place where we all meet at the well.

Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations’s last blog post..Changing Colors

9 Chris 09.05.08 at 2:50 am


I can picture you as you write this…BTW, when’s your 37th Birthday, my 37th is coming too?

From the immortal words of Shakespeare through Polonious from Hamlet, “This above all, to thine ownself be true…”

Chris’s last blog post..A Friend In Need…, Part 8

10 Jay 09.05.08 at 6:50 am

Oh boy… you’re speaking my language again.

I was SUCH a people pleaser, I hardly had an original thought in my head! Someone only had to say one negative thing about an idea that I had and I ditched it. I wonder how my life would have turned out if I’d gone to university. Or if I’d pursued art (one of my first loves) instead of allowing myself to be talked out of it with faint praise and ‘you must have a ‘proper’ career’. I wonder how I’d have done if I’d started writing earlier – I was told I had talent for essays etc at school, but no-one thought to suggest I made it a career choice, and it simply didn’t occur to me that I could!

I could go on, but I’m sure everyone here has ‘I wonder what would have happened if …?’ stories of their own.

One of the wonderful things about blogging is that you read stories like this, and hear about other people who’ve had the same experiences, the same struggles, the same doubts as you.

Johnny Depp is the person who inspired me to be myself for the first time in my life, at around fifty years old. He is my hero. Hence the name of my blog. 😉

BTW, I love that dress Angelina is wearing! I want one!

Jay’s last blog post..This stuff is getting to me

11 Kelly 09.05.08 at 7:24 am


I am going away for the weekend. Forgot to mention it. So I will try to get back and respond to comments, but if I can’t thanks for commenting and I can’t wait to return and chime into the discussion.

I had the exact same thing happen about writing. I always wanted to be a novelist but was told I needed a REAL career and so I got stuck on pursuing careers I didn’t want. I should have down whatever for money and pursued my dream. Oh well, you live and learn and at least I’m doing it now.


I love that quote so much have thought of getting it tattooed across base of my back!

Thanks for kind words and support everyone. Will try and get back soon.


12 Vered 09.05.08 at 7:48 am

Kelly, this is a powerful post. I enjoyed reading it and I’m proud of you for writing it.

I do try to please. I always walk a fine line between being a rebel (just like you) and pleasing.

Unlike you, I am not (yet) in a place where I am ready to stop pleasing others. But I hear that for many woman, this happens during their forties and fifties. maybe it will happen to me too? If so, growing old is not so bad after all.

Vered’s last blog post..Quirky, Yet Boring

13 NaTuRaL 09.05.08 at 7:48 am

i’m a little bit of a people pleaser or maybe just a peace maker. i don’t regret that, but lately i haven’t been cutting anyone any slack and i’m being more vocal about not pleasing anyone but myself.

with regard to writing, i don’t try to please anyone but myself. i only know how to be me, either that’s liked or not. i’m not funny and positive all the time either, i don’t think anyone is… there?

hope you are well

NaTuRaL’s last blog post..Butt-to-Gutt Ratio Gone Wild

14 Cath Lawson 09.05.08 at 9:34 am

Hi Kelly – I’m glad you didn’t go work in London – it’s too cold and expensive.

I think a lot of people feel the same way you do. I spent most of my life doing what other people wanted me to do, instead of what I wanted. The good thing is, now that you’ve thought about it and realised you don’t want to be a people pleaser – you’ve still go plenty of time to do something about it.

And you’ve almost completed your first novel. 37 isn’t too old for your first novel – you won’t look too “past it” on the promo photos. It may sound ridiculous – but not being past it is important to some publishers and agents – they can market you better if you’re younger. And your past drug usage is definitely an advantage. It will get you plenty of interviews if you say you were totally addicted to drugs and you turned to writing to overcome it. Exaggerate as much as you can – Marian Keyes did that – except with alcohol when she published her first. Anyone listening would have thought she’d just stepped right out of the gutter.

I think it’s good that you’re feeling like this now Kelly, when you can do something about it. I bet a lot of people wait until they’re on their deathbeds before they begin having these regrets.

Have a good weekend away and try to think of the things you would want to do now, if you could do anything you wanted. There’s always a way to make things work out if you really want to and 37 is definitely not too late.

Cath Lawson’s last blog post..10 Interviews With Successful People

15 Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome 09.05.08 at 5:44 pm

I’m a people pleaser who likes to shake people’s foundations. I hate when people are unhappy with me, but I refuse to do things like everyone else (nor in what most people would call even a remotely normal way). So I put myself in situations where people judge me then get all “ooh I need to fix this” instead of saying “Yeah, this is me. Deal.”

As I (rapidly) approach 40, I’m learning to say the latter. I’ve heard from a lot of people that after 40 you stop giving a shit what others think, so yay to only 10.5 more months of insecurity, then as Macy Gray put it I “can be the freak that God made me.”

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome’s last blog post..Practicing Flexibility to Remain Steady – Full Text Answers

16 Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations 09.06.08 at 12:28 am


I think 40 was just about the time when I said that’s it, I’ve had enough. SO yeah, growing into the 40’s and 50’s has its up side.
I remember being in my 30’s and buying these really great pair of purple boots. My husband at the time HATED them so I never wore them and finally gave them away to someone who had the gumption to do as she pleased. But I mourned their loss in my life…probably more in my spirit. Fast forward to my 40’s He left…for other reasons then my wardrobe and I set out on a journey to find the authentic me. I bought new purple boots. I bought red ones too. And I wear them both.

Wendi Kelly-Life’s Little Inspirations’s last blog post..Giving Back to the Givers

17 Marelisa 09.06.08 at 12:48 am

Hi Kelly: I think women in general need to overcome a lot of “good girl” training we get at an early age. But you know what, I’m sure you have a lot of great novels in you just waiting to be let out, and London isn’t going anywhere, so I think you should stop thinking “if only” and start thinking “why not”.

Marelisa’s last blog post..20 Ways to Raise Your IQ

18 mark 09.06.08 at 3:28 pm

Hi Kelly – as someone who has spent a fair portion of his life not really caring what other people think (about my choices), I say *bravo* to your post today. It can be REALLY hard going against the status quo. Fifteen years ago all of my friends got married, had 2.5 kids, bought houses, and started careers. And there is nothing wrong with that life but it WAS not for me. I joined the Peace Corps, went to Papua New Guinea and have not looked back since.

I would also ask, so where do you go from here? You have made this acknowledgement and now what?

mark’s last blog post..Escape the Cubicle NOW! Five Tips to Help You Get Started

19 Al at 7P 09.07.08 at 11:41 pm

Hi Kelly,

Good for you!! The raw emotion you have about your regrets really show. Sometimes positive and significant change can only happen when we get fed up with a situation.

I’ve been a huge people pleaser for much of my life. It took a long time before I realized that even if I dedicated 100% for pleasing others and 0% for my own needs there would still be people I would not be able to please.

Al at 7P’s last blog post..What’s More Important: Who You Are or What You Do?

20 Kelly 09.08.08 at 12:25 pm

I think people pleasing is a common reason women can find it harder to push ahead with their careers than men. men are very good at asking for what they want and pushing through opposition.

Your comment inspires me because I too hate to be perceived as weak and that fear has had me denying lots of uncomfortable feelings over the years. I’d like to feel more powerful and in control of myself and my life so here’s hoping I have as much success as you ahve at offloading my people pleasing ways.

Thank you for your support :)

@Urban Panther
I know all about second guessing what other people want. It’s exhausting isn’t it? Glad you shook off your shackles.

Thank you. I really appreciate the thought and positivity you put into your comment.

I think coming into your own power is the great pay-off with age. There’s gotta be one, hasn’t there!


21 Kelly 09.08.08 at 12:43 pm

A peace maker and people pleaser are similar aren’t they? I have no problem with being a natural giver and peace maker – I don’t think that’s a part of my nature I can change and I wouldn’t want to. It’s the pleasing others before yourself that is problematic and dissatisfying. I think your writing is so good because you are comfortable with pleasing you in this area, and you’re right no one is positive all the time.

You made me laugh – exaggerate my past drug use for publicity sake. It’s so true that having a marketable edge is relevant everywhere and especially in publishing. There are so many well written books out there that it’s easy to see that writing alone will not give you publishing success.The author, a story that taps into current issues, timing and even a wee bit of magic all play a part. Maybe I should fall off the wagon. I’m sure I could muster up an alcohol addiction if I put some effort in, though I think I’m too cautious and sensible to get back into cocaine and amphetamines. I have a kid to raise and a mortgage to pay – now I sound really exciting don’t I?

Reading your comment – that is me exactly. I don’t do what everyone else does. I am a rebel, but I also want everyone’s approval. Talk about torture. Good luck with finding your freak before 40.

Great advice. I am definitely trying to let these recently cropped up regrets go so I can start moving forward and asking these kind of questions :)

My husband is like you and that is always what drew me to him. But the downside of that is he pushes forward with where he wants to go regardless of my feelings while I try to dance to his tune. This is what has to change now since my husband is my closest relationship and greatest influencer. How? Well, we’re still working it out…

This is so true and I have had success at giving up on pleasing certain family members and trying to figure out what everyone wants from me. Now I’m just trying to work out the fine line between compromise and people pleasing.

Thanks for your comments everyone!


22 Monika Mundell 09.10.08 at 11:15 pm

Hi Kelly,

I saw this post the other day but only just managed to do my rounds and come back. I wanted to say that I applaud you for having the guts to stand there and say what you did. I couldn’t agree with you more. I spent the first 21 years of my life trying to please everybody. Then I realized it wasn’t what benefited me plus I wasn’t true to myself. But even though I did my own thing after that I still kept worrying what others think of me deep down – until some 3 years ago, when I woke up to the real me and the power within. It was one of the best things I have ever done.

It also pissed a few people off but to be honest, I really don’t care because those people were mentally abusing me for many years. You are strong, you have the power and it’s about time you show this to the world. Roarr like a lion and live life the way YOU want it, but be prepared to piss people off as no doubt you will eventually.

Unfortunately there are too many yes sayers and sheep. Welcome to your new found awareness.

Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Cash Flow – Are You Aware Of Business Costs?

23 Shelley 09.14.08 at 4:32 pm

I like and respect your integrity and honesty Kelly. You are gutsy by nature! (Is the libran pleaser getting the better of you? hehe) Yep, life lessons though important, once realised can equally frustrate and suck! I’ve had a struggle myself lately and you know what, it’s completely self inflicted. Jesus! Anyway, the best bit is that it’s never too late to change or for the best stuff to come. I say that, having been inspired by the marathon Olympian runner ‘Constantina’ a 38 year old mum who kicked those young competitors asses. Human potential is my biggest inspiration! What is coming next Kelly? The very best life has to offer, that is my wish for you too XX

24 Kelly 09.14.08 at 5:21 pm

It’s amazing isn’t it how human beings can be so contrary – as you say “doing my own thing” but still “worrying what others think of me deep down”. I guess this is my latest realization, that even though I have improved immensely in the past 7 years as to pleasing myself, I do still care what people close to me think, and I am too quick to question and justify myself when they disagree. It’s an exhausting and uncomfortable way to live and not at all kind to oneself so from now on I’ll be practising my ROAR!

Constntina is inspiring, isn’t she? And yes, maybe that people pleasing Libran trait has something to answer for. Hope we can both move past all this struggle soon, and a catch up is long overdue. XX


25 Wakish 09.27.08 at 4:14 pm

Hi Kelly, it’s the first time I came across your wonderful blog.
This post is just amazingly wonderful. Your writing has a lot of weight and quality and you conveyed the aim or idea of this article very nicely!
I really enjoyed this article and this has inspired me to write an article about this line: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
Once writing, I will surely linkback to your article 😉

All my best wishes,
– Wakish –

26 sarah 09.09.10 at 1:05 pm

Hi there,

I like your blog alot. I just found it. I think what you have to say rocks! I wish there was more of your common sense around. And I needed it today so thank you. You have inspired me.

27 sarah 09.09.10 at 1:08 pm

PS: I too am an aspiring novelist with a completed travel related novel I’m polishing. I too relate to many of the regrets you listed here… and I’m older than you! I think some of the career pressures women feel put them at odds with living a full emotional life, which is really a shame. If I’m a later bloomer it will be because I’ve been living it all to the max and caring as much about my friends, kids and partner as I do about my career.

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