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Being a People Pleaser (and losing out on love) - my experience

By George Hartwell M.Sc.

My childhood family had a culture and rules that reinforced Performance Orientation - John and Paula Sandford use this term for people pleasing.  Both mom and dad lived out some of the principles of people pleasing.  Dad judged his worth by how well his children were doing. 

Where mom came from - Midwest (Iowa) USA - certain values were agreed on by all: attend church, don't drink and don't swear.  Performance orientation is strong in midwest USA.  People like to please and not be disagreeable.  Mom was like that and made sure we followed in her footsteps.

One of mom's rules was: "Peace at any price."  Only now do I understand the price - what we sacrificed for peace. In People pleasing a sacrifice of/for love I explain that we sacrifice being real, open, direct, personal and expressive in order to gain, in my case, mom's approval.  Real identity is sacrificed for peace in the family and harmony with mom.

The irony is that the sacrifice of one's real identity to achieve love blocks adult intimacy.  The man who is so busy trying to get it right, please people, be nice, and not offend is also not there with real substance for his wife.

So one does not gain love when our focus is measuring up, being nice, being good and not offending.  When you sacrifice real identity, real masculinity, real backbone, emotional openness you also lose real love.  One has to have an identity, backbone, autonomy, and self-expressiveness to experience mature adult to adult bonding.

So while we were all nice in my family, we did not experience real love.  We kept the peace at the price of the open communication.  We pleased people and lost the possibility of unconditional love. 

I was over 30 when John and Paula Sandford taught me about Performance Orientation.  Recognizing myself, I prayed with my pastor; confessed the sinful identity and asked Jesus to transform my life.

My life as a people pleaser experienced instant change but not a complete change.  I now began the process of reclaiming my identity as a spontaneous creative and sometimes angry child of God.

How can I explain that being a people pleaser ruined my love life, damaged one's career and fueled an unconscious rebellion against God?  There is so much to explain.

I need to point out that people pleasers train themselves to get out of touch with their feelings so they can please others.  In the process there is a profound loss of identity.  I failed to develop my own tastes, speak with my own voice or risk being creative.

While I was a people pleaser, I gradually ruined my ability to think clearly for myself; my judgment became impaired; I became a slow and plodding decision-maker.  In part this is because, as a people pleaser, I was committed to conflict avoidance.  In order to avoid conflict my subconscious mind automatically screened and suppressed all information that might be controversial or lead to conflict. 

Procrastination was fueled by my need to be perfect.  People-pleasers don't want to make a mistake. 

It has been many years since I first heard about Performance Orientation and took it to God in prayer.  Gradually I have reclaimed a sense of who I am and what I like.  I am learning to love, to be creative, to express myself and think for myself.  I am sure this all delights God who wants me to be who He created me to be.







George Hartwell M.Sc. holds a Masters of Science in clinical psychology which included training in Marriage counselling . counseling, therapy, counselor, counsellor

Fee for a marriage and family counselling session is $100 per hour.  family marital therapy counseling

His empathy and discernment in marriage counselling has been sharpened by over 30 years experience.  More about George: About Us


Office is 1454 Dundas St. East in Mississauga, Suite 125.  Main intersection: Dundas and Dixie.

How others benefited from Marriage counselling sessions with George: testimonies.

Intensive marriage counselling involves 3 hour sessions at my office.  A week of three hour sessions can provide original insights, solutions and relationship healing.  (Called a mini-retreat.)

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PHONE:     Marriage and family counselling Within the GTA - Greater Toronto Area - Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and Oakville:
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He provides marriage counselling, couples counseling, family, marital and premarital therapy.'

PHONE: long distance
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