Low self esteem.
Lack of being able to self generate feelings of self worth.
Fear of doing things that make other people upset, angry or disappointed.
Difficulty prioritizing oneself.
Trouble feeling motivated to get ahead in life.
These are some of the symptoms of C-PTSD from growing up with a narcissistic parent. Your subconscious brain is programmed very early about your identity, and your role in the family and your place in the world.
Associations are deep in the subconscious.
If you do not comply with the other person, there will be consequences to pay. If you cause someone to become upset , you will pay dearly.
People from more health families learn to look out for themselves. You learned that in order to protect yourself, you have to look out for others.
People from functional families were taught to be in touch with their own feelings and to love themselves.
If you were the child of a narcissist, you were taught to defend against the wrath f the narcissist by not expressing your own feelings. Eventually you began to have trouble identifying what you want at all.
As an adult this wiring in your brain keeps you from taking care of yourself properly.
You still have that hyper-vigilance that there is a threat of danger when someone near you is not getting their way.
You may have a fear of being abandoned by the people you love, if you consider your own needs to be equal to theirs. The longer you cater to the desires of other people, in a relationship, the more they come to expect that treatment from you.
People around you can become conditioned to expect you to always agree, always go along with them, and never challenge them.
One of the many problems of this “people pleaser” behavior is that it attracts narcissists and predators. Narcissists and psychopaths want easy prey or at least a victim that had obvious emotional wounds that they can use to use against you.
If you have never practiced standing up for yourself, then you have no idea how to do this, and you fear the consequences of doing so. What would happen to your relationships if you said “no” to someone?
What would happen to your world of you began to prioritize your own needs? What consequences would follow if you believed that your needs and ideas were just as valuable as those of the people in your life?
Well, you can see the people in the world who are not afraid to say “no.” You interact with them all the time. They say “no” to you all the time. These people are not all in the same category.
There are people who do what they want all the time. They never let people cross their boundaries. In fact, they cross over into your world and stomp all over your rights and invade your boundaries all the time.
These are the narcissists. You may have a fear of becoming like that. You do not want to become the parent that emotionally abused you. The very person that caused much of your difficulty in getting what you want out of life.
But there is another category of people who stand up for themselves. These are people that have healthy boundaries but still respect the rights of other people. They do not exploit and manipulate others.
They express their feelings and let people know what they want. They go after the things they want out of life and they consider their personal dreams, desires and emotions to be a high priority.
These are not narcissists. They do not use aggressive, emotionally manipulative communication. They do not covertly try to get emotional reactions from you, in order to exploit and control you.
There is a line between assertive and aggressive. You are being assertive when you express what you do and do not want.
You are being aggressive when you make it clear that you do not care what the other person wants. You undermine, lie to, and gaslight people to get your way.
Being assertive and having healthy boundaries does not have to injure other people.
You are not a bad person for looking out for yourself.
You are not a narcissist if you care about your own feelings and needs. You are a normal human being.
I will write about this topic again in the future. Please leave comments below about a specific question or particular problem that you have.
Give me some ideas about problems of having C-PTSD (complex PTSD) that you are dealing with.
I want to hear from adult children of narcissistic parents. Also from anyone that grew up under the heavy cloud of a narcissist in some capacity. It is not always a parent.
Also, if you feel that your ability to move forward and get momentum in life has been affected by narcissistic abuse, either during childhood or as an adult, please leave me any ideas about questions I can address in a future post.
If you are always finding yourself at the bad end of unfair and unbalanced relationships, then you might have People Pleaser Syndrome.
Most people who have People Pleaser Syndrome, including myself, have come from a background of being emotionally and mentally abused, manipulated and scapegoated.
It may not be readily apparent to you that you had emotional abuse as a child, because this syndrome will cause you to question any abuse that you have experienced. People may have manipulated you into thinking that your childhood was free of abuse, as part of the mental abuse itself.
Gaslighting a person into doubting their own feelings of being abused, is mental abuse. When you feel like you are being treated unfairly and cannot communicate about it, your reality about the abuse can become confused.
I have done a lot of research recently about People Pleaser Syndrome. There are many lists that you can find that will describe various characteristics and qualities of people that suffer from it. I have also gone through my own situations in my mind, to identify what characteristics that I have tended to demonstrate over the years.
I recommend that you do your own research about this topic, if many of things on this list seem to ring true for you.
I have written this list off if the top of my head. Some of these characteristics have been brought to my attention from articles that I have read.
Some of them are direct examples from my own life. All of the things on this list have caused me problems in my own life over the years.
Characteristics of People Pleaser Syndrome
1. You take on the feelings of others as if they are your own.
2. You feel the need to fix the problems of other people
3. You feel responsible for other people’s problems and guilty about them
4. It is easy for other people to make you feel guilty
5. You can easily be forced by others to feel shame
6. You carry toxic shame
7. When other people are unhappy, angry or disappointed with you, it makes you feel like you have the responsibility of fixing their feelings
8. You have trouble doing, not-doing or saying anything if it will get a negative reaction from the other person
9. You want people to always approve of you, your beliefs and your actions
10. You feel the need to always justify your actions and decisions to others
11. You have great difficulty in saying “no” to people
12. You are often talked into doing things you really do not want to do.
13. You are talked into not doing things, that you do want to do
14. You tend to do whatever will keep the peace, even if it is not good for you
15. You have trouble standing up for yourself, but always listen to other people who are standing up for that they want
16. You give other people their way, much more often than you just do things the way you want to
17. You question the validity of your personal wants and needs, when it conflicts with those of others
18. You often put your own dreams and goal on the back burner, in order for someone else to fulfill their dreams
19. You do not express your anger about being treated unfairly by others
20. You tend to allow your partner more benefit of the doubt than they allow you
21. You cover for other people, even if they would not cover for you
22. You have C-PTSD from some sort of childhood abuse
23. It is sometimes unclear to you how you feel about things and if your feelings / thoughts are being “put into your head” by the other person
24. You allow other people to tell you “how you should feel” about some things
There are a few reasons that you need help for People Pleaser syndrome. If you are recognizing very many things from the above list, then I encourage you to do some further research, get materials which will help you and work on a plan of overcoming this.
In some cases, professional mental health treatment may be appropriate. I am not a therapist and this article is not intended as a replacement for professional mental health treatment. I am just validating your experiences with my own and hopefully helping you to take a look into your own tendencies and patterns.
If you have the characteristics of People Pleaser Syndrome, then you are likely to be a target for predators that will take advantage of your good intentions. There are narcissistic people and other toxic personalities that look for people that are easy to manipulate with guilt and shame.
There are people that actively seek “people pleasers” in order that they can subject their will upon them. If people can easily push our anxiety buttons about confrontation, then you are the type of person that can end up in domestic abuse situations and abusive relationships.
People pleasers try to avoid confrontation that makes them feel guilt or shame. Abusive personalities will sense this about you and deliberately force you into anxiety, in order to manipulate you.
Other problems you probably experience are in work situations and social situations. Dominating people will overcome you at work and in social circumstances. It is just the way they are.
It is hard to compete and get ahead at work if people take advantage of you. Even if there are nice, kind people where you work, there is always one that will destroy you, when they realize that they can use you as a means to get ahead.
It is nice to want to believe that the world is full of people who are compassionate and caring, but we realize that this is not the case. You may be around many good people in your situations, but it only takes one person to really injure you.
We will talk more about this issue and ways in which we can retrain ourselves to have different habits. These are habits that are rooted into us, but they are not unbreakable.
The most important things are to be able to identify when we are being treated unfairly and not to feel guilty for standing up for ourselves, or otherwise protecting ourselves from abuse.
You have a right to your boundaries, your self confidence and your self esteem.
In fact these things are necessary for you to live and thrive well. Your dreams matter and your happiness matters, just as much as anyone else’s.
I got the following idea from a Teal Swan video about how to make the decisions that are best for you. What she suggests is to ask the question “What would someone who loves themselves do?” If you keep this in mind as you are interacting with people, then you will have a frame of reference for when to say “no” to people.
Blessings to all,
There are many of us who asked to be loved by a parent who either refused to love us, or was incapable of loving us. This can carry over into adulthood as a disorder called codependence. People who have codependent tendencies also have People Pleaser Syndrome.
The traits of People Pleaser Syndrome include: difficulty saying no, a phobia of upsetting people and being around negative emotions, and a tendency to do what others want even if it causes you discomfort or even harm.
This need for approval and love was not gratified as a child, and there is still a longing for approval from others. There can be a confusion between people loving you and people approving of you.
People can approve of your actions because your actions meet their own agenda. This does not necessarily mean that they love you, or even like you.
There can be a tendency to waste energy attempting to attain approval from the wrong people.
There are people who will take advantage of people pleasers because they notice that you need approval. They will manipulate you be using your emotional needs against you.
They also realize that you are kind and want to make people happy.
This good nature is also something that manipulative people will notice and take advantage of.
So, what can be done for people who still want to fill their love tank from childhood? Are there any safe places for the unloved children when they become adults. ( note I got the term Love Tank from the book called the Five Love Languages which I recommend)
There are safe people and safe situations, but people pleasers often have trouble identifying who is taking advantage of them and who is not.
One of the main things that was broken or not fully formed during childhood is the ability to create personal boundaries.
You must have reasonable boundaries for yourself, and be unwilling to violate those boundaries just to attain approval or affection. People that truly care about you will not constantly cross your boundaries.
When another adult is constantly taking too much and asking unreasonable things from you, then you need to take a look at the overall relationship.
When people insist on crossing your reasonable boundaries, then it is time to tell them “No” …even if they act upset or disappointed with you. Sometimes people will be upset with when you tell them “No”. This is okay.
People will be upset with you when you refuse to allow them to have their way. If they are used to being able to manipulate you by provoking an emotional response, then they will try to resist your new stand about your boundaries. That is okay.
It is okay for other people to feel upset when you refuse to allow them to take advantage of you.
Everyone does not need to have their way all the time. No one needs to have their way all the time. They are just used to ignoring your feelings.
If someone is always demanding their way, in spite of you telling them how you feel , then experiment with holding your ground with them.
You do not have to give them reasons that they will just reject and minimize. You can give them a simple form of No, such as “No I am not able to help you with that this time,”
If there are no reasons for them to counter and guilt you about then they have no material to work with. You want to stay away from a debate with them because they are used to finding your buttons and knowing how to guilt an shame you. Just do not allow it.
You will never get your love and approval needs met from people that only care about their own agenda.
Not only that, the people that would be caring to you may be getting ignored by you because your energy is being taken up by manipulative people.
The squeaky wheels tend to get the oil. They drain all of your time and energy, just because they are demanding.
In the mean time, there may be other people in your life that are feeling starved of your love and attention. You may not mean to do this, but it happens to people pleasers sometimes.
Pay attention to the ones that respect your boundaries and the people who are loving towards you. Do not confuse someone telling you that they care about you, with people that actually care about you. Love is not in the words.
There are manipulative people that will enter into relationships with codependent people. When this happens the narcissistic person might tell you that they are looking out for your own good. Just because someone says that they are controlling you for your own good does not make this true.
People that respect you and your boundaries will allow you to make your own choices. They may guide you to be able to think about what you want, but they will not try to force their agenda onto you. They will not project their beliefs and force them onto you.
If someone has to announce to you or to others that they are good to you, then that should make you wonder.
Some abusers use this tactic to confuse their victim. They will tell you that they are good to you and even tell others how good they are to you.
Look at how people treat you, not how they say they treat you.
See if the relationship is really balanced. If you are always doing things for them and they complain about having to do one thing for you, then you may want to evaluate how fair the relationship is to you.
The need to be approved of and loved is strong with adult children of alcoholics and other abusive parents. But that need cannot be met by abusive people.
Once you practice drawing simple basic boundaries, then you will be able to attract people that respect those boundaries. Notice what boundaries other people have. They should respect the same boundaries with you that they expect you to respect for them.
Here are a few examples of ways a manipulative person crosses boundaries while holding their own boundaries
1. They do not allow you to call them at work. But they call and interrupt you at work all the time.
2. They do not do favors for you that will interfere with things they need to get done. But they insist on you doing favors for them, even when you tell them that you have other things that you need to do.
3. They are clear with you about not interfering with their sleep schedule, work schedule and other time frames. But they keep you up late when you have to work the next day and make you run late for work by keeping you on the phone.
4. They insist that you answer the phone when they call, even if you are busy. But they ignore your calls and call you back hours later if at all, even when you leave a message that it is important.
5. They are clear that they have other relationships that need their time and attention. But they get upset or angry when you spend time with other people or do things to maintain other relationships, rather than giving them all of your time and attention.
Saying “no” to people comes very easily to some and is nearly impossible for others.
I have found that many people with C-PTSD have trouble saying no. If you were brought up in a mentally or otherwise abusive childhood, saying “NO,” may be associated with severe consequences to you.
If you lived with a parent that had narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, then they probably used confusion tactics on you, to the point where there was “no” way to say no to them.
Gaslighting can confuse our ability to trust ourselves and our perceptions. It may be difficult to tell what situations that “NO,” would be perfectly okay, and what situations where saying no, would really cause a problem.
If you grew up in an environment where your feelings and thoughts were not considered relevant, then you probably feel that your feeling of wanting to say no, just does not count. Even though the same person may say “No” to you all the time, you do not feel that you have the same right to say no, that they do.
If you were even in an abusive situation where disobeying meant punishment , then you probably have a fear of retaliation from others. There is an anxiety response triggered by saying no and refusing to comply with another person’s request.
The act of saying no, can trigger a very uncomfortable physiological response. In order to avoid feeling severely uncomfortable, we just say “yes” when we really want to say “no.”
Triggers are very real and the tendency is to want to avoid feeling the bodily sensations associated with them. Ignoring triggers and going against our conditioned responses, is a very difficult thing to do.
It is perfectly normal and acceptable for you to say “No” to people when they are asking you to do something that you do not want to do or something which crosses your boundaries.
You are allowed to set personal boundaries for yourself. You can also set boundaries for certain people that you do not want crossed.
You can set boundaries in regards to your emotions, your time, your energy, your work and your social interactions. You can set boundaries in regards to dating, doing work for people and doing favors for people.
You can set boundaries about your personal space and your personal items.
Any situation where someone is trying to get you to do something by using your emotions against you, is a situation where your boundaries need to come into play.
Sometimes people do not accept your simple NO or your reasons for saying NO. They try to convince you be making you feel guilty or by shaming you.
They are trying to use your good and caring personality against you. They want you to feel bad and they do this by intentionally pushing whatever buttons they know you have. If they know that you want to feel like you are cooperative they will call you uncooperative.
If they know that you have helped them many times in the past, they will lie and tell you that they do not remember the last time you did them any favors.
Don’t fall for these manipulative behaviors. If someone feels the need to make you feel guilty in order to do them a favor, then they really do not deserve the favor.
People should accept No, especially if you have perfectly good reasons for saying no, even if the reason is that you just do not feel comfortable doing it or do not want to do it.
Here is a list of ways to say NO…
No, thank you.
No, I really cannot do that.
No, I do not want to do that.
No, I am not interested in that.
No, I cannot find time in my schedule to do that.
No, I am just too overloaded right now, to do that.
No, I am not interested in doing that.
No, you go ahead without me.
No, please ask someone else.
No, I do not have to think about it. I would rather tell you NO right now.
I said no. Please respect my answer
If you have a history with this person that tells you that they will counter any reasons you give them for saying No, then you can try something like this..
“In the past my giving reasons for my No, seems to have just been an opening for someone to tell me the reasons are not good enough or to dispute my reasons in some way. So this time I am going to say simply No without going over my reasons with you. “
If they refuse to accept your “no”, then you still do not have to do what they want just to make them stop complaining. Just because they are going to upset that you told them “no”, does not mean that you are responsible for their feelings. As long as you were not intentionally trying to hurt their feelings, then you did not cause for them to feel bad.
If someone is an adult then they are responsible for their own feelings. Much of the time, manipulative people are acting when they get dramatic with you. They can be very dramatic about how disappointed they are in you or about how selfish they think you are.
These are more reasons not to tell them “yes” every time they demand something from you. The more times they are able to manipulate you, the more they will resort to the same tactics over and over again.
**Please note that this article is not talking about partner relationships where the person will physically abuse you or will otherwise punish you for saying no. Those relationships are volatile and should be escaped as soon as possible but I never recommend to ignite retaliation in a severely abusive person.
It is designed more for situations where you are in no immediate danger or impending danger.
This article is also not a recommendation to tell your boss no to doing work, thus risking your job. If your boss is abusive it is a different topic and must be handled with a different strategy that is not discussed in this post.
Many people that some from abusive backgrounds have forgotten or never learned how to love and care for themselves. What comes naturally to most people does not come naturally to everyone.
If you have a codependent personality, suffer from People Pleaser Syndrome, or just seem to keep ending up putting the needs of others over yours, even to the point of it causing you harm, then you probably never learned how to care for yourself well.
It probably puzzles you how other people seem to have it all together and you always feel behind. You feel like you are always the one who cannot do what other people can do.
One of the reasons for this could be that other people are spending a reasonable amount of time taking care of the things they need to take care of in order to be okay. They make sure that other people do not guilt them into doing things for them, when there are important things they need to do for themselves.
It is not a matter of not helping other people. It is a matter of not putting yourself and your needs last. You have bills to pay just like everyone else. You have a right to eat well, rest and exercise just like everyone else.
When people try to cut into your time that you need to take care of yourself, then you have to practice telling them no. People may be shocked at first, because they are not used to you setting normal boundaries. But think about what they would do of you demanded that they neglect something that they really need to do, in order to take care of something for you that you could take care of yourself.
Many times we agree to do favors for people who could take care of it themselves but they are just making time for themselves to do something extra. In the mean time, you are neglecting something that is much more important that if it were them, they would never even consider allowing you to interfere with by asking for a favor.
Other times they could easily get someone else, who has more time and more ability to do it, but that other person is also busy taking of themselves and they are keeping the free time to do something they want to do.
There should be a fair balance between people. You should not be guilt tripped into doing something that someone else could find another way to get done, at the cost of your basic needs being neglected.
You have to prioritize
3. Exercise and health
5. Your money situation
6. Your personal space and time
7. Personal hygiene
8. dr appts
9. Your comfort about situations
10. Your plans
11. Your schedule
12. Your mental health
13. Your physical health
14. the relationships you value
15. the time you need to clean the house or any other chores
16. time to get your errands done
17. your family situation and responsibilities
18. your personal emergencies or urgent situations
19. taking care of your car repairs and maintenance
20. Relax time for you
21. Anything that you feel frustrated about if it does not get done
22. Anything that you feel frustrated about if you do not have enough time to do it properly
People who have People Pleaser Syndrome are easily manipulated into neglecting these very basic needs because they do not really know if it is okay to prioritize themselves. In the mean time everyone else makes sure that they take care of these basics and then they use the extra time to do some extra things which puts them ahead of you at something.
You are the one who does not get the promotion at work even though you worked harder than everyone else. That is because while you were helping other people with their job, they were using the time to get ahead of you. People will take what they can get a lot of the time.
Everyone is not like you. They will not try to balance out the favor . They will not all cover for you just because you covered for them.
Learn who is taking advantage of you on a regular basis and cut them off. Tell them that you has a certain amount of favors allotted for each person in your life and that they have already used up their lifetime of favors.
Take care of the people who care about you. Look at the actions of people and not just their words. Notice when people are only nice to you when they want something. Notice when people expect you to do something rather than asking you with no expectation.
See what different people do when you say no. The ones who try to guilt trip or shame you are manipulative people. Anyone else would accept and respect your no.