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As Mothers, Are we Always Doomed to be People Pleasers?

As moms, do we just start to fade into the background of our children's lives? Do we stop being 'people' in our own right? Do we have to people-please these little ones in order to keep them happy and safe? Do we judge ourselves more harshly than we did before having kids?

We all want to be good moms. We want to teach our kids right from wrong, make them happy, and watch them grow into happy and productive people. Yet along the way, sometimes we start to lose our own identity and just wear the label of 'mom' as the sum total of our being.

Losing yourself to motherhood can be especially easy to do if you were already a people-pleaser before you had kids.

According to DIY Adulation,

It is important for us to learn how moms can stop being people pleasers because it helps us stick to the truth of being caregivers without giving up the power over our identity. It is for you alone to decide your worth, happiness, and value. Instead of being afraid of that, revel in it.

As mothers, it is OK for us to take back our own identity outside of being a mother. We can be whole, well-rounded individuals and still be good mothers. First, we have to understand a sense of our own value.

Although people-pleasing can seem to help us to go with the flow, it is actually doing the opposite in the long run. When we put our needs aside for the needs of others all the time, resentment can build up over time. None of us wants to resent our spouse or children, so this is important to address.

According to Psychology Today, being a people-pleaser can have many negative consequences:

  • Loss of integrity, identity, self-respect, and self-esteem

  • Constant self-criticism and self-belittlement

  • Nagging sense of guilt and shame about not really being "good enough" for others

  • Chronic insecurities in personal interactions (for they're feeling okay is so conditional and dependent on others' approval)

  • Inability to sustain healthy relationships with healthy boundaries

  • Inability to trust, accept or perceive as heartfelt others' kindness or positive feedback

  • Difficulty or inability to manage, lead or supervise others (for fear of offending—or displeasing—them)

  • Inability to effectively control their time, whether at work or at home (mainly because of problems saying no to others' requests)

  • Inability to stay with or accomplish personal goals (because they're not a high-enough priority for themselves)

  • Inability to make decisions

  • Burnout, whether at work, home, or both (partly because people-pleasers don't know how to relax—or don't feel they can let themselves relax—and partly because they're forever driven to prove their worth to others, such that not constantly doing something triggers in them anxiety or guilt)

If you say yes too much, it can damage something inside of you, and make you feel like you are just a shell of a person. It is OK to stand up for yourself with your kids, your partner, other moms, and your kids' school.

There may be many demands placed on you and your time, and it is impossible to do everything all the time. Sometimes you will need to choose your priorities, and to schedule your life accordingly. When you do this, you are taking back control of your life, and setting your people-pleasing tendencies aside.

Why We People-Please

Often, people-pleasing tendencies are rooted in our own childhood. We may have had parents who demanded a lot from us, and wanted total compliance with their wishes. If you had overly demanding parents, it can set up an unhealthy pattern in your life that persists into adulthood.

You may think that people will only like you if you always do what they want. This leads to unhealthy relationships in your life, with a power dynamic that is out of balance. When this happens, you are constantly catering to other people's whims at the expense of yourself and at times your mental health.

According to Medical News Today, some causes of being a people-pleaser can include:

  • Low self-esteem: People who feel they are worth less than others may feel their needs are unimportant. They may advocate for themselves less or have less awareness of what they want. They may also feel that they have no purpose if they cannot help others.

  • Anxiety: Some people may attempt to please others because they feel anxious about fitting in, rejection, or causing offense. For example, a person with social anxiety may feel they must do whatever their friends want in order for people to like them. It can be a subtle attempt to control others’ perceptions.

  • Conflict avoidance: People who are afraid of conflict, or feel they must avoid it, may use people-pleasing as a way to prevent disagreements.

  • Culture and socialization: The culture of a person’s family, community, or country may influence how they view their duty toward others and themselves. Some may learn that total selflessness is a virtue or that the needs of the collective matter more than the individual, for example.

  • Inequity: Some forms of inequity can reinforce the idea that some people are meant to look after others. For example, benevolent sexism promotes the idea that women are naturally more maternal and caring than men. Internalizing these ideas may influence women in heterosexual relationships to feel that they should put their partner first.

  • Personality disorders: Personality disorders are long-term mental health conditions, some of which may lead to people-pleasing. For example, dependent personality disorder (DPD) causes a person to feel very dependent on others for help and approval in many facets of life. For example, they may need other peoples’ opinions to make simple decisions, such as choosing what to wear.

  • Trauma: Emerging research suggests that fighting, fleeing, or freezing are not the only responses to traumatic events, such as abuse. Some people may also “fawn,” which is an extreme form of people-pleasing. It involves trying to gain the affection and admiration of those they fear as a means of survival.

Mothers may be prone to experience inequity more than other women, since they are seen as being caregivers. It is easy to give yourself over completely to this role, at the expense of being a well-rounded human being. Knowing that you have children depending on you can cause you to always put their wants and needs first.

Putting your children first is good to some extent, but if you are giving in to small whims too often, you can also be teaching your child that you are a doormat and spoiling them in the process. It is OK to tell kids no sometimes! In fact, it is important for their development that you do so.

Other causes of people-pleasing can be well addressed in therapy. A therapist can help you to unpack the reasons why you feel uncomfortable making your own needs a priority, and teach you the value of self-care. They can also show you ways to work on your self-esteem. Depending on your specific situation, they can help you in other ways as well. This is especially true if you have experienced trauma.

Although you may find yourself in a people-pleasing role as a mom, this is actually a very unhealthy way to live. This will become more evident the longer you allow this pattern to continue in your life. It is important to take time for self-care and to seek help if you are unable to find more balance in your life.


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