People pleasing, also known as Super Helper Syndrome, is a term that is used to describe a person who goes above and beyond to help others, often at their own expense. This type of person may be a caregiver, a workmate, a friend, or a family member, and they may feel an intense desire to help others, even if it means sacrificing their own needs.
Why does someone become a People Pleaser?
There are many different reasons why someone might develop Super Helper Syndrome. Some people may be naturally inclined to help others, while others may feel that they have a moral obligation to do so. Still others may feel pressure from society or their own sense of perfectionism to be constantly helping others. It can stem from being overly rewarded as a child or young adult for being helpful, which sets up a belief that “I am only valuable when in the service of others”.
As an example, I had a client who was the eldest of a large family. Her mother passed away when she was a teenager, and she left school to raise her siblings. Her family members and neighbours, often commented to her that she was such a wonderful and kind person for doing so. Over time she came to believe that her value came from caring for her siblings and her identity became attached to people pleasing. I met her in her middle age, as someone who was compulsively sacrificing her own time, her own needs, and her health for the people at work and in her life.
People Pleasing has pros and cons
Regardless of the reasons, Super Helper Syndrome can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it can be incredibly fulfilling to be able to help others and make a positive impact on them. However, it can also be emotionally and physically draining to constantly put others’ needs before your own. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself and set boundaries, even if you feel a strong desire to help others.
What are the signs of Super Helper Syndrome?
There are a few key signs that you might be suffering from Super Helper Syndrome. If you find yourself constantly sacrificing your own needs in order to help others, if you feel overwhelmed or burnt out from helping others, or if you feel like you can’t say no to requests for help, you may be experiencing Super Helper Syndrome.
Overcoming People Pleasing
If you think you might have Super Helper Syndrome, there are a few steps you can take to start taking care of yourself. First, it’s important to set boundaries and learn to say no when you need to. It’s okay to prioritise your own needs and well-being. You can also try to delegate tasks or responsibilities to others, or seek out support from friends, family, a coach, or a therapist.
It’s also important to remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it. You don’t have to go it alone, and seeking support from others can help you feel more balanced and fulfilled.
Here are my top tips for setting boundaries:
- Be clear and direct: When setting boundaries, it’s important to be clear and direct about your needs and limits. This means being specific about what you are and are not comfortable with, and communicating this in a clear and respectful way.
- Know your limits: It’s important to be aware of your own limits and boundaries, and to communicate these clearly to others. This might involve setting limits on your time, energy, or availability, or setting boundaries around certain behaviours or actions that you find unacceptable.
- Communicate openly and honestly: When setting boundaries with others, it’s important to communicate openly and honestly about your needs and limits. This means being clear and direct, and being willing to have open and honest conversations about what you are and are not comfortable with.
- Use “I” statements: When communicating your boundaries with others, try to use “I” statements to focus on your own needs. For example, instead of saying “You can’t keep piling me with work,” try saying ” I would like to help you, but I have other priorities.” Or if it’s your boss, try “I can do that for you, but I’ll need to drop something else. What are you happy for me to park to make room for this new project”? This helps to make your boundaries feel less confrontational.
- Be consistent: Once you’ve set a boundary, it’s important to be consistent in enforcing it. This means following through on any consequences you’ve set if someone crosses your boundary, and not backing down or making exceptions just because you feel guilty or uncomfortable.
- Set boundaries around work hours: One common boundary to set at work is around your work hours. This might involve setting limits on when you are available to work or communicate with colleagues, or setting boundaries around how much overtime you are willing to do.
- Take breaks: It’s important to give yourself time to rest and recharge, especially if you work long hours or have a high-stress job. Taking regular breaks can help you maintain your energy and focus, and can also help you stay healthy and productive.
Overall, Super Helper Syndrome can be a challenging condition to deal with. With the right strategies and support, it’s possible to find a healthy balance between helping others and taking care of yourself.
And my client? She learned to set boundaries with others, to spend time for herself without guilt, and is now thriving in her career and in life.
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