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Serial Pleaser Type 1 – The Over-apologiser

Symptoms:

Type A: When you repeatedly say sorry for mistakes you’ve made, apologising for things that aren’t your fault, such as when someone bumps you in the street. You’ve got it bad when you apologise for apologising too much.

Type B: You say “I’m sorry” for things beyond your powers, from a friend’s flu, to global warming.Why you do it:

Type A: Because you lack confidence and self-worth.

Type B: Because you look at everyone else’s problems and happiness as your responsibility. You appear irritating, and unassertive. You also appear incompetent, because you’re constantly apologising, people assume you’re constantly screwing things up.

Solution:

Type A: Cut down on your “I’m sorry” to situations when you have actually blown it, apologise once, and move on. Write “Stop Apologising”, or “It’s not my fault” on a Post-it note and stick it on your computer, pin-board or fridge.

Type B: Stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders when no-one’s asking you to.

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Serial Pleaser Type 2 – The Office Martyr

Symptoms:

You’re at your desk until 9 at night. You always volunteer to take on the extra projects that no-one else want. 99% of Office Martyrs are women.

Why you do it:

There are various reasons for office martyrdom. They include: to gain attention and sympathy; you use work as an excuse not to live; or because you don’t have a life, or a good support network of friends. You don’t want to go home to an empty house with a bottle of wine, and you avoid close relationships and friendships. Then again, sometimes it’s just to please your boss and get “brownie points” – so you’ll get that promotion, right? Not always. Careers can suffer if you take on too much, and don’t have enough time to do your main job properly. You appear to be a pushover and a victim.

Solution:

Stop volunteering your services unless you really have time, and it’s really your job – spending all morning fixing the paper jam in the photocopier probably is not in your job description.

  • You will gain more respect if you say no once in a while, than if you’re nodding your head eagerly before the boss has even asked for volunteers to do a task.
  • Work late only when it’s really necessary, such as a deadline on a group project.
  • When you start a new job don’t do the late night-weekend thing from the beginning to try and look keen; setting such patterns in the early days means that when you don’t do it, you appear to have lost interest.

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Serial Pleaser Type 3 – The Man Serf

Symptoms:

You may be confident, outspoken and amusing around your friends and colleagues, but turn in to a shrinking violet/giggly girlie/housemaid around your partner. In social situations where your partner is present, you usually take a back seat and let him be the witty, intelligent one, never putting forward any opinions, anecdotes or jokes fearing his criticism, and scrutiny of your behaviour. You also tend to change personalities and interests with each relationship. You leave the decision-making to him; chronic pleasers may start out this way in a relationship thinking they’re being easygoing and usually end up feeling downtrodden and resentful.

Why you do it:

Such pleasers change their behaviour around their partner thinking that he “won’t love me if he knows what I’m really like”. Many have been taught to pander to a man’s ego and needs, by playing a submissive role; or repeating a parental relationship.

How you appear:

Wishy-washy, subservient, spineless, and dull.

Solution:

  • Be yourself. When you change your personality and adapt your interests with each relationship you lose your identity and sense of self. If he doesn’t like you when you’re being ‘you’, then stuff him.
  • If you don’t know who ‘you’ are because you’ve altered yourself so many times, then spend some time being single and find out who you really are.
  • Express yourself, your opinions, personality and needs from the beginning to avoid a bottling up of grievances.

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Serial Pleaser Type 4 – The Family Drudge

Symptoms:

You attend every family event, no matter how tiresome or inconvenient – “Fly to Townsville for Uncle Bill’s 60th? Sure.” You’re the one everyone in the family, or among your friends, leans on for support, to fix up problems, lend money and sort out crises, and the one who plans every birthday dinner. Your mother takes it upon herself to buy your new sofa and coffee table, and you say nothing because you don’t want to hurt her feelings.

Why you do it:

Guilt that comes from fear that you’re going to hurt or disappoint them.

How you appear:

You appear to have no life of your own; you are basically a doormat.

Solution:

Identify which family members you’re most prone to over-sacrifice for. It may be that certain family dynamics are triggering your vicious circle of guilt and giving. Do you drop everything to help out your hard-to-impress father whose approval you still seek? Once you’ve identified which of them are fuelling your people-pleasing ways, start politely turning down requests. Keep a few phrases handy in case you’re tempted to say ‘yes’, such as “I can’t really take on any more right now” “I can’t today but I’d love to another time”. Of course you want to help your family out, but if their happiness is a measure of your own worth, you may have your self-esteem tied up, unhealthily, in your family relationship.