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Beyoncé was a 'serial people pleaser.' Is that really such a bad thing? Yes.

David Oliver

In her new "Renaissance" documentary, Beyoncé admits something many of us hesitate to say aloud: She was a people pleaser.

"I spent so much of my life a serial people pleaser," the history-making Grammy winner says in the film, per Variety and the New York Times, but she's over it now. "I have nothing to prove to anyone at this point," she adds. A fellow pop superstar has discussed similar behavior, too. Taylor Swift hints at this inclination in song "You're Losing Me": "And I wouldn't marry me either / A pathological people pleaser / Who only wanted you to see her."

People pleasing sounds sweet enough. That barista gets your name wrong on your coffee order? Whatever. It's your roommate's turn to take out the trash but they insist it's yours? Sure, OK. Your partner always wants to watch romantic comedies but you can't stand them?

Wait a minute.

Let Beyoncé giving up people pleasing be your guide post. Deferring to others' wants and needs so much that we lose ourselves in the process is a dangerous game, experts say, and one you should avoid if you notice a pattern.

"People pleasing is like setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm," says T.M. Robinson-Mosley, counseling psychologist. "It often means overextending yourself at your own expense by prioritizing the wants and needs of someone else over your own needs."

In her new "Renaissance" documentary, Beyoncé admits something many of us are afraid to admit to ourselves, according to reports: She was a people pleaser.

What is people pleasing?

Making someone else feel good isn't inherently a problem. "People often do nice things for a range of reasons whether it's to feel good, to help out, to return a favor, or you're in a reciprocal relationship so it's to return a favor or earn a favor," Mosley says. "If you're doing that, that's normative and pretty healthy and makes a lot of sense."

It's more about why you're doing that nice thing: "The challenge is, if you are saying yes to things, because you're afraid that you're going to be disliked or rejected, or you feel like there is going to be some kind of negative consequence," Mosley adds. Stars like Beyoncé and Swift have been at the beck-and-call of executives, managers, loved ones and, of course, frothing-at-the-mouth fans – situations where saying "yes" might have worked as an easy way out of a problem at one time or another.

For people pleasers at large, everything from a disagreement to simply sharing an opinion can feel dangerous.

Stars like Beyoncé (right) and Taylor Swift (left) have been at the beck-and-call of executives, managers, loved ones and, of course, frothing-at-the-mouth fans – situations where saying "yes" might have worked as an easy way out of a problem at one time or another.

What is the root of being a people pleaser?

This type of thinking often develops because of a childhood experience. "Perhaps growing up, you were criticized, made fun of, or shamed for expressing your needs or making requests," says Chelsey Cole, psychotherapist and best-selling author of "If Only I'd Known: How to Outsmart Narcissists, Set Guilt-Free Boundaries, and Create Unshakeable Self-Worth." "Or maybe in adult toxic relationships, you were given the silent treatment or threatened with abandonment if your needs clashed with your partner’s."

'I felt as if I was dead to her':The psychological cost of the silent treatment

Your brain rewired itself, like wearing your left shoe on your right foot. "Through these experiences, you become conditioned to disconnect from and disregard your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs, and do what’s expected of you rather than what feels authentic or healthiest for you," Cole adds.

Society conditions girls and women in particular to be people pleasers. "Often, young women receive validation for being vigilant about how others perceive their looks, personality and willingness to make nice," says Alice Shepard, clinical psychologist and the owner of Mirielle Therapy Practice.

Are you a people pleaser? And when that becomes a bad thing.

Self-sacrificing in favor of others is not necessarily something to be proud of. "Going too far to please others can leave you feeling emotionally depleted and resentful, extremely stressed, anxious and sometimes having a limited amount of time because you've invested that time in others," Mosley says. Burnout and depression can rear their heads, too.

By giving up so much of yourself, too, you risk being inauthentic in relationships. "By acquiescing in an attempt to save your relationship, you're actually sabotaging it," Mosley adds.

So how can you tell if you're a people pleaser?

  • "Do you often feel hesitant or on edge when sharing your feelings or thoughts?"
  • "Do you feel like you have to choose between your needs and others’ needs?"
  • "Do you often worry that you’re being a burden if you ask for something?"

If you're answering "yes" to questions like these, according to Cole, you might be a people pleaser.

Though simply accepting this might be true isn't enough: "Extreme people pleasers or those stuck in a fawn response don’t even feel like they’re making a choice to people please – it feels automatic, like pulling your hand back from a hot stove."

Therapy could help people discover the root causes of their people pleasing, i.e. low self-esteem and/or traumatic experiences. If left to fester, "some of the primary effects of people pleasing that we see is anger and frustration and resentment," Mosley says.

In case you missed:You know what fight or flight is. What about fawning?

How to get over your people pleasing behavior

People are like rubber bands. And "a rubber band can only stretch so far before it pops," Mosley says. It's best to address your people pleasing tendencies head on:

  • Establish boundaries. "If you are constantly regretting your decision to put others before you, if it is negatively impacting your ability to care for your health – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – if you are starting to have resentment, these are signs that you need to address this issue," says Raquel Martin, licensed clinical psychologist.
  • Start small. Tell that barista what your name is once and for all, before jumping into confronting friends and family.
  • Be kind to yourself. "Helping someone else shouldn’t hurt you," Cole says. "And if it does, it’s time to seek help from a professional."

And when in doubt, heed the words of Beyoncé: Don't let anyone break your soul.

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