The Disease to Please

We love to make a big impression on people. Without a second thought, we go about trying to score us a mate or a friend because frankly, at a base level, that’s what we know best.

But when we take a step back and start to understand why humans need to impress, it’s clear we’re vastly different. Whereas most species only look to impress a mate for the sole purpose of keeping their ancestry alive, we humans seem to want to impress everyone, from a romantic interest to our friend’s sister’s coworker we met once before. In other words, most animals out there don’t give two shits whether their fellow brethren like them, they’re just looking to eat, kill, and, well, you know, copulate. But no, not us. This is because our brains are the most developed of any living thing, giving us a clear advantage overall, and unfortunately a clear disadvantage, too.

Today, the need to impress is still as front-and-center as ever, but the rules have changed. We’ve all met them: the person who goes out of their way, like way out of their way, to do things for you. The ones that offer to pick up your dry cleaning when you’re fully capable of doing it yourself. The ones you don’t even consider a best friend, or even a really good friend, and they’re volunteering themselves to do things even your best friend wouldn’t volunteer to do. And even the ones who start trying to become friends with others you know simply because you’re the mutual connection. A desire to please, for some people, goes far beyond impressing a romantic interest, and that’s a big problem.

Why do we want people to like us so badly?

Why are some people so desperate to have everyone think we should become the best friend they never had? Why are they so adamant about having everyone swap stories about how helpful they’ve been? For some of these routine people pleasers, the ego is just part in it; the invisible devil that hangs out with us daily and expects to be satisfied multiple times a day over the course of a lifetime. The ego thinks they’re a one-stop-shop for everyone, and thus everyone should like them. In other words, just because they’re nice, cool, and helpful, you shouldn’t question becoming friends; you should just become really good friends. And while it may be true that they are in fact nice, cool, and helpful, not everyone wants to be their best friend. And when they don’t, it can elicit an outward response:

Oh is that right, they don’t like me? Ha I couldn’t give a shit, I was just trying to be nice so if they have a problem that’s their fault. Fuck them.”

When in reality, they’re probably feeling like this:

Oh is that right, they don’t like me? What did I do to them? I was just trying to be nice; I wonder what their problem with me is? Fuck me.”

And off they go down some winding, twisted, uphill path that leads to absolutely nowhere, with no finish line. Sound like fun? This is where the disease to please leads you. Let’s break down some of the reasons why someone gets on this path.

We want more friends

We can never have enough, right? The more people who like us, the more good words they can spread about us to others, and ultimately it’s like one big happy family. Here’s the reality – you probably don’t need more friends, you just need better connections with the people you already know. 

Satisfies our craving for attention 

On some level, everyone enjoys receiving attention. When people like us, we get the attention we think we deserve. Leaving a good impression on people means a lot, and when the payoff is praise and kindness, we love it. 

We hate the idea of someone not liking us

Few things eat at us more than the idea of someone not liking us. That “someone” could be just about anyone, even a person we don’t care for. But you’ll be damned if they aren’t a fan of yours. It annoys us, and we want to know why. And then we’ll try anything to change their mind.

We think we can earn their trust 

What better way to earn trust than running some of their errands, buying them unwanted gifts, volunteering to pick them up at the airport without being asked, and offering to watch their pets while they’re on vacation? For the general population, this isn’t how they think about gaining trust. For people pleasers, this may seem like you’re just being nice and should get credit. But it’s cause for concern if you don’t know the people you’re trying to help regularly; they won’t trust you. Why? It’s overkill. You’re trying too hard and forcing opportunities, all of which are recipes for disaster. 

Please stop the pleasing

Not everyone will like you. And by continually overextending yourself to someone who doesn’t really give a crap about you, you’ll end up securing one thing out of the deal: being disliked. Funny how that works – try so hard to be liked that you end up getting the opposite. So if you want the quickest and most successful path to have others garner negative feelings towards you, then keep trying to do favors, always saying yes, going out of your way to help all the time, and just being obnoxiously obvious with your bend-over-backwards kindness and attempts to astonish someone.

In fact, your desire to gain the trust of someone by going over the top actually leads them to lose trust in you, if not for the simple fact you’re suspiciously eager to kiss their ass. This is relentlessly annoying. If there’s one quality amongst human beings that we all share, it’s a hatred towards being forced into something. And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what’s happening when you’re attempting to force them into liking you. This is not how human psychology works. It doesn’t matter if it’s a romantic interest or a friend; we like to make our own decisions without feeling any kind of pressure. You cannot force someone to change; whether it’s connecting as your friend, or on the opposite end something like getting over an addiction. Putting unnecessary pressure on someone will place you on the losing side every time. Every single time. Because only then will people begin to harbor feelings of guilt. “Well they are so nice to me, why do I feel like an asshole not liking them? What is my problem? Am I overreacting here? I feel so stupid thinking they want something out of me.” These thoughts inevitably will lead to resentment.

You are who you are. Deep down, there is a personality that is free from total outside influence, your ego, and your desire to please. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect, it just means that you are being your authentic self. And your authentic self knows that attempting to garner brownie points through the kill-them-with-kindness mentality is a fallacy.

What’s Your Intention?

It’s important to note that being friendly, kind, and helpful is an awesome trait to possess and shouldn’t be looked down upon. In fact, we can all agree that more people need to take a lesson or two on how to be role model citizens. One of the biggest differences between having a disease to please and being genuinely nice falls solely on your intention behind it. People might be dumb, but they’re not that dumb – it’s generally easy to tell when there’s an ulterior motive. Most importantly, as cool as you are, you aren’t meant to be everyone’s friend. Some people will just dislike you for the stupidest reasons, whether it’s something else going on in their life, someone you remind them of, or any combination. Let it go – this isn’t your problem to figure out. 

So if you want to do a favor for someone, do it because you feel like being nice, not because you think they’ll look at you in a different light. And don’t spend every chance looking for an opportunity to help. In other words, don’t create opportunities, let them come up naturally. If you’re one of those overly nice people, you deserve the chance to want to assist others. We need more people like you in this lifetime. But you aren’t fooling anyone with your need to please, and that’s the difference.

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