We often think of an addiction as an illness related to substance dependency, but it is much more than that. A type of behavior can also be an addictive, like a sexual addiction or being a workaholic. In simple terms, an addiction is a coping mechanism your ego helped establish so you could feel better or to handle stress or suffering.

I am a recovering people pleasing addict 

“People pleasing is an addiction. Just like alcoholics irrationally make alcohol the most important thing in their lives, a people pleaser lives his/her life depending on what others think.” 

I lived my life for decades giving more importance to the opinion of others above my own instinctual beliefs and desires. I could not make choices unless I verified it with outer input.

It is not unhealthy to ask knowledgeable people for advice, what makes this practice wrong is when you let their opinion rule over your own sense of what is the right thing to do. As I relied more and more on this coping mechanism, the severity of my addiction grew, for I could remain paralyzed until I had the unanimous consent of the people I asked.

After years of running my life in this fashion, it was dumfounding to find myself in a quagmire of dissatisfaction. This led to a deep depression for I had lost touch with the life that corresponded with my true desires and passions.

I grew depressed because I did not understand what I wanted. The road back is by doing the things you want to do, no matter what they are, even if it is to eat ice cream, without seeking anyone’s approval or denying desire because of something “sensible” you have read or heard.

This began with my family of origin

As you come to terms with your own unhealthy coping mechanisms, it is important to understand where they began. Knowing you created this behavior as a child so you could deal with the confusing adult behavior from those around you is the foundation for self-forgiveness. You didn’t know better.

Trying to survive my parents’ dysfunctional marriage started my people pleasing addiction. Between an emotionally distant, demanding father, and an abusive, narcissistic mother, I learned to cope with their junk by trying to become the family hero. If I accomplished great things, they would be happy with me, or so I thought. But this strategy failed me because, no matter what I did, it was never good enough for my father, and my mother was too wrapped up in herself to pay attention.

I realize my parents, just like me, were shaped by their experiences growing up. Theirs were difficult as well.  I do not bring up my childhood to blame my parents for my problems. They were doing the best they knew how.

Break your unhealthy patterns

It is important to understand that when you ask people for their opinion, their answers are a reflection of themselves, their values and beliefs. Their opinions have little to do with you. While there is no harm asking others for an opinion, learn to decipher from the people around you those who truly care for your wellbeing. Do not be surprised to discover that this is a tiny, but important, group.

The person who has your best interests at heart is living inside your skin. Learn to listen to your inner voice first. Stop apologizing for what you think or feel, this is the real you and you need no one’s permission to be that way. When someone opines on your actions and you don’t agree, just tell them,

“I understand that’s what you think or feel, but that’s not how I think or feel.”

Don’t soften your stance to get some kind of partial agreement from people who see the world differently. We are all different, and that means not everyone you run into will agree with you.

If this kind of change makes you nervous, start small. Pick something you would normally ask people’s opinion for, like what you are going to wear, and just pick your outfit without asking. Add something new every day where you cease asking people for their opinion. This will become a habit and you will find life more satisfying.


Imagine living the life you always wanted. This begins with loving yourself. The greatest act of self-love you can make is to please yourself first.

Going through a difficult life transition?

You might benefit from reading my latest book, Catch and Release: One Man’s Improbable Search for True Love and the Meaning of Life. It is my story about starting life over again. Download a PDF of the first 5 chapters of Catch and Release for free.  To order your inscribed copy in either hardcover or paperback, click here (https://guillermovidal.me/shop/). Catch and Release is also available on Kindle here (https://www.amazon.com/Catch-Release-Improbable-Search-Meaning-ebook/dp/B07F26N1HS/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1535494644&sr=1-2). You can also subscribe to my free weekly newsletter on my website and receive motivation and encouragement to help you on your way to recovery.

Photo by Jake Oates on Unsplash

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