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The Hidden Dilemma – The Connection Between People-Pleasing And Identity

Written by: Catherine Cabrera, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Catherine Cabrera

From an early age, we’re taught to be kind, considerate, and accommodating towards others. These qualities are undoubtedly valuable in fostering healthy relationships and maintaining social harmony; however, when the desire to please others becomes a driver for our actions, it can start to infringe upon our own sense of identity and self-worth. In this blog post, we will explore the intricate connection between people-pleasing and identity, unraveling the potential pitfalls and offering strategies to reclaim our authentic selves.

A woman in a field.

The allure of people-pleasing

People-pleasing, at its core, stems from the desire for acceptance, validation, and the fear of rejection. Many individuals find themselves trapped in a cycle of seeking approval, constantly bending over backward to meet others' expectations, sacrificing their own needs and desires in the process. This pattern can significantly impact one's sense of self and hinder personal growth. I want to pose a question to you that I discuss with my clients who have fallen into this: if no one else existed in this world, who would you be?

The impact on identity

Loss of authenticity

Constantly seeking approval from others can lead to a gradual erosion of one's authentic self. People-pleasers often suppress their true thoughts, feelings, and values to maintain harmony, with the fear that their genuine opinions might upset or alienate others or cause conflict. Over time, this suppression can lead to a disconnection from one's true identity, resulting in a loss of self-awareness.

Boundary blurring

People-pleasers often struggle to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. The fear of disappointing others or being seen as selfish prompts them to say yes to every request, even at the expense of their own well-being. Consequently, their own needs and desires become blurred, leading to a diluted sense of self and an inability to assert their own identity. Maybe this shows up in taking on more at work than they really have time or energy for, silencing themselves and their emotions to avoid appearing “needy”, or engaging in activities they’re not comfortable with to ensure their friends don’t judge them.

Self-worth dependency

When one's self-worth relies heavily on external validation, the inherent value of their own thoughts and actions becomes diminished. People-pleasers often base their self-esteem on how others perceive them, leading to a constant need for validation. As a result, their identity becomes intrinsically tied to the opinions and approval of others, making it vulnerable and unstable. All of the verbal and nonverbal cues of others are taken personally, often disregarding the potential alternatives for these cues. Another person’s emotional state, their thoughts, beliefs, desires, etc. are more important than their own, impacting their personal emotional experience and self-perception.

Reclaiming authenticity


Begin by reflecting on your motivations and values. Take time to identify what truly matters to you, separate from societal expectations or the opinions of others. Develop a deeper understanding of your desires, strengths, and weaknesses, and embrace them wholeheartedly and unapologetically. You are worthy of love and acceptance, no matter what anyone else thinks you deserve to exist in this world as your most authentic self!

Embrace boundaries

Boundaries don’t make you a mean person they’re essential for protecting your physical, emotional, and mental well-being, and they help establish limits and define what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. With that said, consider what actions, behaviors, or situations make you uncomfortable and cross your limits these are your boundaries! Now, I realize it’s difficult to enforce these boundaries; however, communicating them is of utmost importance how can anyone adhere to boundaries they don’t know about? Consistency and assertiveness help communicate boundaries clearly, and practicing the enforcement of boundaries will help you become more comfortable over time.

Practice self-compassion

Oftentimes, people-pleasers have a very strong and persistent inner critic, making it difficult to experience the world around them in an emotionally safe way. With that said, practicing acceptance, non-judgment, and compassion with yourself is paramount to fostering a safe and accepting relationship with yourself. In doing this, you’ll become more confident, show up for yourself, and foster relationships with people who love and care for you for your authentic self how liberating is that?!


The link between people-pleasing and identity is complex and multifaceted. While seeking validation and acceptance from others is a natural human tendency, it can also become detrimental when it begins to overshadow our true selves and compromise our autonomy. People-pleasing behaviors can erode our sense of identity, leading to confusion, anxiety, and a constant need for external approval.

Recognizing and understanding this connection is the first step towards breaking free from the cycle of people-pleasing. It requires self-reflection, introspection, and a willingness to explore our own needs, desires, and values. By prioritizing self-awareness and self-acceptance, we can gradually reclaim our identities and develop a stronger sense of self.

Setting boundaries, learning to say no, and embracing authenticity are crucial in this journey. It may not be an easy path, as it often challenges societal expectations and confronts our deepest fears of rejection. However, the rewards are immense – a greater sense of self-worth, improved relationships based on mutual respect, and a more fulfilling and authentic life.

Remember, we are not defined by how much we please others, but by the unique qualities and strengths that make us who we are! Embracing our true identities, unapologetically and authentically, is the key to living a life that aligns with our values and brings us genuine happiness. You can break free from the shackles of people-pleasing by embarking on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, for that is where your true identity resides.

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Catherine Cabrera Brainz Magazine

Catherine Cabrera, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Catherine Cabrera is a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety, eating disorders, obsessive thinking, and related mental health challenges. After years of living with anxiety and feeling like there was no hope for change, Cabrera explored the underlying purpose of emotions and their interaction with thoughts and behaviors. She has since been passionate about helping others better understand their emotions and use compassion to build a more positive relationship with their thoughts and feelings. She is the owner and founder of Inner Strength Counseling, providing professional mental health care in Virginia.



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