Noemi Szeri of Melian Management On How to Recover From Being a People Pleaser

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An Interview With Brooke Young & Yitzi Weiner

Build self-awareness through the body. Understand your patterns when you’re relaxed and feel like yourself, even if those are merely movements, and understand how those patterns change when you feel you’re no longer authentic and become a people pleaser. Once you’ve done that, try and gradually change some things. Could you stand up straight? Could you breathe more deeply?

In today’s society, the tendency to prioritize others’ needs and expectations over one’s own can lead to significant emotional and psychological challenges. In this series, we would like to explore the complex dynamics of people-pleasing behavior and its impact on individual well-being and relationships. We would like to discuss the root causes of people-pleasing behavior, its effects on personal and professional life, and practical steps for cultivating healthier relationships and self-esteem. We hope that this series can provide insights, strategies, and real-life experiences that can help individuals navigate and overcome the pitfalls of being a people pleaser. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Noemi Szeri.

Noemi is a certified clinical hypnotherapist and embodiment coach specializing in relationship coaching. She supports singles and couples to build loving, mature, and lasting romantic relationships through therapy and embodied relational intelligence. She combines subconscious work with body-based experiential learning to facilitate rapid change. She believes all relationships start at the level of the self. By transforming how we relate to ourselves, we transform our romantic life too.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Can you tell us a bit about what you do professionally, and what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been interested in asking the hard questions about human behavior — the messy “why” of things. After an emergency spinal surgery, deep in pain and despair, I knew I needed help not just at the physical but at the emotional and mental levels too. I delved into self-discovery and self-healing and along that path, I became a hypnotherapist and coach.

I chose to specialize in relationship coaching because our love life is the most fundamental aspect of our lives. Our overall well-being is heavily impacted by the quality of our relationship. I have seen many people stuck in unsatisfying relationships or give up on finding a suitable partner because of fear and relational wounding. My mission is to help such individuals transform their relationship, or find a person they can build a mature and lasting romantic life with.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion about People Pleasing. To make sure that we are all on the same page, let’s begin with a simple definition. What does “People Pleaser” mean to you?

A people pleaser is a person who usually everyone likes except themselves. They are people who go out of their way to help everyone, to take on chores and responsibilities even when they don’t have the capacity for it, and say yes to things more often than they would like to. They are usually individuals who have learned to be the caregiver, the one whose role is to help everyone because it was the easiest way to feel they belonged to a micro-community. This behavior and way of connecting has become a blueprint, so they often confuse love with giving and belonging with being useful.

People pleasing is therefore a coping behavior that allows us to survive at one point in our life by being useful, but holds us back from thriving.

People pleasers tend to have porous boundaries: they let everything in without a filter, and when they cannot do that any more, they might have a temporary fixed boundary when they shout a no or are very forceful about their opinions, which is then followed by guilt and shame, kept alive by negative thinking and self-bullying.

On the surface, it seems like being a person who wants to please others is a good thing. Can you help articulate a few of the challenges that come with being a people pleaser?

Whilst prosocial behavior is a positive trait that benefits both the individual and their community, people pleasing isn’t a healthy trait because it’s an extreme behavior. It demands a sacrifice: the people pleaser gives up on their needs and often on knowing who they are to feel accepted and loved.

There are many challenges people pleasers face: they are usually exhausted, and might start avoiding social interactions because they feel exploited and unauthentic but they can’t help it. So it’s easier to just avoid social gatherings. They might have romantic relationships they don’t really want to be in, or have friends who exploit their kind nature. They might be the colleague who never get promoted because they do work that is rarely recognized. There’s a high level of stress that accompanies this behavior because they give up on autonomy and authenticity for the sake of fitting in and accommodating others.

One of the biggest challenges is low self-esteem, they need external validation to feel worthy and valued, so they need to do something all the time, to be useful otherwise they feel agitated and stressed, which masks the deeper issue of feeling unlovable and unloving towards themselves.

Does being a people pleaser give you certain advantages? Can you explain?

As with everything, being a people pleaser has its advantages as well. The role becomes an identity, something fixed and familiar that gives a sense of meaning to the individual. They might see themselves as the only person who could do what they do, creating a romanticized idea about their situation. They might equate their self-worth with the amount of help they give and think of themselves as more worthy than those around.

They might feel entitled to complain about how exploited they are, which can keep them in a comfortable situation, after all they don’t have to do anything to change their situation.

Can you describe a moment in your life when you realized that your own people-pleasing behavior was more harmful than helpful?

I was helping out a colleague and said yes to doing all sorts of work for them, even when I was on holiday. I grew resentful and felt that they should know how I feel. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I could just say no, and once I started doing it, I felt more in control of my life.

In your opinion, what are the common root causes of people-pleasing behavior?

It often starts in childhood, it’s a role a child takes on. It might be because they were parentified, basically treated as an adult by their parents, so they needed to take on more responsibility that would be age-appropriate. There might have been a serious illness in the family, so they needed to help out more. The role becomes a pattern and then an identity.

People pleasing might have also been a behavior they copied from their parents, and as they were rewarded for being a “nice girl” / “nice boy”, they continued doing it until it became a trait.

It can also start in adulthood as a response to trauma or an abusive relationship. If behavior helps us survive in a situation, we continue using it, and once a way of being gets over-practiced, it becomes a part of our self-image.

How does people-pleasing behavior impact personal relationships?

People pleasers can end up in a relationship with someone who exploits them emotionally, financially, mentally. Because they have low self-esteem, they might look for someone who wants to be taken care of, but it does become unsatisfying because they might become a parent to the partner, which is unhealthy and draining.

They might also attract friends who either exploit them or take them for granted.

On the other hand, since people pleasers don’t know how to communicate their needs openly and confidently, they often resort to manipulation when they want something. This is an impediment to emotional growth and a mature romantic life.

How does people-pleasing behavior impact professional relationships?

People pleasers might not be seen as equal. They don’t embody confidence, so they can easily be exploited or sidestepped. They might find it more difficult to advance their career because they might not be seen as good leadership material.

Because of their low self-esteem, they might become dependent on a handful of people, rather than have a larger network that they can rely on, so their career advancement can be more difficult.

How can long-term people-pleasing behavior impact an individual’s mental health?

It can easily lead to chronic stress and anxiety, and at worst it might even lead to burnout. Putting the needs of others ahead of their own can make people pleasers feel on edge all the time and feel resentment for not getting the recognition or time to rest. As they put the well-being of others first, they might neglect self-care, which makes them less resilient and less prepared for difficult times.

In your experience, what is the role of self-awareness in overcoming people-pleasing tendencies, and how can individuals cultivate it?

Building emotional intelligence starts with self-awareness: understanding our tendencies, patterns, and embodiment. It’s also important to understand that people-pleasing isn’t a fixed personality trait, it’s a learned behavior that we can alter by practicing something else.

Self-awareness is cultivated through introspection and questioning automatic behaviors. Instead of accepting things as they are, we can pause for a moment and analyze it, maybe think about how someone else would have dealt with the same situation.

From an embodiment perspective, we can also focus on how we are in the body in a certain situation. What changes? Does our breathing pattern change? Do we learn backward or forward? Is there anything about our posture that might have changed?

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience or research, what are the “Five Strategies Or Techniques That Can Help Individuals Break Free From The Cycle Of People-Pleasing”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1 . Build self-awareness through the body. Understand your patterns when you’re relaxed and feel like yourself, even if those are merely movements, and understand how those patterns change when you feel you’re no longer authentic and become a people pleaser. Once you’ve done that, try and gradually change some things. Could you stand up straight? Could you breathe more deeply?

2 . Practice saying no, maybe extend one arm in front of yourself and with the hand in front of your heart, as if stopping someone to come closer. How does that feel in the body? How does it feel to say it and focus on the strength in your arm and your legs? Does it feel familiar in any context? Could you practice this for a minute a day, maybe in front of the mirror? Don’t apply it immediately, get comfortable with it in your home first.

3 . Learn stress management techniques, a simple one is focusing on the breath when you feel you’re getting stressed and instead of getting lost in your racing thoughts, bring your focus back on the breath. Talk to a friend or a mentor about learning to recover from people pleasing and ask them to give you genuine feedback on your behavior as well as on your progress.

4 . Learn about your needs either with the help of someone or on your own. What are your values? What brings joy into your life? How do you want to spend your time? What does your body need right now? Write them down, then start articulating them in front of a mirror, then apply this skill in real life: start sharing your opinion, saying no to things, and expressing yourself. Focus on the body as you do it and see what posture, breath, position of the hand, etc. can empower you in your learning. It will feel uncomfortable at first because it’s a skill, but if you keep at it, you’ll learn to show up more confidently and authentically.

5 . Build your social awareness skills by noticing your influence on others. As a people pleaser you might have just wished for people to know what you want, or you might have been trying to persuade them through subtle emotional manipulation or influence instead of clearly stating what you wanted. Now that you stand up for yourself and can clearly articulate your needs and wishes, see how that impacts others. Learn about the person you’re becoming and integrate that knowledge into your self-image.

What steps should people pleasers take to establish healthier boundaries?

Boundaries start with knowing that it’s okay to set them without feeling guilt or shame. It might feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first, but with the right support you will be able to do it. To make things easy for yourself, do them gradually: start with one area in your life, such as with friends and start saying no or speaking up for yourself, then expand into other areas.

To build inner strength through the body, you could join the local gym or do martial arts to gain deeper knowledge of what it feels in the body to be strong. Or if you’ve been doing that, pay attention to how it feels to be strong and bring that way of being and feeling into other social contexts where you tend to please people.

How can someone who is naturally empathetic maintain their compassion while becoming more assertive?

Two problems that building assertiveness can present are the transition period, when we are learning to behave differently and get comfortable with who we are and how we’re seen. The other one is that it’s easier to go from a porous boundary to a fixed one. It’s easier to go from a “yes to everything” to a “no to everything” than to find a middle ground.

The way to avoid that is to know that the transition period might bring out anger and impatience before things settle down. You might feel like someone else and feel less empathetic towards others, which can lead to questioning whether you’re doing the right thing or who you really are.

When you say no to something or are setting boundaries, understand that saying no can cohabit with love, kindness and compassion. The two are not opposite of each other. In fact, whenever you say no to something, you’re saying yes to something else and as you’re building healthy boundaries and becoming more assertive you’re becoming more compassionate with yourself.

What are the most common misconceptions about people pleasers, and how do these misconceptions affect their journey toward recovery?

People pleasers are selfless and kind people. It’s not true, they have learned to please others so that they are liked and loved, so it can actually be considered a manipulative and selfish act as well.

Boundaries are selfish. Boundaries are actually healthy and necessary for our mental and physical well-being. They are also crucial if we want to live an emotionally mature life.

Life is about helping others. The point about life isn’t to be useful, it’s to enjoy it fully and thrive. Those who have healthy boundaries can actually become better leaders and contribute to the community without sacrificing themselves.

Believing in these misconceptions can hold them back because if there’s a strong belief it will always lead to self-sabotage and stagnation. A people pleaser needs to understand what core beliefs they’re holding on to and then change them.

What role can therapy or counseling play in helping individuals overcome people-pleasing behavior?

Therapy can change a people pleaser’s way of thinking and behaving. Having a person who accompanies them on the journey of self-discovery and gives them clarity about misconceptions can help them make progress without falling back into familiar patterns.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Mastering self-awareness and self-management would make the world a kinder and more compassionate place towards ourselves and others.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

IG: embodiedrealtionshipcoach

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewers:

Brooke Young is a multipassionate publicist, public speaking mentor, and communication consulting. She works with a wide range of clients across the globe, and across a diverse range of industries, to help them create, develop, and promote powerful messages through heart-centered storytelling. She has formerly worked On-Air with FOX Sports, competed in the Miss America Organization, and is the Author of a Children’s Book. She frequently works with children as a professional speaker where she educates on Volunteering and Therapy Dogs. She has over a decade of professional performing background and finds joy in sparking creative passions for her clients.

Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder of Authority Magazine, one of Medium’s largest publications. Authority Magazine is devoted to sharing in depth “thought leadership interview series” featuring people who are authorities in Business, Tech, Entertainment, Wellness, and Social Impact.

At Authority Magazine, Yitzi has conducted or coordinated thousands of empowering interviews with prominent Authorities like Shaquille O’Neal, Peyton Manning, Floyd Mayweather, Paris Hilton, Baron Davis, Jewel, Flo Rida, Kelly Rowland, Kerry Washington, Bobbi Brown, Daymond John, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Alicia Silverstone, Lindsay Lohan, Cal Ripkin Jr., David Wells, Jillian Michaels, Jenny Craig, John Sculley, Matt Sorum, Derek Hough, Mika Brzezinski, Blac Chyna, Perez Hilton, Joseph Abboud, Rachel Hollis, Daniel Pink, and Kevin Harrington

Yitzi is also the CEO of Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator which helps business leaders to become known as an authority in their field, by interviewing prominent CEOs, writing a daily syndicated column, writing a book, booking high level leaders on their podcast, and attending exclusive events.

Noemi Szeri of Melian Management On How to Recover From Being a People Pleaser was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.