The Giving Persona or People Pleaser

Many empaths and beginning intuitives have fallen into the trap of giving too much of themselves away.   We believe subconsciously that the way to receive love is to earn it by doing loving things.  As children we may have been taught that doing loving things and making others happy is what it means to be a good boy or good girl.  If we believe this, we may ignore our own needs, or we may come to believe that we have no personal needs, that the only need we really have is to make others in our lives happy with us.  When we have taken on this Giving Persona, we are hypervigilant to the needs of others, and always ready to please.   When healthy, people with this personality type can be very generous and loving, but they have figured out how to access their own inner needs and honor those needs before and sometimes instead of the needs of others.

Most giving persona people are easily manipulated by the people around them by their using the standard guilt trip—“I will be unhappy if you do not do this,” or, “How can you do that when you are making so many others unhappy?”  Because the Giving Persona genuinely feels that his value in life depends on if he is loved by others, if it ever appears that someone is unhappy with him, he will work very hard to placate the other.  This type of person can find themselves trapped in situations in which they can’t make everyone happy in their lives, and therefore they blame themselves, see themselves as failures, and feel like they have no value.  (See the essay, Forgiveness:Setting Boundaries for a description of how a client set aside his Giving Persona and was able establish good boundaries with his family members.)

While a person with a Giving Persona is easily manipulated by others willing to use guilt and emotional pressure, the Giving Persona can also be manipulative and unhealthy.  One example is one who tries to please so much that he doesn’t bother asking what is actually pleasing or wanted by the other party.  When the other becomes smothered enough by so much “help and support”, and tries to leave the relationship, the giving person will complain with, “But I gave you this,” or, “I did that for you,”  not comprehending that he cannot buy someone’s affection and loyalty with loving deeds, and not understanding that his deeds come with expectations attached.  They may think of themselves as selfless and completely loving, but in reality they are needy and dependent.

Empaths tend to fall into Giving Personas because they are trying to function in a world in which most of us do not honor our emotional bodies.  For the empath, the emotional plane is a reality.  By controlling this reality by making everyone happy on the outside, the empath can feel very safe.   Pleasing others is a way to win safety, stability, and love.  It’s a way of belonging and finding order in a chaotic emotional world that most people ignore and suppress.  A person with a Giving Persona tends to avoid conflict and any emotional discomfort as often as possible.  In fact, if there is conflict in their lives, they are sure to feel that it is their fault for not being able to resolve it somehow and will do anything, even at the cost of themselves, to make the people in pain around them feel better.

When empaths move toward maturity and awareness, the first thing they must do is learn to set boundaries with the very people to whom they have been giving their emotional energy away.  This can feel to the empath like a betrayal of the other—the empath is literally picking up on the other’s emotional state.  The other has likely become dependent on the Giving Person’s loyalty and support—losing that support can mean having to face themselves.  (The classic co-dependent is a Giving Persona)  But by acknowledging how much of the Giving Person’s power and life force is invested in pleasing others, and by learning what pleases themselves separate from others, they can finally embark on what they are meant to do in the world as individuals.

Most of my clients suffer in some degree or other from a giving persona.  They do not realize that by over-giving, which means by not receiving as much as they give, they are at least subconsciously trying to feel valued or even feel superior to other less selfless beings.  This over giving prevents them from feeling the pain of their deep belief that they are unlovable unless they earn love.  By freely giving with no expectations of any appreciation or love, they are stepping into full maturity.  By allowing others to be responsible for their own emotional reactions, and by trusting that those people, whether they believe it or not, can handle their emotional reactions, they give back power to their love objects.  Most of these love objects are not happy at the new change in the relationship, and some will not adjust.  This is the critical point in which the healing person with the Giving Persona must stand firm and not placate the other, in spite of the pull to do so.

People with the Giving Persona, once they begin focusing on their own needs, discover themselves as individuals, separate from the needs and feelings of others around them.  This self-discovery can be horrifying as they realize that everything that motivates them in relationships has had strings attached.  The meaning in their lives (earning love and appreciation) has to change from the external interaction with others to the internal one with their essence.  Many people with the Giving Persona suffer greatly as they move through this phase of individuation.  They will at first berate themselves for being unloving toward others, (and those others will tend to agree with them)  and then they will usually fall into a depression around the meaning of their existence.

Once they are able to forgive themselves for previously unseen manipulative and subtlely arrogant behavior, and offer themselves the love they had been offering the people around them, they heal and become some of the most self-loving and tolerant people on the planet.  In the end, they are finally able to receive as much support as they tend to give away.  They are able to experience reciprocal loving support, which always comes with no expectations or strings attached.

In the end, people with a Giving Persona can become very loving human beings.  But, the whole key is to go down to that subconscious level and realize that their worth does not depend on how much they please others, how much they give to others, or how much joy they bring to others.  Once they start valuing themselves and their individual needs, they become a whole person.  Once they are whole, they are truly able to support the others around them.

Want to know more?  See Riso and Hudson’s Personality Types, and their description of 2’s.

7 Responses to The Giving Persona or People Pleaser

  1. Pingback: [INFP] problem with an confused, sad INFP male

  2. Julia Zakrewsky says:

    Thank you for the three articles I read of yours. They were very clear and very helpful.

    With my best and my blessings to you,

    Julia

  3. Navaura says:

    I feel that this describes me to a t. I used to give and give and give. I learned early that I could give without expecting in return, however, more recently I have discovered that I am beyond that phase of sacrificing myself for everyone else, because I have no boundaries. It hurt my heart when I took y electric money for the month of July and put it into someone’s car. That was horrible on my part but what I did was tell myself no more just helping just out of fear of rejection or hurting someone else, especially when ultimately I hurt myself.

  4. Vet says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been dealing with a lot of change and emotions while discovering being an empath. I am just now learning the reason behind my lack of self- identity and the importance of boundaries. I have to give myself the love that I give so freely to others. But it was an epiphany realizing that the true reason for my people pleasing is out of fear, and a need to feel safe. I am learning so much about myself during this process. Thank you for being a part of that!

  5. Char Herndon says:

    This was very helpful. I have always been a ‘people pleaser’. Now I know it was out of fear of rejection and a strong need for love and acceptance. For 7 years I took care of my paralyzed husband, I did a good job at it. I was proud of how well I took care of him, knowing I was never going to get anything in return from him. I felt important in his life and within myself. But being the fulltime caregiver, as an Empath, to a narcissistic / sociopath was to say the least exhausting. In the last year before we separated I began to resent having to do all I did, which in turn made me feel guilty! So oh my, I’m just starting to see all the healing I need to do within myself to try and be whole again and find balance. Thank you for the information.

  6. Lana says:

    I have just read several of your blog articles. Very insightful. Thank you.
    I’m grappling with something… because I am a sensitive person, I am a people pleaser. It’s a bit of a conundrum actually. I’m not a typical giver. I don’t actually like giving! My first response to people wanting to get close is ‘NO’ because the end result is me feeling the need to carry them.
    I know this started in childhood with a mother and brother who didn’t really like me and a father who was distant. Shining for others got me attention but ultimately I lost myself. Even though I am aware of my behaviors, I can’t seem to ‘focus on my own needs’ and ‘allow others to be responsible for their own dysfunction’. It pulls on me.
    Here’s what I’m grappling with… I’m wondering if those who were raised to be the scapegoat/caregiver/etc. have become empaths due to being so hypervigilant throughout childhood? Would it not be very difficult as adults to change this set of behaviors regardless of being aware? Just like childhood obesity becomes a battle as an adult, perhaps an energetic shift has taken place in these wounded children that makes it very difficult to change?
    I keep seeing aware people continually falling back into the same patterns – just with a different costume on.
    Is it probable – even with hard work – to change this energetic pattern once it has been so firmly entrenched? Will I always struggle with being pulled on and need to ‘choose’ in each instance to disregard it and feel that discomfort?
    Would love to hear your words of wisdom…

    • Elaine says:

      Dear Lana,

      Yes, you have it exactly right! These patterns are ingrained at the mythic (or soul level) not at the emotional level, which is why understanding your issues and going to therapy isn’t usually enough to make lasting changes. Working at the mythic level and the energetic level is where lasting healing takes place. To do this it’s usually best to work with a shaman trained in energy work and soul retrieval. It’s very difficult to make such changes yourself because you are right in the middle of it. Please take a look at the essays I’ve written under energywork to see what kind of healing can take place. I’ve also written a book call the Empath and Shamanic Energywork that has other case studies in it. It’s part of a five book series (the first you can download for free from Amazon or the other digital booksellers) You can by all five books in one volume as well. I go over the typical patterns Empaths tend to get caught in, and the path to healing.

      thanks so much for your question!
      xo
      Elaine

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