We've all heard the term "the disease to please". It's been popularized over the last twenty or so years through pop psychology and a very thriving self-help industry. However, as trite and tired as the phrase may be it's a real condition that I primarily see in women. That is not to say I have not met men who do not have the overwhelming desire to please others (personality plays into this quite a bit), but that by far women tend to preference pleasing others over pleasing themselves (in many arenas of life).
I could go off on a very long and quite intricate discussion of female socialization and cultural expectations of women to please others, but I think most of us are familiar with those explanations enough to know that we place an unreasonable expectation on women to forego their own needs in order to be of service to or not upset others.The price is often low self esteem, unhappiness and excessive guilt that can be a pervasive throughout the lifespan.
Pleasing others can be an act of kind service and come from a place of truly wanting others to be happy. Many spiritual disciplines teach that making others happy is the only true happiness. This is often misinterpreted to mean that pleasing others also means one shouldn't please themselves. Additionally it should be understood that the fear of disappointing or not pleasing others does not create positive energy but resentment, sadness and anger. In that case you may be giving someone what they want on one level and on another level poisoning the well.
It can be helpful to assess whether you are doing something out of a place of true desire to help or out of a sense of obligation, responsibility or a desire to not feel guilty. Many women find that they are taught to take care of everyone's feelings but their own. As a result saying "no" to something can feel like a slide into feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. Many people in general can feel that if they don't give people what they want they will stop liking, loving or caring about them. All the while neglecting their own needs in favor of what everyone around them expects of them, but secretly (or not so secretly) angry about having violated their own inner guidance.
This way of life can lead to a variety of problems; fatigue, depression, anxiety and a host of physical problems that can eventually render someone unable to please themselves. How do you break out of the cycle? How do you cure yourself of the disease to please?
For starters begin to cultivate a "who cares" attitude. It may sound awful, and I'm not advocating becoming a sociopath or cutting off all empathy or sympathy for others. I'm actually advocating asking yourself, who really cares? If you aren't pleasing or helpful or accommodating whose world would really be shattered?
Recognizing that if someone becomes disappointed, angry or upset with you because you made a mistake or didn't do something they wanted you to do is more a reflection of them than you. It can't not be. We're all merely reflecting ourselves into other people and reacting to ourselves in them. When you ask yourself who cares, you may find it's far more about you than you realized, so until your only answer to the question who cares is "I care", then you've got more work to do. If someone expresses disappointment, anger or some other undesirable emotion to you for not pleasing them you're hearing your own voice reflected back to you, which is why it bothers you so much. You take it as a reflection of your core self and
Ask yourself what you think will happen if you don't do something or please someone...then turn it around. For example: "if I don't do XYZ person A won't love me anymore". That may be (although unless they are highly superficial or narcissistic it's unlikely...they may be irritated or inconvenienced but they'll likely get over it). Turn it around to yourself, "If I don't do XYZ I won't love me anymore". Also remember, it's not someone elses job to like you, it's yours.
You'll realize that a lot of your fear of abandonment, losing love, connection or positive image in the other person's eyes is really your own fear of not measuring up to your own internal ideas of what you SHOULD be doing or who you SHOULD be. The terrible shoulds strike again. So you have no one to be angry at when you start pleasing but yourself (and maybe a little at the culture at large).
Don't blame yourself. Particularly if you're a woman, much of this has been programmed into you from the moment you are socialized (which is pretty much birth). Men are allowed to say no, do what they want, and not care for other people's feelings because they don't know nothin' about no feelings no way (right?). Women however are supposed to be considerate, kind, compassionate and care for others. If you don't you're a bad person, and moreover not a good woman. Or so you've subconsciously been told. Well I'm here to tell you that's bullsh*t. You can take care of your needs. Say what you want. Say no. accommodate yourself one day, and then be completely of service the next. It doesn't make you less of a woman, it makes you human.
Challenge the system. Question your programming. It could be that you got explicit messages about how to please from a parent or role model, don't blame them either. This has been passed down generationally for eons and the disease can't be cured without illuminating it in yourself.
If you can't seem to step out of the fear of not pleasing than at least move into no action. If someone asks you to do something try saying "I don't know if I'll be able to do that, I wan't to, but I'm not sure that I can." When you move into this place you move into the "don't know mind".
Obviously if you're at work and someone's made a reasonable request within your job description you would want to carefully assess your response (lest you lose your job), but even then you may want to take an inventory as to whether it feels like a "yes" to you to proceed. If it doesn't, ask yourself why, and then see if you can uncover when your resistance or belief that you "should" developed.
Recognizing that the disease to please is really a way of keeping our self-image and feelings of goodness, worthiness and rightness intact can be immensely freeing. When you realize that you are primarily the one holding yourself hostage through needing to please others out of a fear of not being good, right, nice or kind you can start to question why your sense of goodness or rightness rests on whether you do something for someone else.
Wouldn't it be more authentic to ask yourself what you want and need first and act in alignment with that? When you come from that energetic space when you do something for someone else it's imbued with higher emotional energy rather than the vibration of fear.
The anecdote to the disease to please is courage. If you give yourself what you want (which sometimes means saying "no") you'll be in a better position to be of service to others because what you're serving is truly imbued with the true feeling of giving and helpfulness.