Bella Hadid has shared how being a people-pleaser has affected her mental health.
Speaking to Vogue, the 25-year-old model discussed her struggles with anxiety, leading to what she describes as a burnout in January 2021.
“My immediate trauma response is people-pleasing,” she told the publication. “It literally makes me sick to my stomach if I leave somewhere and someone is unhappy with me, so I always go above and beyond, but the issue with that is that I get home and I don’t have enough for myself."
Following two and a half weeks in a treatment programme and ongoing therapy, Hadid says she's now in a better place emotionally.
“For so long, I didn’t know what I was crying about," she said. "I always felt so lucky, and that would get me even more down on myself.
"There were people online saying, 'You live this amazing life.' So then how can I complain? I always felt that I didn’t have the right to complain, which meant that I didn’t have the right to get help, which was my first problem.”
It isn't the first time the model has discussed the effect being a people-pleaser has had on her wellbeing.
Earlier this year Hadid revealed that her "people pleasing" nature created a cycle where she kept returning to men and women who "abused" her.
The model opened up about unhealthy past relationships in which she had no boundaries "sexually, physically, emotionally".
She told Victoria's Secrets' S Voices podcast: "I constantly went back to men and also women that had abused me and that’s where the people-pleasing came in.
"I started not having boundaries – not only sexually, physically, emotionally but then it went into my work space."
She went on to add: "I grew up around men – whether that was in relationships or family or whatever that was – where I was constantly told that my voice was less important than their voice.
"Then moving into relationships growing up, and not having the boundaries of being able to stick up for myself and have my voice being heard, affected me in my adult relationships very intensely, where my nervous system would crash. It was fight or flight."
Watch: Bella Hadid felt like the 'uglier sister' compared to her older sibling Gigi
How people-pleasing can impact your mental health
While wanting to please others may seem like a positive trait to have, constantly putting the needs of others before your own can have a knock-on effect on your mental health.
Typical people-pleasing behaviours include apologising when there is no need to, struggling to say 'no' to work or personal requests and gravitating towards toxic or unhealthy friendships and relationships.
"People-pleasers often neglect their own needs, to the detriment of both their physical and mental health," explains Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychologist at Healthspan.
"Saying yes to absolutely every request, replying to emails the minute they drop into your inbox, feeling responsible for other’s happiness, avoiding any type of conflict, yet being quick to accept blame when it is not entirely warranted are all classic characteristics of people pleasers."
But there are some potential serious consequences to putting everyone else first.
"These behavioural and thought patterns can quite easily result in overwhelm, chronically high levels of stress and anxiety, sleep difficulties and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, burnout, depression and social isolation," Dr Arroll explains.
Interestingly, Dr Arroll says some people may naturally be more inclined to people-please.
"In terms of the Big five personality traits which we use in psychological research and practice, people pleasers are likely to score highly on trait conscientiousness and neuroticism," she explains.
"But life experiences are just as important as genetic predisposition so people-pleasers would have also learnt this pattern through their life-course, often starting in early childhood.
"You may have lived in a home where there were high expectations of you, or you may have seen those you love and respect modelling this type of behaviour."
Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to release yourself from the people-pleasing shackles.
Switch your people-pleasing language
It’s very difficult to go from someone who says ‘yes’ all the time to flick a switch and be very boundaried, so Dr Arroll suggests taking some small steps to gradually increase this self-protective skill.
"Start by paying attention to and altering your language – do you tend to soften emails, texts and conversations with words such as ‘just’ and apologise, giving long explanations? If so, start by simply removing ‘just’ and similar people pleasing words.
"This will allow you to see that they’re not necessary and you don’t need to dim your light to maintain relationships (all relationships – work, social, intimate, etc)."
Build your boundaries
One way of doing this is by delaying the ‘yeses’. "Give yourself time to consider whether the request is mutually beneficial, not just useful for the other party, by asking for a little time," suggests Dr Arroll. "Easy ways to do this include saying, 'I’ll check my diary and get back to you on that'."
Find your 'no'-normal
Once you’ve strengthened your boundaries in this way, Dr Arroll says it is much easier to move onto the ‘no's’.
"People pleasers often feel a great deal of guilt when saying no and can find this tiny word a bit too severe so instead think about phrases such as, 'I’m honoured that you’d consider me for this, but I don’t have capacity for it' or 'thank you for thinking of me but I can’t attend this.'"
The key here, according to Dr Arroll, is to make the response a hard 'no', even when politely expressed.
Remember to look after you
People-pleasers sometimes have a hard time caring for themselves, but it is important to set aside time each week to do something for you. Try making a list of ways you can care for yourself and practice these activities.
Seek professional help
As Dr Arroll pointed out, in some cases, people-pleasers develop their behaviours and responses because of learned experiences in childhood. Whether this is the case or you simply have a hard time saying no to people, professional therapy can help you learn new skills for healthy relationships.