In the journey of self-improvement and personal growth, understanding the complex web of our thoughts and behaviours is crucial. Among these patterns, people-pleasing stands out as a behaviour deeply intertwined with cognitive distortions – skewed ways of thinking that can lead to emotional distress and hinder our interpersonal relationships.

Cognitive Distortions of People-Pleasing

People-pleasers often fall prey to several key cognitive distortions:

  1. Mind Reading: The belief that we know what others are thinking and that they expect us to always be agreeable.
  2. Catastrophising: The tendency to anticipate the worst-case scenario, particularly in situations where we might assert our needs or boundaries.
  3. Overgeneralisation: Viewing a single, perhaps negative, interaction as an endless cycle of defeat and disappointment.
  4. Emotional Reasoning: Believing that if we feel a certain way, it must be true, leading to actions aimed at avoiding discomfort at all costs.
  5. Personalisation: Taking responsibility for the emotions and outcomes of others, often at the expense of our own well-being.

These distortions can overshadow authentic self-expression, driven by a deep-seated desire for acceptance, and trying to get away from people-pleasing can be a difficult endeavour.

Research in psychological science, such as studies on cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), provides evidence for how these thought patterns negatively impact our relationships and self-esteem. Engaging in cognitive behavioural coaching (e.g. integrated in life coaching) can offer pathways to identify, challenge, and reframe these distortions towards healthier interactions and self-perception.

Observing Thought Patterns with Clarity

The first step in untangling ourselves from these distortions is observation. By becoming mindful of our thought processes and the situations that trigger them, we can start to identify the patterns that lead us down the path of people-pleasing. This self-awareness is pivotal, allowing us to question the validity of our automatic thoughts and consider healthier perspectives.

Transforming Through Coaching and Thought Work

As a coach specializing in evidence-based methodologies, I typically work with a dual approach to overcoming people-pleasing: cognitive-behavioural coaching and targeted thought work.

Cognitive-behavioural coaching, drawing from the principles of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), offers a structured way to challenge and reframe negative thought patterns. Through coaching sessions, we can explore:

  • Techniques for challenging the accuracy of our automatic thoughts.
  • Strategies for gradually testing the beliefs that underpin our people-pleasing behaviours through small, manageable experiments.
  • The development of assertiveness skills, enabling us to express our needs and boundaries respectfully and confidently.

Thought work complements this by providing a framework for daily reflection and adjustment of our thought patterns. By practicing thought work, we can begin to internalize new, healthier ways of thinking and relating to ourselves and others.

Empowering Your JourneyWith Evidence-Based Life Coaching

If you recognize yourself in the struggle with people-pleasing and its cognitive distortions, coaching can provide the support and guidance you need to navigate this complex terrain. Together, we can work towards a more authentic, fulfilling way of living, one step at a time.

To explore how coaching can support your journey towards overcoming people-pleasing, I invite you to reach out for a discovery session. Let’s unlock the potential for a life led by your true desires and values, not by the imagined expectations of others.

Click here to book a discovery call

Remember, the path to overcoming people-pleasing is a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. With the right tools and support, you can transform your thought patterns and embrace a life of authenticity and emotional resilience.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie


Inspired by:

Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. International Universities Press.

Neenan, M., & Dryden, W. (2002). Life coaching: A cognitive-behavioural approach. Taylor & Francis.

Neenan, M., & Palmer, S. (2012). Cognitive behavioural coaching in practice: An evidence based approach. Routledge.