Why Women, LGBTQ + Neurodivergent People Are Prone to People Pleasing
Posted on August 31, 2022 by Jen Dayton, One of Thousands of Life Coaches on Noomii.
Anyone can be a people pleaser! But here’s why women, LGBTQ, + neurodivergent people are liklier than their peers to develop this survival adaptation.
When we’re young, we absorb messages from our environment about what makes us desirable vs. undesirable. We see adults around us praising some behaviors + qualities while criticizing or refusing to tolerate others, and we internalize those values. These messages shape our worldview, our nervous system, and how we carry ourselves.
As a neurodivergent, queer womxn, I see now how certain aspects of my identity have been viewed by caregivers, teachers, or society at large, and how that has shaped my behavior. For example, girls are praised for being attractive, nice, and sweet. So I put a lot of energy into being pretty + skinny, and never expressed anger or discontentment.
Girls + women also tend to be held responsible for the feelings + actions of people (especially men) around them. We’re expected to be deferential, and to take care of everyone without complaint or reward. We’re not expected to be opinionated, boundaried, adventurous, or powerful; and we’re not seen as leaders.
Neurodivergent people are criticized 20x more than their neurotypical peers. Because of our struggles with executive functioning, we’re often labeled as ‘lazy’ or ‘unintelligent’. When we struggle with emotional regulation, we’re deemed ‘too sensitive’.
LGBTQ people often get the message that our attractions + identities aren’t real or valid. We may have been told that we’re disappointing or embarrassing to our families, or even that we’re immoral or disgusting. But even if someone grew up in the most accepting family imaginable, there is still a cultural default assumption of cis-straightness; so we regularly ‘come out’ to and face the reactions of new acquaintances, coworkers, etc.
All of these layers underline the message that we are not normal or right. We are not good enough. We are not wanted as we are. We are not worthy of love + acceptance.
So we’re left with a pretty shitty choice — be different than people want / expect you to be and face the consequences, or subdue your undesirable natures to avoid social + physical violence. Except it’s not much of a choice, really, because when our life is threatened, the survival mechanisms in our brain take over and make the decision for us.
Our nervous system reacted by fawning in order to protect us. We avoid conflict at all costs, and bend over backwards to try to make others around us happy and keep the peace. We try to mask our undesirable qualities in order to be more likable to others. We hold ourselves to very high standards, hoping that our achievements will make us more accepted. We may feel unsafe to rest or slow down.
We can’t ‘just be ourselves’ very often, if at all, because we don’t feel truly valued, and our nervous systems are on high alert for rejection or proof of our not-good-enoughness.
This phenomenon applies to other marginalized groups as well, like people of color and the disabled community. The more intersectional identities we have that are not valued by the wider culture, the more prone we are to shame + people pleasing.
Can you relate? Check out my article 3 Steps to Stop People Pleasing and Reclaim Your Power!