This Is What Has Made You A People Pleaser

This Is What Has Made You A People Pleaser

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Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents Learn to be People Pleasers.

people pleaser
Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

Dr. Karyl, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Denver, Colorado with almost 30 years in public and private practice. She specializes in treating clients with dysfunctional family issues. For the past seventeen years, Dr. Karyl has been involved in private research concerning children of narcissistic parents, with a primary focus on women raised by narcissistic mothers. She has treated many adult children of narcissistic parents in her private practice.
The author holds a B.A. from the University of Wyoming in elementary and special education, an M.A. from the University of Northern Colorado in counseling psychology, an Educational Specialist graduate degree from the University of Northern Colorado in school psychology, and a Ph.D. from The Union Institute in clinical psychology.

Dr. Karyl also has extensive clinical experience in the fields of trauma, sexual abuse, domestic violence, divorce and step family therapy, marital and family therapy, specialized trauma treatment in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and individual adjustment issues related to anxiety, depression, and life transitions.
In addition, she does forensic consulting and has served as an expert witness in numerous civil and criminal cases involving children and sexual abuse. She has nine years experience conducting sexual abuse investigations with law enforcement and has conducted training for law enforcement in the area of sexual abuse investigations.

In 1996, she was invited to present her doctoral research at the International Police Research Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Additional information on services provided and background experience can be found on Dr. Karyl’s private practice website at

Dr. Karyl is available for workshops, talks and media appearances on the topic of maternal narcissism. Contact Dr. Karyl for more information.
Karyl McBride, Ph.D.

A people pleaser feels compelled to be nice to people who have been mean to them. Why?

In the narcissistic family, it’s all about image. The focus is usually on “how it looks to others.” This can cause troops of people pleasers and encourage behavior that is not authentic. When children are told to “put a smile on that pretty little face,” or “people don’t like children who cry,” or “throw back those shoulders and act like everything is ok,” something gets damaged in the child. The message translates into “don’t be real,” and “don’t have feelings.” A primary internalized impression found in children raised by narcissists is: “You are valued for what you do and how it looks, versus who you are as a person.”

If a child spends extensive childhood energy attempting to gain love, approval, and acceptance from a narcissistic parent who cannot provide it, that child learns the ingrained behavior of people pleasing. The result is disturbing because it creates co-dependency and even an extreme tolerance for aberrant behavior in others. When others are mean, the adult child of narcissistic parents transforms into the one who takes the blame, apologizes, and feels “they” must be nice. They ultimately even end up trying to fix the problem. The hurt is there, but is accepted and taken anyway, because they have learned they cannot expect anything else. Common phrases heard from the co-dependent are “I’m fine” and “I’m sorry.” The message carried from childhood is that everyone is supposed to like you. Well… do you like everyone “you” meet?

Isn’t it true that at least fifty percent of the people you meet… you might not really like? You may not choose to take them home as your best friend or to meet your children and family? They may not be your kind of folk, or they may have different beliefs and values from you. You don’t have intense negativity towards them, but they might not be “best friend material” for you or your family. So, why would it not be true that at least fifty percent of the people you meet, may not like you? This can be a relief to those who believe that every single person must like them. It can lift the weight of trying to please everyone, which results in the ultimate journey of impossible endeavors.

So, do we have to be nice to people who are mean to us? What do we do? Do we have to expend significant energy to make it better? Do we have to continue to people please?
The answer lies in knowing that you are worthy and deserve to be treated kindly by others. You do not have to put up with mean, cruel or abusive behavior from anyone. You can learn to set boundaries and draw your line in the sand. This is what I will accept and this is what I will not accept. You are worth it to take good care of yourself in this manner. If you don’t, who will?

Does this mean you will be hurtful or ugly back to others who are mean people? No, there is no need for this when you are taking good care of yourself. If you are living your most creative life, doing what you want to do, enjoying the environment you have created for yourself, you are much less worried about what others think. You can stay away from the mean and ugly and focus on you and your own sense of self and recovery. Seekingrevenge or staying in the victim role are no longer viable options. You simply remove yourself, draw boundaries, and take care of you. You realize that not everyone will think like you and that is okay. You become more tolerant of others and the concept of difference but you know that you control whom you hang out with and what you will be willing to do. There is no longer a need to blame or be angry because you are in control of you. In your loving and close relationships, you will more easily be able to talk through issues that come up with new found confidence in resolution.

We all know that when others are cruel or mean, it is about them and whatever is going on for them. But, many are still at risk of letting others define them, and giving away control. This surrender can allow others to make you feel awful, rejected and miserable. But, remember, we can’t take counsel from the wounded. We define us. There is amazing freedom in this elementary wisdom. Wayne Dyer, in his first published work, speaks of what happy people look like. He so aptly says, “They are too busy being to notice what their neighbors are doing.” In a narcissistic culture today where the focus is glamour glitzed with sparkle, image, and desire for external validation, there is comfort to be found in the beauty of you. The real you. Your internal validation is your defining moment. As the late Eleanor Roosevelt reminds, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” How refreshingly simple.

Additional Resources for Recovery:

Resource Website: is external)

Book: Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers is external)

Audio Book: is external)

Workshop: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers Virtual Workshop. Work recovery in the privacy of your own home, complete with video presentations and homework assignments: is external)



Daughter Intensives: One on one sessions with Dr. Karyl McBride is external)

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