What Narcissists and People Pleasers Have in Common
By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
Narcissists and people pleasers seem to be drawn towards each other. While opposites do attract, there are some similarities that keep the connection powerful.
Priorities. Narcissists think of themselves first and very little of others; people pleasers think of others and very little of themselves. Both however believe that their way of prioritizing is right. It is not. The neglect of others (narcissism) is selfish and causes unnecessary distance, confrontation and lack of intimacy. The neglect of self (people pleasing) creates unwanted exhaustion, increased anxiety and also contributes to a lack of intimacy. Without a balance of self and others, a person cannot be fully intimate.
Rescuing. Narcissists and people pleasers love to rescue others however, they do it for very different reasons. Narcissists gain a sense of superiority from saving others because they were able to solve something the other person could not do on their own. In exchange for the help, narcissists demand unending loyalty. People pleasers gain a natural high from the same act as they love to feel needed. This strokes their ego and impression of self as a selfless person. In exchange, people pleasers expect friendship.
Admiration. This is the key to both personalities: the need to be admired by others. Narcissists believe they should be adored because of their expertise, superiority, beauty, intelligence, or accomplishments. It does not matter if they have achieved anything special, narcissists believe they are above others and deserve constant admiration. The term people pleasers defines the essential need for satisfying others and seeking their approval. Without admiration, people pleasers and narcissists become starved usually resulting in an emotional explosion.
Affection. Affection is not intimacy. Sex is not intimacy. Affection is not sex. However, narcissists and people pleasers are unable to make these distinctions. They see all three as the same thing. Affection is showing tenderness, kindness, and gentleness towards another person. Sex is a physical act which is designed to bring pleasure to both parties. Intimacy is a deep connection between two people where they are equally transparent with one another. Narcissists and people pleasers crave affection but are frequently willing to settle for sex. Often the sex is one way: narcissists seek to satisfy themselves and aren’t concerned with pleasing others. People pleasers want to satisfy the other person and sacrifice themselves. Neither are comfortable being transparent with another person.
Control. Both parties have control issues. Narcissists control through demands, manipulation, and abuse. They are often very aggressive about insisting on their own way and expecting others to fall in line because they said so. Controlling others feeds their self righteous ego. Because people pleasers cannot be seen as aggressive or assertive, they often use others ways to control such as guilt trips, excessive kindness or passive-aggressive behavior. They are masters at concealing the need to control through niceness. But they must control others as well to feed the desire to be liked by everyone.
Unforgiveness. Narcissists won’t ask for forgiveness instead they expect others to make excuses for their poor behavior. They also don’t grant forgiveness to others, even for the same offense, and instead tend to be very vindictive. People pleasers grant forgiveness without being asked and ask for forgiveness even when it is not their fault. However, they are unwilling to forgive themselves for similar offenses. This unequal scale for both the narcissist and people pleaser stem from a belief that they are different then everyone else. The narcissist believes they are better and the people pleaser believes they not worthy.
Understanding the similarities between narcissism and people pleasing helps to comprehend the strong and powerful attraction. In each of the mentioned areas, they feed off each other in unhealthy ways and reinforce the dysfunction.
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