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The Struggle of Family Building as a People-Pleaser

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Decisions regarding family building can be deeply personal and emotionally charged. For individuals and couples who identify as people-pleasers, the journey becomes even more complex.

People-pleasing tendencies, characterized by an excessive need for approval and a reluctance to assert oneself, can significantly impact the ability to navigate this transformative process and, often, difficult road.

Why do people-pleasers often find it challenging to make family building decisions? How does the tendency to people-please manifest in various relationships while family building? I'll answer these questions and also provide valuable insights and practical tips to help identify and address people-pleasing behaviors, ultimately empowering you to make the choices that align with your desires and values.

People-pleasers often struggle with family building decisions due to their innate desire to keep everyone happy, maintain harmony, and avoid conflict.

This struggle can be observed in different aspects of the family building journey:

Loved Ones: People-pleasers often find it challenging to navigate the expectations and opinions of their loved ones. They may hesitate to express their true desires, fearing disapproval or disappointment from family members, close friends, or their partner.

What might this look like?

  • Feeling pressured to pursue a specific fertility treatment preferred by your parents, despite having reservations about it.

  • Entertaining unsolicited advice from friends about what decision you should make next.

  • Agreeing to a pathway to parenthood that your partner prefers when it doesn't align with your comfort levels, values, or needs, because you're worried they'll be upset if you don't.

Medical Professionals: When interacting with doctors and fertility specialists, people-pleasers may find themselves downplaying their concerns or hesitations. They may feel reluctant to question medical recommendations, leading to potential mismatches between their personal preferences and the treatment plans proposed by professionals. This can result in feelings of powerlessness and compromise in crucial decisions.

What might this look like?

  • Not requesting further testing or a second opinion for fear of offending your doctor.

  • Presenting as "well-behaved" and "nice" so your doctor with like you and want to see you succeed.

Other Professionals: From counselors to agency workers, people-pleasers may struggle to advocate for their needs and preferences. They might hold back from fully engaging in conversations or disclosing important information, fearing judgment or confrontation. This reticence can hinder their ability to receive tailored guidance and support.

What might this look like?

  • Struggling to express preferences around egg donor characteristics for fear of being seen as "too picky."

  • Withholding criticism about your adoption social worker's lack of communication out of fear they'll dislike you and be unwilling to support you.

Acquaintances and Strangers: People-pleasers often encounter unsolicited advice or intrusive inquiries from acquaintances and strangers. Whether it's comments about their personal lives or probing questions about their family planning choices, people-pleasers may find it difficult to assert boundaries and protect their emotional well-being.

What might this look like?

  • Apologizing profusely to strangers on social media who ask about the results of your recent IVF transfer when you don't share with them before you've had time to process.

  • Feeling obligated to explain to the librarian why you're pursuing surrogacy instead of "just adopting" when she opines about the book on surrogacy you've checked out.


Tips for Recognizing and Overcoming People-Pleasing Behaviors:

  1. Self-Awareness: Developing self-awareness is crucial in identifying people-pleasing behaviors. Take time to reflect on your own desires, values, and emotions related to family building. I recommend writing them down to clarify them further and to return to them later. Now, go out into the world and notice any patterns of suppressing your voice or prioritizing others' opinions over your own.

  2. Setting Boundaries: Learning to set clear boundaries is essential in reducing people-pleasing tendencies. Practice assertiveness skills to communicate your needs and desires respectfully, both with loved ones and professionals involved in your family building journey. Establishing boundaries will help you protect your emotional well-being and make decisions that align with your values.

  3. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Embrace self-compassion throughout your family building process. Understand that it's okay to prioritize your own well-being and make choices that may not please everyone. Remind yourself that your happiness and fulfillment matter, and it's important to honor your own path.

  4. Seeking Professional Support: My entire purpose is to support you as you work to understand the challenges of people-pleasing. I am here to how your people-pleasing tendencies manifest in your day-to-day family building life, address underlying fears, and develop healthier patterns of communication and decision-making.

Recognizing and addressing people-pleasing tendencies is a crucial step in navigating the complexities of family building decisions. By acknowledging and honoring your own desires, setting boundaries, and seeking support, you can empower yourself to make choices that align with your values and create a fulfilling family building journey.


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