The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome, by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D.

My copy: 9780071385640 (image from

It took me a little while to read this book. Not that it was overly-clinical and complex, but rather it was saturated with information that needed some careful reading and analyzing.

The Disease to Please is a great book for anybody who has difficulty measuring their self-worth compared to everyone else’s around them, or find themselves jumping to do things for other people, even at their own personal or psychological expense.

What may seem an irritating quirk (to yourself or others) actually has many layers. The first 2/3 of this book addresses the different facets of this draining psychological issue, the last 1/3 a day by day plan of little things you can do to avoid saying “yes” to everybody for everything. Some aspects may resonate more than others.

I’ve expressed my own struggle with this people-pleasing at times on this blog, ways that I’ve let myself go just to do for others. I’ve hidden my anger–mostly at myself–under my niceness or seeming niceness, and mostly at work. It’s taken a lot for me to pry my fingernails away from the ledge and trust other people to pick up the slack (and sometimes I grab for it anyway).

But it’s so much more than “saying yes” to everything, it’s the way this people-pleasing behavior starts and affects our jobs, relationships, friendships, and basic living. Its a multi-faceted problem, a large umbrella covering other issues. I was amazed at how much pertained to struggles I’d been having for a long time. There are also therapy case studies to peruse as examples in each chapter, to get a better idea of what’s going to be discussed.

This isn’t a quick-fix book, or a how-to (though it does have a significant guide in the back), it’s about exploring what might be bringing this need to please out. Being nice is a great thing, and kindness is a virtue, but being an emotional (or physical) doormat every day is not healthy. It also has a great chapter on anger management, which is going to make me work harder and look for more info about that.

Now, I haven’t read all the 21 day plan in the end, because it doesn’t want me to skip ahead, but I read a few days worth (still working through them) and it’s got some good little tidbits I can already see myself using for work, when clients want extra help or co-workers need something from me.

Since I need every hour I can get my hands on, if it’s about work hours, I’ll say “yes” to more without hesitation. Otherwise, I don’t need to be overwhelmed, so I need to learn to say “no” or “when I can, after _____” more often.

I recommend this psychological/self help book for anyone who finds themselves drained by stretching themselves so much for others, anyone addicted to approval from others, those who don’t know their self-worth, those who are doormats or in psychologically abusive relationships (family or significant others).

The Disease to Please is a must read, and I ended up writing tons of notes in the margins (otherwise I’d be willing to pass it around). It wasn’t on my read list for the week, but I’m glad I took the time to do it. It said so much that me, and others like me, need to take into account to get over our fears of disappointment, knee-jerk reactions, and perceived ideas of selfishness.

Hugs, and be well, everyone.

5 thoughts on “The Disease to Please: Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome, by Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D.

  1. bobcabkings says:

    This reminds me of one of my touchstone quotes (which I have, alas, often ignored):

    “Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.
    But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants “just a few minutes of your time, please—this won’t take long.” Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time—and squawk for more!
    So learn to say No—and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.
    (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don’t do it because it is “expected” of you.)”

    ― Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

    Liked by 1 person

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