Nine Psychological Traits of Submissive People

Do you invest a good deal of energy in indulging other people's wishes? Do you abandon your needs to satisfy those of others? Are you a submissive person? Find out what the psychological traits of this profile are.
Nine Psychological Traits of Submissive People

Last update: 02 September, 2022

Those with a submissive personality are characterized by abandoning what they really want to please other people. Indeed, they willingly submit to the authority and domination of others and tend to trust those around them to meet their own needs. This way of positioning themselves in the face of reality often makes them feel powerless. In addition, they struggle to make routine decisions as they feel incapable.

The meaning of their lives is built around dependency, having handed over their will to others. Furthermore, their lack of self-confidence leads them to give up their own identity and their desires in order to do everything for others. They don’t even get satisfaction by offering their lives to others, they just want to be accepted and loved.

In this article, we’ll look at the psychological traits of the way of being and acting of those who present this type of personality.

Submissive people

There are several psychological characteristics that define a submissive person. We’ll highlight nine traits of this personality type, according to the study of personality by Millon and Davis (1998).

1. Inadequacy

One of the main traits of submissive people is a lack of self-confidence. They tend to be collaborative, conformist, and unassertive. They avoid being the center of attention at all costs and are perceived by their network of friends as thoughtful, generous, and flattering.

As a matter of fact, people around them are often impressed by their humility, cordiality, gentleness, and delicacy. However, behind their affability is a desire for acceptance and approval. This need is clearly seen when they’re faced with stressful conditions, against which they’re helpless.

The sentimental and sensitive disposition that characterizes submissive people can lead them to be extremely conciliatory. In fact, they tend to excessively sacrifice themselves in their interpersonal relationships.

sad young man
Submissive personalities have low self-confidence.

2. Helplessness

Submissive people learn to bond with others by blending their identity with them, denying their differences, and avoiding expressions of power. By showing themselves as defenseless and weak, they get the protection, care, and affection they seek. That’s because they submit to the will of others.

Submissive people perceive themselves as defenseless and incapable. Therefore, they shift their responsibilities onto others and leave their own affairs in their hands. Indeed, they believe that others are better prepared to face the challenges and difficulties that life presents.

3. Naivety

Submissive people possess limited awareness of both themselves and others. They’re not particularly introspective in relation to the problems that surround them and they tend to be naive and uncritical. As a rule, they always see the good in things.

Naivety leads them to be simple, innocent, and immature people. They believe what other people tell them so as not to conflict with them, even if they feel as if they’re being treated unfairly.

4. Ineptitude

Submissive people see themselves as weak and fragile when they’re alone. They tend to undervalue their beliefs and achievements. In fact, when they compare themselves with others, they downplay their attributes and highlight their inferiority and flaws.

This pattern of self-hatred is a strategy they use to make others feel loved and valued. It helps them gain the acceptance of others since it places them in a superior position, which flatters them.

5. Immaturity

Another trait of submissive or dependent people is that their ideas tend to be unsophisticated and a little childish. They’re continually driven to admire, love, and be willing to give their all. That’s the only way they can see to evoke care and affection from others.

Due to their immaturity, most submissive personalities have learned that they’re inferior. Therefore, they give their ‘superiors’ a sense of usefulness, strength, understanding, and competence.

6. Introjection/denial

The helplessness and incapacity of the submissive person causes them to feel empty and fear being alone. They use the defense mechanism of introjection to deal with these feelings. With this, they internalize the beliefs and values of other people. In fact, by aligning themselves with other people’s identities and competencies, they avoid their feelings of anxiety about their own helplessness.

Denial is also another characteristic of subjects with a submissive personality. This is seen in the naivety of their thoughts. They always soften any interpersonal discomfort and the stress that it generates. The way they speak is usually sweet and cloying, with which they hide (or deny) any type of aggressiveness.

7. Introversion and shyness

Because submissive people repress their desires, feelings, and emotions to please others and gain their acceptance and protection, they often end up being shy. This means they avoid the conflicts that social relationships can generate.

8. Emotional dependency

Submissive individuals tend to look for a dominant person to whom they can hand over responsibility. Consequently, they become emotionally dependent on those loved ones they see as having more authority.

Crying woman hugging her partner
Emotional dependence prevents a person from having freedom and being autonomous.

9. Lack of assertiveness

Submissive people don’t talk about their points of view, wants, and needs. This makes it extremely difficult to know what their motivations are and what they want. The reason they don’t share their own interests is that it means they can avoid any conflict that may arise from them. This shows a clear lack of assertiveness.

Finally, the state of these psychological dimensions, when it produces suffering, makes psychotherapeutic intervention necessary. That’s the first step and, perhaps, the most important for the submissive person to begin to trust themselves and their abilities. Furthermore, they’ll learn to satisfy their own needs and enjoy themselves without giving up their own identity to please others.

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  • Chand, S. P., & Marwaha, R. (2022). Anxiety. StatPearls. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470361/
  • Millon, T. y Davis, R. D. (1998). Trastornos de la personalidad: más allá del DSM-IV. Masson.
  • Fricke, M. F. (2010). Autoconciencia e identidad personal. Península5(1), 99-118.