The Relationship Between Narcissists and People-Pleasers

One of the effects of growing up in a narcissistic family is that those children will eventually become people pleasers. It's the longing for affection that leads them toward this kind of behavior.
The Relationship Between Narcissists and People-Pleasers
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 08 December, 2021

Narcissists disregard your rights and only want to obtain certain benefits from you. People-pleasers put aside their own needs and aspire solely to satisfy you and give you what you want at all times. In fact, narcissists and people-pleasers hide a curious relationship. It’s a unique but determining bond that isn’t always easy to spot.

If there’s one expert on this subject, it’s Dr. Marie-France Hirigoyen. She’s a psychiatrist specializing in psychological harassment. In her book, Stalking the Soul; Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity, written in 1983, she warns that the narcissistic personality is now colonizing many social settings. For example, politics, business, finance, etc.

However, along with the narcissist goes the people-pleaser. One is the reverse of the other and they often give each other feedback. In most cases, the second is the victim of the first. It’s a type of bond that’s as destructive as it’s silent. Indeed, it’s a relationship that needs more discussion in order to shed more light on it.

These invisible sufferings need a light shone on them.

Girl representing the The relationship between narcissistic people and complacent people

How do narcissists and people-pleasers relate?

Psychological consultation rooms are full of people-pleasers. However, someone with a narcissistic profile will rarely ask for help. That’s because they see no problem in their behavior or in what’s happening around them.

People-pleasers generally have low self-esteem and feelings of anguish that they’re not good enough for others.

These men and women aren’t always aware that their eternal need to make others happy while overlooking their own rights and needs has its origins, very often, in their personal history with a narcissist. Let’s take a closer look.

Children of narcissistic families end up as people-pleasers

Elan Golomb, a clinical psychologist, and professor at New York University has researched the effects of parenting by narcissistic parents. Her research work entitled Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self provides some interesting facts on this topic.

In this book, Golomb notes that one of the effects of growing up in a narcissistic environment is reaching adulthood as a people-pleaser.

  • Narcissistic parents always put their needs before their children’s. Little by little, children learn to sacrifice and silence their desires, opinions, and, of course, their needs. This continues for years.
  • Extreme control rules in these environments. Children end up internalizing these norms. Therefore, they assume very early on that the only way to be accepted or recognized is by complying with everything that others demand of them.
  • Likewise, narcissistic families always have unsolved problems or a lack of something that generates anger and frustration. The children end up acting as rescuers to calm these situations. They know that things are always better if their parents are satisfied.
  • Growing up in a family in which one of the members is narcissistic, instill into children the belief that they’re not loved. This leads them to have to work hard and do certain things to receive even the smallest crumb of affection or recognition. The trend is maintained in adulthood, and they become people-pleasers.
Girl thinking about the relationship between narcissistic people and complacent people

The narcissist and the people-pleaser, a bond of eternal suffering

Narcissists and people-pleasers attract each other. However, this connecting link comes in the form of shackles. In fact, it’s a lock with which love becomes dependence and suffering. This form of attraction can be explained as follows:

  • People-pleasers are fulfilled by meeting the needs of the narcissist. They see themselves as rescuers, as saviors of others who allow themselves to be ‘fed’, the more the better. In effect, the people-pleasers are repeating the patterns they learned in their childhood.
  • The narcissist feels reinforced by having someone with this type of personality by their side. Thanks to this, they obtain power, reinforcement, admiration, attention, and praise.
  • The low self-esteem of the people-pleaser makes them perfect targets for the narcissist. They’re easily manipulated and usually settle for very little. Furthermore, the narcissist is skilled in deception. In fact, they appear dazzling and have the gift of charming people. This almost immediately captivates the people-pleaser, who tends to see them as perfect.
  • Both narcissists and people-pleasers need affection. In fact, in reality, they’re both desperate for love. The narcissist needs it to reinforce their ego given its high deficiencies. On the other hand, the people-pleaser yearns for it to heal their wounds. Sadly, these relationships rarely thrive and often disintegrate.

The narcissist and the people pleaser are two personalities who’ll rarely feel happy or fulfilled in their lives. Narcissists tend not to be aware of the harmful effects of their behavior. While the people pleasers simply don’t realize that there’s nothing as harmful as trying to give others what they lack themselves. Like healthy self-esteem and feelings of security.

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  • Crocker, B. (2009). The children of Narcissus exploring the development of existential traumaProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Pacifica Graduate Institute, Ann Arbor. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/275848898?accountid=14553
  • Golomb, E. (1992). Trapped in the mirror: Adult children of narcissists in their struggle for self. William Morrow & Co, Inc271.