Understanding The Relationship Between Perfectionism, People Pleasing, And Codependency

Understanding The Relationship Between Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, And Codependency

While seemingly distinct, these thought habits have patterns that often intertwine, weaving a complex web of influence over our lives. Let’s explore what they are together, their relationship, and how they impact our well-being, along with some ways to begin breaking free from their insidious grip.
Understanding Perfectionism, People-Pleasing, And Codependency 
Perfectionism is the relentless pursuit of flawlessness, driven by a fear of failure and a desire for external validation. So, imagine needing to be the best, with no room for mistakes, and it never being enough. Sound exhausting? It is. People-pleasing and codependency overlap quite a bit and can be challenging to see where one begins and ends. Many times, people-pleasing shows up in people who struggle with codependency. People-pleasing involves sacrificing one’s own needs to gain approval and avoid conflict and rejection by others. This leads to resentment and more exhaustion. Codependency manifests as excessive reliance on others to validate a sense of self-worth and enough-ness, blurring boundaries and sacrificing autonomy.
The Relationship Between Them 
You’re probably already seeing the connection between these three. Perfectionism, people-pleasing, and codependency are interconnected by their roots in fear and a longing for acceptance.
Perfectionists may engage in people-pleasing to maintain an image of flawlessness, while those who seek validation through others’ approval may become enmeshed in codependent relationships. Each reinforces the other in a cycle of anxiety, self-doubt, and emotional dependency. The truth is that most of us are somewhere on the spectrum of all of these thought habits because we are human and have a deep-seated need for the safety of connection with others.
How These Thought Habits Can Affect Your Life, Relationships, And Overall Well-being

These patterns can have profound effects on various aspects of our lives. In personal pursuits, perfectionism may lead to chronic stress and dissatisfaction, while people-pleasing can erode self-esteem and hinder authentic expression, resulting in a loss of boundaries and personal identity. And in relationships, codependency may result in emotional imbalance, strained relationships, and low self-esteem, as we may excessively rely on others for our overall well-being.

Overall, these thought habits undermine mental health and hinder personal growth, perpetuating a cycle of unhappiness and disconnection.

How Are These Thought Habits Developed?

Perfectionism, often rooted in trauma, is a coping mechanism that many of us grapple with daily. It’s a way to regain control over our lives when we’ve felt powerless. By setting impossibly high standards, we attempt to shield ourselves from feelings of shame or inadequacy stemming from past experiences. This pursuit of perfection is draining, leading to anxiety, depression, and burnout.

For some, perfectionism serves as a shield against future harm, a means of safeguarding emotional and physical well-being. Yet, despite its protective guise, perfectionism can become a barrier to living a fulfilling life, being present, hindering our ability to embrace imperfection and find true contentment.

Perfectionism, people-pleasing, and codependency are interconnected by their roots in fear and a longing for acceptance.

Originally coined within the substance abuse community, the term “codependency” describes the caretaking behavior that is typically seen in children of addict parents. Having spent some time in 12 step rooms myself, I can relate to growing up in environments that promote this type of relational response that typically begins from a very young age, leading children to focus on making their caregivers feel okay.

This caretaking tendency is deeply rooted our most primitive need for safety and connection. When we learn to anticipate others’ needs and have tense situations to navigate, we unconsciously build strategies that are meant to keep us alive. In the 12-step rooms, these strategies are what is referred to as shortcomings. While these survival strategies may have once worked for us, they eventually get in the way, holding us back from living authentic and fulfilled lives.

Because codependency often manifests as people-pleasing, we can recognize it’s symptoms a number of different ways:

  1. Worrying about others’ feelings: You may have an agreement with worry that tells you that you to do anything possible to make sure others are not upset with you, or else you won’t be okay. This worry triggers anxiety, which in turn lead to efforts to control others responses and restore harmony in the relationship. However, this control-seeking behavior can create disconnection rather than fostering genuine connection. 

  2. Fear of disappointment: Feeling compelled to say “yes” to every request to avoid letting others down can lead to overcommitment and resentment, and exhaustion. This cycle perpetuates as the fear of disappointing others remains unaddressed.

  3. Seeking external approval: Craving constant reassurance and validation from others about your decisions, feelings, and behaviors also leads to anxiety and insecurity when approval is lacking. The other side of this is that you never truly get to know your beautiful self as all that you are. When you discard authenticity in order to fit an idea of someone else’s expectations, you also discard any agency you have over your life.

  4. Neglecting self-care: Believing others deserve more ease and prioritizing their needs over your own can leave you feeling depleted and disconnected from yourself. 

Recognizing these patterns and understanding their underlying fears is crucial for breaking free from cycles that lead to perfectionism, people-pleasing, codependency. Instead of seeking validation externally, focusing on self-acceptance and building internal resilience can foster healthier relationships and a greater sense of well-being.

Meeting Human Needs and Finding Holistic Solutions

During my training with Tony Robbins and Cloé Madanes programs, I learned how to use the six human needs model as a way to better understand these inner strategies and help connect these needs in healthier and more productive way. These six human needs are inherent to every person and unchangeable. However, changing the way we meet these needs can transform not only how we feel about ourselves, but the quality of our relationships, health, and overall fulfillment in life.

Since these thought habits typically serve to meet needs such as certainty, significance, and connection, each of which are vital to our overall well-being, we can learn new ways of meeting them that are more balanced and fulfilling. For example, instead of seeking certainty through perfectionism, embracing uncertainty and imperfection can foster resilience and growth. Rather than seeking significance through people-pleasing, cultivating self-worth and pursuing passions can lead to genuine fulfillment. And instead of relying on others for connection and validation, nurturing self-compassion and fostering healthy boundaries can cultivate authentic relationships.

The Wrap Up…

Understanding the interconnectedness of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and codependency sheds light on the complex web of influence they cast over our lives. These patterns, often rooted in fear and a longing for acceptance, can profoundly impact our well-being and relationships. By recognizing these patterns and understanding their underlying fears, we empower ourselves to break free from their grip and embrace healthier ways of meeting our innate human needs. Through self-acceptance, resilience-building, and fostering authentic connections, we pave the way for greater fulfillment and genuine happiness in life.


Nina Saurer

Board Certified - Clinical Hypnotherapist & Life Strategy Coach



October 10-13 * Limited Space