Understanding Anxious Attachment, People Pleasing, and Attunement: A Guide to Healing

Understanding people pleasing and anxious attachment is crucial for fostering healthier relationships and personal growth. Rooted in childhood experiences, these behaviours significantly impact adult relationships. This blog post delves into the origins of these behaviours, their effects on relationships, and offers practical steps for healing and building healthier connections.

Understanding People Pleasing and Anxious Attachment


  • People pleasing and anxious attachment often originate from inconsistent attunement in parent-child relationships during childhood.
  • Children adapt to their parents’ needs, sacrificing their authenticity, which can lead to unmet emotional needs, shame, and a longing for connection.

Signs of Anxious Attachment

  • Anxious attachment manifests as codependency, fear of abandonment, low self-esteem, and people-pleasing tendencies.
  • Individuals may struggle with setting boundaries, seeking constant validation, and feeling unworthy of love.

Impact on Relationships

  • Anxious attachment hinders relationship satisfaction, leading to communication challenges, self-sabotage, and increased arguments.
  • Behaviours such as clinginess or neediness may push partners away, reinforcing feelings of abandonment.

Differentiating People Pleasing from Kindness

  • People pleasing stems from a fear of rejection and low self-esteem, leading to neglect of one’s needs and difficulties in asserting boundaries, which can result in resentment and burnout.

Understanding People Pleasing: A Deep Dive

  • What is People Pleasing?

People pleasing is a behaviour where individuals prioritize others’ comfort over their own, often stemming from a deep-rooted fear that prioritizing personal needs will result in being unloved or unworthy. This behaviour can be traced back to childhood experiences in chaotic or conditional environments where individuals coped by minimizing their own needs to maintain peace and seek approval from caregivers. Signs of people pleasing include difficulty in identifying and vocalizing personal needs, an irrational fear of upsetting others, and a struggle with setting boundaries.

  • The Impact of People Pleasing

The impact of people pleasing can be detrimental, leading to feelings of resentment, frustration, and hypervigilance in social interactions. Individuals may feel misunderstood, creating superficial relationships based on a persona they believe others want, ultimately abandoning their true selves. This behaviour can also result in anxiety surrounding social interactions, as individuals constantly monitor others’ moods and take on accountability for others’ feelings. Furthermore, extreme resentment can develop in relationships and friendships due to a lack of expressing personal needs, leading to a disconnection from oneself and others.

  • Breaking Free from People Pleasing

To break free from people pleasing, individuals need to become aware of its root cause, practice self-compassion, reconnect with their feelings, and prioritize their personal needs. Setting boundaries and challenging the belief that one can control others’ perceptions are essential steps towards forming authentic, healthy relationships and rediscovering one’s self. As individuals begin to look inward, they will start to re-learn themselves, their values, and their needs, feeling more grounded, connected, and confident in themselves and their relationships.

Attunement Activities for Healing

To repair inconsistent attunement from childhood, I recommend practicing attunement activities focus on building connection, empathy, and understanding. These activities can be beneficial for individuals, regardless of attachment style or adverse childhood events, to promote healing and enhance interpersonal relationships. Here are some attunement activities:

  • Locate a Safe Place: Safety is a necessary stage for emotional attunement. Ensure you feel safe expressing your emotions to foster genuine connection and understanding.
  • Before You Speak, Listen: Pay close attention to what the other person is saying rather than planning your next move. Show genuine interest and empathy in their experiences.
  • Ask Questions: If you don’t comprehend something the other person is saying, ask them a question to show that you are truly engaged and interested in understanding them.
  • Practice Observing: Observe nonverbal signs such as posture, facial expressions, and energy levels to infer the other person’s emotions and respond appropriately.
  • Share the Truth: Express empathy and understanding by acknowledging and validating the other person’s feelings, even if you disagree with them.
  • Recognize Your Triggers: Be aware of your triggers and communicate them to your partner to foster a safe and supportive environment for emotional expression.
  • Guided Mindfulness Meditation: Engage in guided meditation sessions to cultivate present moment awareness and non-judgmental acceptance of thoughts and feelings.
  • Breathing Exercises: Practice deep breathing exercises to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and increase self-awareness.
  • Emotional Journaling: Keep a journal to express and reflect on emotions, feelings, and experiences.
  • Values and Beliefs Exploration: Reflect on core values, beliefs, and motivations to gain insight into personal perspectives and behaviours.
  • Yoga or Tai Chi: Engage in mindful movement practices to increase body awareness, reduce stress, and enhance self-regulation skills.
  • Grounding Exercises: Practice grounding techniques, such as walking barefoot on grass or focusing on senses, to connect with the present moment and increase mindfulness.
  • Artistic Expression: Engage in creative activities, such as painting, drawing, or writing, to express and explore emotions, feelings, and experiences.
  • Music and Dance: Use music and dance as forms of emotional expression and connection, fostering deeper understanding and empathy towards oneself and others.
  • Seek Therapy: Therapy can be instrumental in developing emotional attunement skills and addressing underlying issues and traumas.

Understanding and addressing people pleasing and anxious attachment and practicing attunement are crucial steps towards fostering healthier relationships and personal growth. By cultivating self-awareness, prioritizing self-love, and seeking professional support when needed, individuals can break free from limiting patterns and embrace authentic connections built on mutual respect and understanding. Healing is a journey, and every step towards self-discovery brings us closer to emotional fulfillment and genuine intimacy.

Roya Shameli

Roya Shameli is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Expressions Counselling. She is passionate about assisting individuals in managing and coping with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, adapting to life changes, and resolving relationship challenges. She sees clients in person at our Port Moody location as well as online.

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