What is Fawning?

People Pleaser


What is fawning?

Prior to having my guest this week on the show, I had never heard of the term fawning.  Whenever I am preparing to have a new guest appear on my Podcast to share their story, I always ask for a bio and some background information on them.  My guest this week was Nischa Phair, an author, embodiment researcher, and coach.   She specializes in trauma-informed pleasure work. Her bio states, ” her coaching technique is helping her clients understand the repressed shame around sex and pleasure that prevent those that have suffered from sexual trauma to fully step into their potential of embracing their sexuality again.”  Her book being released in March 2022,  titled “When no looks like yes” is strongly focused on fawning and the psychology behind it.

After our interview, I was so intrigued by her level of not only how intelligent she is, but a certain spark in her eyes. I could see she was a fighter and without going into details regarding her abuse, I felt this immediate connection to Nischa.

I decided I wanted to learn more about this psychology and began to do my research. I will start by defining what fawning is. The definition of fawning is the use of people-pleasing to diffuse a conflict and earn the approval of others. It’s a way of creating safety when connecting with others by meeting their expectations to avoid further conflict.

The term fawning came from Pete Walker, a therapist, and author of the book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving”.  Digging further into my research it occurred to me that a person did not necessarily need to experience some type of trauma in their past to demonstrate signs of fawning.

man in black crew neck t-shirt

One example of this is a person who has a hard time saying no and wants to please everyone around them.   If you are the type of person that is constantly putting yourself in a position where you become overwhelmed with tasks, making it obvious that you can’t possibly please everyone to the level that they would like, you are exhibiting a behavior of fawning. Another example is a person who prefers to avoid conflict so will not be their true authentic self or express what is truly on their mind,  in order to avoid a possible confrontation.   Both of these examples will become pent up negative energy inside of you until you lose all control. 

As I dug deeper in my research it occurred to me I am guilty of my first example. I like to help people and I often take on additional tasks when I know I am already at capacity with what I can handle. I have a hard time saying no when someone asks for a favor and if I do say no, I get this overwhelming sense of guilt. 

I then came across some of the outcomes of fawning such as holding onto your emotions until you just can’t anymore and the release is outpouring emotions which then cause you to socially distance yourself from others,  I am guilty of this as well.

Some of the additional signs of fawning include

1) the inability to stand up for yourself.

2) Not tending to your own needs in order to make everyone around you happy.

3) Feeling that you are responsible for the reactions of other people

4) The loss of your own identity.

5) Constantly feeling guilty even if a situation was out of your control and had nothing to do with you.

I then began to look into some ways of treating these behaviors. To begin first and foremost is identifying that you are exhibiting one if not more of these behaviors.  Begin by slowly setting boundaries for yourself. Knowing when to say no and not feeling the need to explain your reasoning as to why you are saying no.  Understand that you are not a superhero and you are not capable of doing everything for everyone. Be ok with delegating tasks and do not feel the need to explain why.  The last piece of advice I came across was to reach out to a therapist. Just talking with a therapist or counselor can help you realize you are not alone. It was interesting for me to see that fawning is not just a characteristic of someone who had undergone some type of childhood or life trauma but was also an apparent personality trait that I exhibited. 

grayscale photography of woman praying while holding prayer beads

Although I do not show all the descriptions to recognize fawning, I am definitely guilty of a majority of them.  Just like everything in life, the first step is to identify the problem before you can address and fix it. I never would have thought that an interview with another guest on my show would have me reevaluating some of my personality traits and how I deal with everyday life.

I will say it again, every single one of us has a story and it is imperative we not only listen but allow others to share, as this is how we learn and simultaneously help others and possibly ourselves.  We are all unique and different in our own ways but yet we are all quite similar as well. 

Till next time, remember to always keep an open mind, an open heart and an open ear.  Sometimes all a person needs is someone to listen.

Coralyn Jewel

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