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Fight, flight, freeze. Fawn?

What is fawning?

It’s people-pleasing.

It’s a defense mechanism.

It's when a person shrinks and assimilates into the identity of those around them in order to have approval and to belong, while working to strengthen the relationship bond for security.

When I discovered what fawning was, I was blown away by how many ways it had expressed itself in my life. I started to realize how much I had given up of myself and suddenly realized why. And to be honest, it was a relief to have so much of my behavior categorized as a way my subconscious was keeping me safe. I could let go of the belief that I was always going to be this way (simply because I had been this way for so long), and allow myself to change my story. Based on what I have learned about fawning, here is a list of how it expressed itself in my life.

Signs you may have this trauma response:

1. You mirror others and compromise your own values. Often, this looks like doing/saying/ thinking the way someone else does in order to have something in common with them.

2. You probably put the needs of others before yours and put your dreams and plans on hold or alter them for others.

3. If you are in a business or work for someone else, you might not charge what your services are worth, if you charge at all. You may have lots of education, ability, certifications, or experience, but don’t capitalize on it because you want to help others or be of service and you can “do without” if it means others trust and accept you, and hopefully appreciate you.

4. You avoid conflict at all costs. Unless you’ve reached your limit and are so frustrated and angry from holding in everything for so long. And then you shame spiral afterward.

5. You separate yourself from your true desires and emotions because you are uncomfortable with the effect that will have on others and the potential consequences. It’s as though you feel your emotions aren’t as important as those of the people around you.

6. You really care about what people think, and it is particularly distressing to know someone doesn’t like you or is talking about you behind your back. You begin to worry about all of the potential consequences and focus on that person and what the consequences may be.

7. You can be a chameleon and fit in with any group. You fit in with just about everyone, may have an eclectic friend base, but deep down you don’t feel like you’re being authentic, ever. You never sink in to who you are— you just feel like a “sort of everything” instead of committed to a passion.

8. You dissociate in certain social situations— you may feel as though you are watching the event from the outside looking in. It sometimes seems like you’ve checked out, gotten distracted, and you may forget portions of the conversation.

9. You say yes to many things and get overwhelmed or feel bad when you flake or cancel last minute. You say you want to do something but don’t check in with your initial gut response of “no.” You enter into friendships and other relationships that feel “off” but don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. You often say when a relationship like that ends, “I knew better, but I ignored that feeling.”

10. You feel guilty, and possibly in danger for having big emotions.

11. You feel uncomfortable and responsible when people are inconvenienced or disappointed, even if it’s something that’s out of your control, because you will do anything to make sure they are happy, even at your own expense.

12. You start to wonder who you are as an individual, because you have taken on everyone else's interests, behaviors, and desires for so long that you haven't let your own be expressed.


This probably began some time ago because of trauma in early life.

A note on early trauma: trauma can be anything that rocked your boat— divorce, a car accident, being bullied, an injury, witnessing a parent argument, getting lost in a grocery store— trauma is on a spectrum and is experienced differently by everyone. What one person would think is a common occurrence could be traumatic to another, and trauma can also build on itself with repeated incidents. For me, my trauma was my parents getting divorced when I was three. Then it was going back and forth between two families and never feeling like I belonged fully in either one. "Not belonging" has been an open wound most of my life, and every time I felt it in a situation, I was re-traumatized to some degree.

What can you do about it?

1. First of all, because you have been melding yourself into others for so long, you might have trouble seeing yourself. You also may struggle to find a relationship where you haven’t fawned, so being seen and vulnerable with others may be difficult at first. If you have someone in your life who you can talk about this with, you can ask them to support you in coming back to yourself. Also, seeking professional consult outside of yourself can be really helpful. Therapists, counselors, and coaches with appropriate training will know how to witness you and hold space as you work back to yourself.

2. Realize this is an open door to spiritual growth and understanding. Now that you know you have this trauma response, you can heal the wound and remove triggers so that you can unlock yourself and pursue what you really want out of life. It’s a freeing experience!

3. Determine your values. Find out what your values are, where you have discrepancies, and where you aren’t showing yourself the same care you do for others. Again, this is something a coach or therapist can help with. Eliciting values shows where your boundaries are and what your beliefs are around them. These beliefs can be changed or removed altogether if they aren’t serving you. Once they are in alignment for you, you’ll be more resolute in living life for your higher purpose instead of someone’s approval.

4. Line out your boundaries. Determine where you draw the line for yourself and others. It is kind to set boundaries and trustworthy of you to keep them.

5. Feel the feelings. You probably haven’t allowed yourself to feel anything the way it actually feels. You’ve felt things how you think others need you to feel them. In practice, this looks like checking into where the feelings are in your body and noticing them. It also means allowing feelings to express themselves however your body wants. There are plenty of ways humans feel, express, and process emotions that are not socially comfortable (like wailing, screaming, moaning, jumping, shuddering, shaking, growling, hissing, crying, laughing, and allowing these expressions as they roll through the body). You can start working through these in private, which will recalibrate your body and mind to be okay with it, and it will allow you to move stagnant negative energy out so you can feel more of the good stuff. The more you do this, and practice allowing, you will feel more comfortable expressing yourself to others more freely.


Trauma responses show us how we have navigated the world thus far. Recognizing them for what they are opens the door to understanding ourselves on a deeper level, and helps us discover the places we need healing. We can see where we have hurt others because we didn't have an example of how to support someone going through what we had never felt witnessed in, and we can do better.

The antidote is to feel. To tap into core values and beliefs, to claim our unique place in this world. This is how we break cycles. This is how we rewrite our timelines. This is what my self-development and spiritual journey has helped me with the most so far. Recalibrating and redesigning myself has opened me up to a whole new world of emotions and awareness of what I had been blocking for so long. I feel everything deeply now and revel in it. It has also allowed me to help others in a much more profound way because I'm not losing myself and my energy in them anymore.

Autonomy allows your personal magic to flow and the world needs that right now.



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