Outer Compliance, Inner Defiance

People pleasers are anti-anger. 

At least that is what they believe. 

Anger is both uncomfortable and it makes us feel separate from others. 

People pleasers don’t like either of those things. 

So, they avoid the feeling of anger and they strive to equalize other’s anger. 

The weird thing is you can’t escape your feelings. 

We ALL feel angry at some point. Whether its mild irritation or its flat-out seeing-red-rage. 

Because people pleasers have a tricky relationship with their emotions – they override them and focus on other’s instead – they can find themselves in an internal conflict with their emotions, especially anger. 

They have anger and yet they can’t express it. 

Or falsely believe that if they do, something bad will happen. 




And at the very least, continued tension and conflict.   

Check out this video about how the word “no” became so hard for people pleasers. 

So, what in the world happens when someone who hates tension and separation, feels anger?


One part of us wants to blast the person and one part of us wants to just move on past the tension and make things feel better again, and fast. 

I borrow this phrase from a fabulous book, Eastern Body Western Mind, it’s about the chakra system, but this phrase is spot on for the internal conflict people pleasers experience.

Outer Compliance, Inner Defiance. 

Before I was aware of my people pleasing behaviors, I would hold onto my anger until I was in my car or maybe in the shower. I would replay conversations or rehearse future ones. There I was strong-willed, assertive and didn’t take crap from anyone.

I was able to let my anger out, but only in these hermetically sealed safe zones and only through imagination. 

I had no way of actually expressing my anger in real life. 

What are you supposed to do when you are livid, but all you allow yourself to do is imagine letting it loose on the person? 

You’re trapped in an internal conflict. 

Where it feels like there are no easy options. 

And you go back to the default pattern of – Outer Compliance, Inner Defiance. 

One of the awesome things I offer my clients is from Internal Family Systems (hyperlink) – working with polarities. 

A polarity or internal conflict is when two parts of us have separate but equal views and approaches to an issue. Usually around a decision to be made or an action we need to take. 

Sometimes just naming that there are two ways we are trying to solve a problem, can help us step outside of the chaos for a moment. Naming it and learning to observe it (two mindfulness tools) helps us stop being the ball in our own internal ping-pong match. 

How this applies to anger and people pleasers? Let’s look at one side of the ping-pong game:

Inner Defiance 

The defiance you experience is a “voice” inside telling you something important. Even if its internal, it gives you signals that something isn’t okay. A boundary has been crossed or there is a feeling that needs to be attended to. 

Paying attention to what our emotional body is telling us can be a learning curve for people pleasers. The good thing is, it’s already happening so the curve isn’t too steep!

Stay with me and take a few breaths because this is where I could lose some of you!

The big play here is moving from HIDING how you feel to SHARING how you feel

Coming out of Inner Defiance. S L O W L Y. 

But don’t freak out because we do this IN PRIVATE where we are safe. 

You can write this out, talk it out, whatever. We just need to get past the shitty first draft of figuring out what we really want to stay. So blast the other person first just to get it out, but then think about what you really want to communicate to them. 

What is Inner Defiance trying to tell you? 

We practice listening to our voice of defiance. Our silent “fuck you” voice. The one that wishes something could be done with the way it feels. 

We don’t get caught in the fact that its anger we are feeling when we are defiant. We just practice listening to it and finding words that go with the feelings. 

Now that we have heard from Defiance, let’s move to Outer Compliance

Pull up on the reigns here for a minute. This is our automatic people pleasing behavior that is motivated by the fear of rejection and continued conflict. 

Since we are practicing in private, we don’t have to worry too much about overriding Inner Defiance to make others happy

Offer the same airtime to Outer Compliance and get to know what it wishes it could do instead of complying. 

The main thing that happens in Inner Conflict is that both parts take a pretty extreme stance in how to handle a situation. 

Defiance says – “blast the other person!”. Its upset and it doesn’t know it has other options but to eviscerate the person to alleviate its upset. 

Compliance says – “keep the peace at all costs!”. It works to decrease upset in any form. It doesn’t know it has other options besides giving in, acquiescing, accommodating, etc. 

Both of them want PEACE. 

Defiance wants peace within. 

Compliance wants peace outside (because it believes that creates peace inside). 

Defiance wants to get that peace by discharging tense feelings. 

Compliance wants to establish peace by pacifying other people and ignoring our feelings. 

And that’s how the Inner Defiance, Out Compliance happens! 

We want to be liked. We want to have harmony in our relationships, but sometimes we get pushed past our ability to “maintain peace at all costs” and we need to step up and speak out. 

If we are in an internal wrestling match with two parts of us who have opposing views on  handling a situation, then we don’t see the many other options we have to settle the situation. 

Begin by listening to the parts and realizing neither of them needs to win the struggle for the inner tension to be relieved. Inner conflict is relieved when other options are revealed. This only happens by slowing down and listening inward.