How To Stop Being A People Pleaser

A people pleaser is someone who consistently prioritizes the needs and wants of others over their own, often at the expense of their own well-being and happiness. They have a strong desire to gain approval, avoid conflict, and make others happy, even if it means sacrificing their own interests or boundaries.

Signs of a people pleaser:

  • Has difficulty saying no
  • Seeks external validation
  • Puts others first
  • Overcommits themselves
  • Fears rejection
  • Neglects personal needs
  • Avoids confrontation
  • Over-apologizes or accepts fault even when not responsible
  • Allows others to take advantage of them
  • Has low self-esteem
  • Has difficulty expressing opinions
  • Holds oneself to unreasonably high standards

Examples of people-pleasing behaviors: 

  • Changing their personality and attitude depending on who they are with
  • Agreeing with others’ opinions or decision by default
  • Taking on extra work or responsibilities, often to the detriment of their own time and well-being
  • Apologizing profusely, even when they haven’t done anything wrong, to make sure others don’t get upset
  • Staying in friendships or relationships that don’t bring them joy
  • Consistently putting their own needs, wants, and desires on the back burner in favor of catering to others
  • Saying yes, even when they do not want to
  • Withholding opinions to avoid disagreements or confrontations
  • Having difficulty making decisions, especially when it involves choosing between their own needs and the desires of others
  • Minimizing their strengths to avoid making others feel less successful
  • Pretending to be happy or content even when they’re not, in order to maintain a positive image or not burden others with their feelings
  • Offering excessive compliments or praise to others, sometimes insincerely, in an attempt to win favor

How To Stop Being A People Pleaser 

Practice Saying “No”

Learning to say no is a crucial skill to develop to break the habit of people pleasing.

When someone makes a request or asks for your help, take a moment to pause and assess the situation. Consider whether you genuinely have the time, energy, and desire to fulfill the request.

While saying yes can feel like an automatic response, recognize that it’s okay to prioritize your own needs and that saying no is a healthy and necessary part of setting boundaries.

When you’re ready to respond, use assertive communication. Be clear, direct, and respectful in your response. You don’t need to provide a lengthy explanation or excuse for your decision as over-explaining can sometimes lead to giving in to the request.

To build your confidence in saying no, start with smaller, less consequential requests and gradually work your way up to more significant commitments.

And, if you’re unsure whether you can say yes or no right away, it’s okay to buy some time. You can say something like, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you” or “I need to think about it for a moment.”

Here are a few more tips when saying “no”:

  • If you genuinely want to help but can’t fulfill the request as it was presented, you can offer alternatives. For example, if a friend invites you to lunch but you don’t have time, suggest rescheduling or meeting for a quick coffee near your office instead.
  • Keep your response concise and to the point.
  • Stay firm in your decision while remaining polite and respectful.
  • Pay attention to how certain requests make you feel to identify requests that trigger stress.
  • Understand that learning to say no is a process, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Author and motivational speaker Brené Brown says that “daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

Setting clear boundaries is another crucial aspect of breaking free from people-pleasing tendencies. Boundaries define the limits and guidelines for how you want to be treated by others and how you will interact with them.

Start by understanding what your personal boundaries are, including physical, emotional, mental, and interpersonal ones. Then, you communicate these boundaries clearly to the people in your life. 

Setting and maintaining boundaries often requires assertive communication. When a request or situation conflicts with your boundaries, it’s important to say no firmly and respectfully.

Use “I” statements to convey your boundaries without blaming or accusing others. For instance, you can say, “I need some alone time in the evenings to recharge” or “I prefer not to discuss that topic.”

Consider Your Priorities 

People pleasing can get in the way of your own commitments and priorities.

While people pleasers may feel guilty for prioritizing their own needs, clinical psychologist Dr. L. Firestone says that making time for our own well-being gives us more energy and allows us to be our best selves for the people around us.

Regularly reflect on your own needs, desires, and values and ask yourself what you truly want and need in various situations. Understanding your goals will make it easier for you to decline requests that don’t align with your priorities and concentrate on what matters most to you.

Make sure to also reserve time for self-care activities that nourish your physical and emotional health. This can include exercise, meditation, hobbies, and relaxation.

Learn Assertive Communication

People pleasers often have difficulty communicating assertively. They often avoid addressing issues or conflicts directly, as they fear it might upset someone or lead to disapproval.

They may also find it challenging to express their own opinions, preferences, or needs, especially if they differ from what they perceive others want.

However, assertive communication is not about being aggressive or rude. It’s about communicating your needs and opinions in an honest, direct, and respectful way. 

Tips for learning assertive communication:

  • Be aware of your own emotions, feelings, boundaries and needs.
  • Show respect for the other person’s feelings, even if you disagree with them.
  • Express your thoughts and feelings using “I” statements.
  • Clearly and directly express your needs or concerns without being vague.
  • Take deep breaths if you start to feel overwhelmed, and remind yourself that assertive communication is a healthy way to express yourself.

Delay Your Response

People-pleasers often have a tendency to say yes by default because of their desire to please others.

Delaying your response can be a helpful strategy in certain situations to break the habit of automatically saying yes and to give yourself time to consider what you truly want.

You can consider factors like your current commitments, energy levels, and whether fulfilling the request aligns with your own priorities and boundaries.

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam notes that “delaying your response allows you to take a step back and evaluate whether saying yes aligns with your own values and priorities, rather than automatically prioritizing the needs of others.” 

After taking your time to assess, respond honestly and promptly. If you need to decline, use assertive communication to do so respectfully.

Allocate Time For Yourself

Taking time for self-care and personal well-being is a crucial step in breaking the cycle of constantly prioritizing others’ needs and wants over your own.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen emphasizes that “taking time for yourself and practicing self-care isn’t selfish; it’s crucial.”

People pleasers often give so much to others that they become emotionally and physically drained. Allocating time for yourself gives you the opportunity to recharge and regain your energy.

Set aside time each day or each week to engage in self-care activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. This can include exercise, meditation, reading, hobbies, or simply relaxing and doing nothing.

This time can also be used to work toward your personal goals and aspirations, which may have been put on hold due to people-pleasing tendencies.

Make this time non-negotiable. Don’t let other people’s requests or demands take priority over your self-care time. It is perfectly reasonable to say no to other people’s requests to make time for yourself.

Don’t Make Excuses

People pleasers often resort to making excuses to justify their actions or decisions to avoid conflict. Avoiding excuses can help you assert yourself more effectively and communicate your boundaries and decisions more honestly.

Not using excuses encourages open and honest communication. This allows you to express yourself more clearly and directly, which can lead to healthier and more respectful interactions.

Additionally, without excuses, you take greater accountability for your actions and decisions. This helps you become more responsible for your choices and less likely to compromise your needs to please others.

Set Realistic Expectations

Psychologist Sergey Nivens says that the “fear of not living up to others’ expectations can be a significant factor in perpetuating people-pleasing behavior. Recognizing this fear and challenging the belief that you must constantly please others can empower you to prioritize your own needs and well-being.”

Guilt is a common emotion for people pleasers, but it’s essential to accept that you cannot please everyone all the time and to remind yourself that taking care of yourself is not selfish.

Understand that setting realistic expectations for yourself and others is essential for maintaining balance in your life.

It is okay to prioritize your own well-being and needs and make your own happiness a priority.

Identify Triggers and Toxic Communicators

Try to identify the situations, people, or circumstances that trigger your people-pleasing behavior as understanding what prompts this behavior can help you address it more effectively.

Toxic individuals are those who use manipulative, controlling, or aggressive communication styles. They often exploit people pleasers because they can detect their willingness to prioritize others’ needs and their reluctance to assert themselves.

According to Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., toxic communicators drain the energy of people pleasers by constantly demanding attention, sympathy, or validation.

They might use guilt-tripping, emotional manipulation, or passive-aggressive tactics to control the situation or make unreasonable requests, knowing that people pleasers are less likely to refuse.

It’s important for people pleasers to recognize the signs of toxic individuals and develop the assertiveness and boundary-setting skills to protect themselves from manipulation and exploitation.

Tips for recognizing when you’re being taken advantage of:

  • Pay attention to your intuition and feelings. If something doesn’t feel right or you sense that you’re being used, trust your instincts.
  • Listen to the words and phrases the person uses. Do they criticize, judge, or blame you?
  • Is their tone of voice harsh, condescending, or demanding?
  • Pay attention to their body language. Are they crossing their arms, rolling their eyes, or making other dismissive gestures?
  • Reflect on your feelings and emotions. Are you often anxious, stressed, or unhappy after interacting with this person?

Use Positive Self-Talk

People pleasers often struggle with low self-esteem because they base their self-worth on external validation. Engaging in positive self-talk can help you build a healthier sense of self-esteem by reinforcing positive beliefs about yourself.

Using positive affirmations in your self-talk can reinforce positive beliefs about your worth, capabilities, and the importance of self-care.

Here are some tips for building your self-esteem with positive self-talk:

  • Pay attention to the thoughts and messages you tell yourself, especially when facing challenges or setbacks.
  • Challenge your self-critical or unhelpful thoughts. Ask yourself if there is evidence to support these thoughts or if they are based on unfounded assumptions or fears.
  • Create and repeat positive affirmations that reinforce your self-worth and capabilities, such as “I’m good enough,” “I’m worthy of love,” and “I can do anything I set my mind to.”
  • Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend facing a similar situation.
  • Avoid self-deprecating language and negative self-labels. Instead of saying, “I’m such a failure,” rephrase it as, “I made a mistake, but I can learn from it.”

Be Prepared For Rejection  

Many people pleasers fear rejection, criticism, or disapproval from others, which can lead them to prioritize others’ needs over their own.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin states that “one key aspect of overcoming people-pleasing tendencies is to recognize that rejection is a normal part of life. It’s important to develop a healthy mindset that understands that not everyone will always agree with you or appreciate your choices. By accepting this reality, you can better prepare yourself for potential rejection and focus on your own well-being.”

Tips for preparing yourself for rejection:

  • Understand that rejection is a normal part of life and doesn’t define your worth as a person.
  • Recognize that not everyone will agree with you, support your choices, or appreciate your boundaries.
  • Concentrate on what you can control, such as your actions, choices, and responses.
  • Build emotional resilience by developing coping strategies for handling rejection.
  • Remember that your value as a person remains intact regardless of individual rejections.

What Happens When You Stop People Pleasing?

“When you stop living your life based on what others think of you, real life begins. At that moment, you will finally see the door of self-acceptance opened.”Shannon L. Alder, Inspirational Author and Therapist.  

As you start prioritizing your own well-being and needs, you escape the pattern of relying on the validation and acceptance from others. 

You begin to value yourself for who you are and recognize your worth is not dependent on making everyone happy.

Furthermore, when you learn to assertively decline requests and invitations, you are establishing healthy boundaries, standing up for yourself, and advocating for your own desires and interests.

When you stop overcommitting and saying yes to everything, you have more time and energy to focus on your own goals, passions, and self-care. You will experience reduced stress as you rid yourself of the burden of constantly trying to meet others’ expectations and needs lessens.

Additionally, your relationships will become more authentic because you’re no longer trying to be someone you’re not to please others. People are more likely to appreciate the real you and respect your ability to assert yourself and maintain boundaries.

The will allow you to attract healthier and more balanced relationships based on mutual respect and genuine connection.

Dr. Judith Sills, a psychologist, explains that “when you do too much for others, you over-function in your relationships, which inevitably leads others to under-function.”

It’s important to note that stopping people-pleasing is a journey, and it may not always be easy. You may encounter resistance from some individuals who were used to you always saying yes. However, the benefits of living a more authentic and assertive life far outweigh the challenges.

Why Should You Stop Being A People Pleaser?

When you stop people-pleasing, you can learn to value yourself for who you are, build more genuine relationships, protect your well-being, and command more respect from others.

Overcoming people-pleasing can be a catalyst for personal growth. It forces you to confront fears, build resilience, and develop a stronger sense of self.

People pleasers find it difficult to assert their own needs and wants, meaning they become trapped in a cycle of self-sacrifice and self-neglect. They usually put the expectations of others before their own. 

Amy Morin, a licensed therapist, reminds us that “while being kind and helpful is generally a good thing, going too far to please others can leave you feeling emotionally depleted, stressed, and anxious.”

As you align your actions with your true self, you experience greater happiness and fulfillment because you’re living a life that’s more in line with your values and desires.

Additionally, people pleasers often struggle with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. When you stop people-pleasing, you can establish clear boundaries that protect your well-being and prevent others from taking advantage of you.

By asserting your needs and boundaries, you command more respect from others. People are more likely to respect and value you when they see that you value yourself

Stopping people-pleasing is essential for your own well-being, self-respect, and the quality of your relationships. It empowers you to lead a more authentic, fulfilling, and balanced life where you prioritize your own needs and values.

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