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Last Updated on January 8, 2020

What You Need to Do to Stop Being a People Pleaser

What You Need to Do to Stop Being a People Pleaser

Do you ever catch yourself saying “yes” when you actually want to say “no”? Or you nod your head in agreement, when you really don’t agree at all?

You’ve possibly even reached the point where you feel annoyed with yourself, yet it still feels easier to do it.

I know how you feel, because this was once me, until I realized it was holding me back.

Personally, I dislike labelling, especially people. But if you find it difficult to air your own viewpoint, you could be what is often called a people pleaser.

Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Amy Morin wrote that people pleasing is a sign of something deeper and is linked to a person’s self worth. They hope that saying yes to everything asked of them will help them feel accepted and liked.[1]

People pleasers may have encountered bullying or some form of mistreatment in the past. Those past experiences triggered a survival pattern. They have learned along the way that agreeing to everything can help them stay safe.

We all want to be liked, because it gives us a sense of belonging. And that need of belongingness is one of the most primal of human emotional needs. It’s a tribal need.

In past years, we all lived in tribes. We would fish and hunt together, cook and protect each other. It has been said that there’s safety in numbers and that has certainly been the case in tribal communities. Living in a tribe meant we would survive and we did our upmost to remain there.

Even in today’s modern world, we are hard wired to survive. Though we may not live in tribes now, we still have that same need to belong. And, during our lives, we develop a variety of behavioral patterns, to ensure that we do.

A people pleaser fears not being liked and thinks if they disagree, they will be on the outer. It’s one of those survival based behaviour patterns and it works really well to a point.

The problem here is this:

If you continually put other’s needs before your own, there is a good chance you will eventually burn out. And, if you regularly push aside your own opinions in effort to agree, you can lose sight of your identity.

When you lose sight of your own identity, your thinking becomes clouded. You start to live your life through “shoulds” instead of “wants”. You become unsure of what you do believe and find it difficult to know what you want.

In the long-term, this can cause unhappiness and lack of fulfilment. It stops you living to your full potential has been known to lead to depression.

The good news is that behavior can be changed; it’s just a process and takes time.

Survival patterns are not easy to break. But making gradual small changes will soon bring the desired result.

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1. Develop Awareness of Your People Pleasing Behavior

It’s fantastic if you already have full awareness of these tendencies, but often people don’t.

This habit can become so ingrained that it’s automatic. Before you know it, you have agreed when you really disagree. Or said “yes” when you really want to say “no”.

Even offering to do something when your to do list is already over full, could be a desire to please or be approved of.

Because of this, it takes full commitment to stay aware with an intention to change.

Make a decision to become fully aware of your people pleasing impulses.

Write a list of all the things you would normally do in an effort to please. Then, notice each time you do them and decide how you will change it next time.

2. Drop the People Pleaser Label

There is a reason I don’t like labelling and it’s because this has the potential to become our identity.

It’s wonderful to become aware of our tendencies to please. But it can get in the way if we fully identify with it.

Whenever we use the words “I am”, we are stating who we believe we are. Each time we repeat it, we feel more certain about it.

For example; I am a man or woman. I am a people pleaser, I am not liked.

And when we believe something about ourselves, it affects the way we feel. Then we behave that way even more.

Labelling yourself negatively could impact your self worth. And it could cause you to lose sight of the amazing person you really are.

Never describe yourself as a “people pleaser”. Instead describe your “people pleasing behavior” as you make a decision to change it.

3. Develop a Strong Sense of Who You Are

When we get ultra clear on who we genuinely are and what we stand for, it gives us a strong sense of self. As we gain clarity on this, we find it increasingly difficult to push our viewpoints to one side.

If you have been pleasing others for a long period of time, you may have lost sight of what is important to you. And without this insight, you may not have an opinion of your own. Or you may not be sure of what it is.

Having a deep understanding of your core values is essential to knowing what you stand for. This strengthens your identity, increases your self worth and your ability to speak your mind.

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Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person. Every decision and choice we make is driven by our values and this influences our behaviours.

Knowing your values will assist you to call your own boundaries and say “no” when you mean “no”.

The inner strength and confidence I have seen people build by getting clear on their values always excites me.

You can start to gain clarity on your own values by looking at the aspects of your life that are most important to you. Those aspects that are the most essential are the ones you put most of your time and energy into.

Then dig down deeper into what specifically has the greatest importance in those aspects of your life.

4. Adjust Your Belief to Support Your New Choices

All values are more than just words. They have a set of beliefs sitting behind each one of them.

Mahatma Gandhi said,

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits and your habits become your values.”

And this is a never-ending cycle. Your values and their associated beliefs affect your thoughts, habits, actions and words.

If the beliefs around your values are too general and unsustainable, they can stop you changing your people pleasing habits.

Values like, helpfulness, kindness and support often have those unsustainable beliefs connected to them.

For example, a belief like “I am always there for people who need me” is very general and could include every person you know. And a word like “always” is a generalisation that gives no exception to that rule. Remember, your words become your actions.

When you adjust those beliefs, your new habits will feel easier to put into action. For instance, “I do my best to be there for my loved ones and friends”. This belief is much more specific and allows space for exceptions. This will support your new choices.

So allow space to explore what you truly believe and make those adjustments if needed.

5. Feel Happy about the Word “No”

If we are totally honest with ourselves, most people prefer to say yes to requests. We don’t like to disappoint people and we like to feel helpful.

The thing is, if we always put others’ needs first, what is important to us is often neglected. And before long we lose sight of own priorities to live our life by other people’s standards.

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There is a well-known saying,

“If you want something done then give it to a busy person.”

If you are one of those “busy people,” there is a good chance you are always saying “yes”.

It’s not an easy adjustment moving from the word “yes” to the word “no”. In my experience, the change can be a little clunky to begin with. It’s almost like the pendulum swings from people pleaser to people blitzer. And the word “no” is almost spat out.

This is possibly because you have said “yes” for so long you have some feelings of resentment. Or the word no brings you feelings of guilt.

“No” is only a word, just like the word “yes”. It’s the meaning we associate with it that causes us to feel a certain way. And that feeling affects how we say the word.

Practice Feeling Comfortable with Saying “No”

With NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), we use a technique called Collapsed Anchor[2] to help you let go of any negative emotion associated with a word. It is a powerful process when we have re-written any beliefs that were unsustainable.

This is something that is more effortlessly addressed if performed by a qualified practitioner. But there are ways you can work on this yourself.

Getting accustomed to saying the word will eventually collapse the anchor anyway. But there are ways you can do this by practicing at home first.

Try putting on your favourite happy music, then stand in front of the mirror. Smile as you say the word “no” repeatedly until any negative emotions have disappeared.

Rephrase Your Words of Saying “No”

You could perhaps find it difficult to say no, because you don’t know how to say it. And you may fear disappointing the other person. Because of this, you might tell lengthy stories of why you can’t help with their request. You really don’t owe anyone an explanation, but it can feel easier to give one.

The thing is, a lengthy story can sometimes sound like an excuse. This could also cause you to feel anxious. So it helps to know how to give a good reason without over explaining yourself.

Over the years, I have learned a few ways of saying “no” without actually using the word:

“I can see how important this is to you, I have something pressing of my own I need to do though”

“I would love to come along, I just have something else on”.

Or you can say “no” with an alternative, helping them in the long term:

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“I’m not able to do this for you now, but another time I could quickly show you how or give you the instructions”

Spend some time deciding which scenarios you will use these responses. You can even write them down or practice in front of the mirror.

Use the Power of the Pause

Our regular responses are unconscious and that’s because we have been doing them for a long time. This means we could respond in our usual way without thinking.

Perhaps you also feel that you need to give an immediate response, which you don’t.

Giving an immediate response also means it could all come out the way you don’t want it to.

Deciding to pause before you respond will help you with this.

Set an intention at the beginning of each day to pause before you reply. As you set the intent, it will remind you in the moment.

If you are not sure of how you would like to respond, let the person know you will get back to them.

Or, a great favourite of mine is this: tell them you will need to check your calendar first.

You can also take a look at Leo Babauta’s tips about this: The Gentle Art of Saying No

Final Thoughts

Moving from people pleaser to speaking your own truth and putting yourself first is a process. This means it doesn’t change overnight.

It’s easy to beat yourself up for the times you slip up. This itself will lower your self-worth, which is the opposite of what you are intending to do.

Be kind to yourself.

Notice where you make small changes and give yourself a pat on the back. As you do, your confidence will increase. You will feel more encouraged to make bigger changes next time. And you will start to fully embrace and love the new genuine you.

More Tips on Self-Love

Featured photo credit: Omar Lopez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: 10 Signs You’re a People-Pleaser
[2] Excellence Assure: Collapse Anchors

More by this author

Deb Johnstone

Deb is a professional mindset speaker and a transformational life, business and career coach. Specialising in NLP and dynamic mindset.

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Last Updated on October 5, 2020

How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

We are given life with many opportunities to make it everything we want it to be and more. If you find that you’ve slipped into living a boring life, it’s time to take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and what you can start doing now to make it more interesting.

Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing and living the same life for too long, or maybe your daily routine is limiting your growth and happiness. Whatever your reason is, the following list can definitely make any day or life more interesting. Some of them are silly, while some are more meaningful, so hopefully just reading the list makes your life less boring and sparks your creativity.

Let’s dive in the list to quit your boring life and start living an interesting (and meaningful) one!

1. Channel Your 7-Year-Old Self

Imagine being a young child. Life was never boring, was it? That’s because children harness every ounce of creativity they have in order to try new things.

What would your 7-year-old self want to do in this moment? Maybe they’d pick up a paintbrush and try to paint the landscape around them. May they would go outside and build something with random materials around the yard. Maybe they would raid the fridge and put together a dish they’ve never seen before.

Just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean any of this stuff will be less enjoyable than you remember it. Give yourself permission to play and use your creativity to its fullest.

2. Go Play With Kids

Speaking of little kids, if you have your own (or a niece or nephew), go play with them!

Kids are absolutely hilarious, so it’s simply impossible to be bored when you’re around them. They also keep things so simple, and we can really stand to be reminded of this and stop allowing ourselves to get bogged down in boring details.

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3. Play Cell Phone Roulette

You’ll need at least one buddy for this, but this is a great way to avoid a boring life. Scroll through the contacts in your phone, stop on a random one, and (if it feels right) call the person.

You could spark an incredible catch-up session or, at the very least, remind someone that you’re thinking of them. Neither are boring.

4. Fill out a Pack of Thank-You Cards

This is a great part of a gratitude practice. We often forget to thank the people who do things for us, especially if we have come to expect those things. For example, have you ever thought about thanking your mom for that weekly phone call? Or thanking your sister for always sending you a homemade gift on your birthday?

Take time to think of at least 5 people you would like to say thank you to and write out a card. You could even write them out for random people in your neighborhood, like the local librarian, a teacher at your child’s school, or the accountant at your bank.

Anyone and everyone appreciates being thanked for their efforts.

5. Sign up for a Class

Nowadays, there are classes for everything. To make it as interesting as possible, try finding one that you wouldn’t normally consider doing, like salsa lessons, improv, or boxing.

Otherwise, try to find a course on something you’ve always wanted to learn, like pottery, photography, or a foreign language course.

What’s good about joining an interest class is that you will also meet new people, which will add even more interest to your life!

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6. Talk to Your Grandparents About Their Lives

We often underestimate how interesting the elderly are. You can rest assured that any elderly person you talk to will not have had a boring life! Take some time to talk to them and hear their interesting stories. You may even find that this motivates you to go out and find your own interesting experiences.

7. Get up on Stage at an Open Mic Night

Whether you’re funny or not, get up on stage. If you’re not into comedy, find an open mic that focuses on reading poetry or short stories and bring your own. These groups tend to be incredibly supportive for anyone who is willing to be brave enough to get up and try.

8. Do Something for Someone Else

Showing kindness automatically makes you feel good, but doing these small acts will also help to ensure that you don’t have a boring life. Try doing one or two things each week that are outside your normal routine.

For example, you could make a batch of cookies for the mailperson or help your elderly neighbor organize one of their rooms. There are a million ways to show kindness to those around you. Tap into your creativity and find your own or use some of the ideas from the image below[1].

Do random acts of kindness to avoid living a boring life.

    9. Start a DIY Project in Your Home

    If you have your own place, there is always a project that needs to get done. Many people simply pay for someone else to do it in order to avoid the hassle, but taking on a DIY project can make a boring life much more interesting.

    It doesn’t have to be super complicated. Maybe you repaint an old vase or build a spice shelf out of used pallets.

    If you need ideas, you can also check out these 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of.

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    10. Plan a Weekend Trip or an All-Out Vacation

    This will give you something to look forward to. One study actually found that most travelers are happiest before a vacation[2]. Therefore, simply planning a trip will boost your mood, even if you can’t actually take the vacation right now.

    Even if you don’t have the time or money to go on a vacation, plan for a staycation, which is also fun and relaxing!

    11. Go People Watching

    Find a bench in a crowded area (centers of transportation like airports, bus stops, and train stations are great for this!) and just observe[3].

    People are infinitely interesting. Try to imagine what their lives are like, what they’re thinking, or where they’re going. You’ll never know if you’re right, but it will give you something to focus on and also help you practice empathy.

    12. Eat Something You’ve Never Eaten Before

    You can try that new Moroccan restaurant down the street and pick the most interesting dish on the menu. Or, you can raid your own fridge and throw together a dish you’ve never made before.

    If you’re up for a trip to the grocery store, try picking up a new fruit or veggie from the produce section. You may find a new food that you love!

    13. Dance

    You can get your friends together for a night on the town or just pull up a video on YouTube and bust a move from your own living room.

    If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even dance in public or join a flash mob.

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    14. Pick up a Book and Start Reading

    Reading a good book can keep you occupied for hours. It will also transport you to a life that isn’t your own, and one that likely will be the opposite of a boring life. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn from those pages.

    Pick on of these inspirational books to start reading: 10 Best Inspirational Books That Can Change Your Life

    15. Spend Some Time With People You Care About

    Facebook stalking doesn’t count as real social interaction. Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while, or bring a coffee over to your parent’s place and catch up. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and you’ll avoid boredom.

    16. Check out a Museum You’ve Never Been to

    Some people are bored by museums, so if that’s you, skip to the next one. However, if you love art, history, or culture, this one is for you!

    17. Write a List of Things You Desire and Truly Want

    This is a great way to help you figure out the real reason why you’re feeling bored about your life. Maybe you haven’t really done things that you truly enjoy? Maybe what you’ve wanted to do all the time has been left behind?

    Think about the list of things you really want to do, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing these things (yet). Then, start taking your first step to make it happen.

    Now, go make your life interesting and live your dream life!

    More on How to Quit a Boring Life

    Featured photo credit: Alex Alvarez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] FECAVA: Random Acts of Kindness
    [2] Applied Research in Quality of Life: Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday
    [3] Psychology Today: The Expert’s Guide to People Watching

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