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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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