If you’re a people pleaser, any of the following may sound familiar.
You cringe at the thought of saying no. You obsess about what others think of you and whether you’re doing something to make them dislike you. You live your life based on the opinions of others because you are deathly afraid of disappointing them.
If you say yes to all of these, you’re probably wondering how you can stop wanting to be a people pleaser.
People pleasing is a process of guessing what other people want, or what will make them think positively of us, and then acting accordingly.
As social beings, it’s in our nature to get along with others; our survival and success depend on it. However, there is a fine line between healthy social behavior and the experience of emotional depletion caused by chronic people-pleasing.
In addition to being emotionally drained, you may find yourself compromising your principles and values in order to be accepted. As you help others to get what they want, your own health and well-being will suffer.
5 Signs That You May Be A People Pleaser
As a recovering people pleaser myself, I’ve observed these five common signs of chronic people-pleasing and some ways to overcome it.
1. You’re Incapable of Saying No
You may be wondering: What are people pleasers? The most obvious quality of one is finding it hard to say no.
Do you find it painfully hard to turn down the requests of family, friends, and even acquaintances or strangers?
You really want to say no, but instead, you say yes to their various demands.
Before you know it, you’ve become the go-to person when something needs to get done. From the small to the large, you take on every task. You may even be considered a hero to some.
On the inside, you’re suffering. You genuinely want to help others, but you also know that you are depleting your own resources with every “yes.”
You may fear that you’ll lose your friendships and good reputation by saying no. After all, the last thing you want to be called is selfish.
First, realize that your capacity to care for others and your capacity to care for yourself are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the two are intimately related.
Second, understand that you are not responsible for the happiness of those around you – they are. Let these two realities give you permission to say no. Start practicing with small requests. Refuse kindly and without apology.
Getting accustomed to saying the word no will eventually collapse the anchor anyway. But there are ways you can do this by practicing at home first. Try putting on your favorite happy music, then stand in front of the mirror. Smile as you say the word “no” repeatedly until any negative emotions have disappeared.
If you’re really uncomfortable saying the word, you can try phrases such as:
- “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 going on.”
Or you can say “no” with an alternative, helping them in the long term:
- “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.
2. You Avoid Making Decisions or Sharing Your Opinions
Do you have a hard time voicing your opinions and feelings in a group setting or with close friends? Do you constantly allow others to make decisions for you?
You understand a deep truth about decisions and opinions: they divide. However, it’s not in your nature to cause division by speaking up, so you remain silent to avoid conflict.
Over time, this behavior is deadly, because as you defer to the opinions and decisions of others, you are silencing your own voice. This will rob the world of your unique perspectives and gifts.
Remember that you can disagree without being disagreeable. People can have divergent opinions and still treat each other with respect and kindness. So give voice to your thoughts, concerns, and needs.
By speaking up, you may rock the boat. You may even be outvoted. But if you treat others with respect, they will respect you even when they disagree with your opinions and choices.
3. You’re Crushed When You Discover Someone Doesn’t Like You
This is a hard one. It seems reasonable to assume that if you go out of your way to please everyone, then everyone will like you. But it’s not true.
Some people will dislike you simply because of who you are or for reasons outside of your control. You understand this intellectually, but you cannot stop trying to win the few holdouts.
Now that you know what is a people pleaser, you can start to closely examine your desire to be liked by everyone. Did this originate in your childhood, as you tried to win the affections of family members or friends at school?
As social beings, we need to be loved and accepted – but not by everyone. Decide whose love and affection is worth the effort and whose is not.
4. You’re Resentful of Others but Are Not Sure Why
This often happens when we suppress our feelings and needs over the long term. Do you feel unexplained anger toward your close friends, spouse, or boss?
The anger is your subconscious telling you that you have been neglecting yourself while helping others advance their goals. Think of this resentment as the “check engine” light turning on in your car. Don’t ignore it.
Face the truth of what is going on in your life. If you’re feeling overextended or taken advantage of, acknowledge these feelings. Avoid second-guessing yourself. Find time for self-care, and make this a priority.
5. You Don’t Set Limits And Boundaries
This is a sure sign that you lack proper boundaries and you’re a people pleaser. You avoid setting limits because you believe this runs counter to having a generous spirit. But this simply allows people greater latitude to intrude into your life.
The requests may become more and more unreasonable, and you may not realize it until someone has crossed the line. If you’ve taken on too much, you may experience passive-aggressive behavior, crying for no apparent reason, anxiety, or depression.
Be willing to admit that your time and energy are limited, not because you’re selfish, but because it’s the truth.
Boundaries are simply a recognition of that truth. Do not be afraid to set your boundaries and enforce them. It will take a while for you and others to get used to it, but you’ll experience an increased sense of well-being, and people will learn to accept your limits.
This is important no matter what stage you are in your life, or what profession you follow. One study even highlighted that it is “ethically imperative” for mental health professionals to practice self-care. 
Learn to set boundaries for good: How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries.
Stop Being a People Pleaser: 4 Techniques To Try
Now that you know what it means to be a people pleaser, you need to understand that survival patterns are not easy to break. But making gradual small changes will soon bring the desired result. Apart from the solutions listed above, you can follow these tips below if you want to find out how to not be a people pleaser.
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 say “yes” when you really want to say “no”.
Even offering to do something when your to-do list is already 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 labeling 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. Labeling yourself negatively could impact your self-worth and it could cause you to lose sight of the amazing person you really are.
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. And when we believe something about ourselves, it affects the way we feel. Then we behave that way even more.
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 in knowing what you stand for. This strengthens your identity, increases your self-worth, and your ability to speak your mind.
Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person. Every decision and choice we make is driven by our values and this influences our behaviors. 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. 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 our own priorities to live our life by other people’s standards.
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 possible 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.
When you feel this way, the word “no” will not be a stressor anymore. This is important considering chronic stress is linked to various health risks. 
You can be generous without allowing yourself to be used. You can be kind without being a pushover. You can be well-liked without having to sell your soul.
Don’t allow your fears and insecurities to turn you into a chronic people pleaser. Instead, make time to please one of the most important people in your life: you.
Why? Because when you care for yourself, you can care for others out of the abundance of your own well-being. You will do this not because you are afraid of losing their affection, but simply because you want to. You will experience true freedom.
So decide today to give yourself the same love and attention you give to others. This is one decision you won’t regret.
Featured photo credit: Omar Lopez via unsplash.com
|||^||Greater Good Science Center Magazine: Why It Doesn’t Pay to be a People-Pleaser|
|||^||Journal of Mental Health Counseling: Self-care and Well-being in Mental Health Professionals: The Mediating Effects of Self-awareness and Mindfulness|
|||^||National Library of Medicine NCBI: The Effects of Chronic Stress on Health: New Insights Into the Molecular Mechanisms of Brain–Body Communication|