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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 May 28, 2020

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career?

You were born with a gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop your innate abilities and excel in work and life. You are a total rock star. But when you live someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

Many people—maybe you—stopped following their dreams way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

Here are 10 success principles to help you live a rich and rewarding life on your terms that have worked with thousands of people in my workshops and will work for you, too.

1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand.[1]

Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work.[2]

So, give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life.

Who knows? Your creative outlet could transform into a thriving business or lead to a new profession down the road.

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2. Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

Here are a few options to help you discover your unique strengths. You can:

  • Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey[3]
  • Try Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment[4]
  • Answer a few Superpower Questions

Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

Just take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it.

Is it what you really want? If so, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP – the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut.

To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. So, his stern opinions don’t really matter much, do they? Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

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This success principle will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

5. Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid folks will find out how odd or strange we are. But our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths. Yes, it’s good to be quirky.

Odds are, you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

  • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
  • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
  • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward.

Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you. But you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

Pretend I’m your fairy godmother and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

Get quiet. Be honest. Think big.

What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

Sounds silly? It’s not. It works! Permitting yourself to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to manifesting it.

8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time.[5]

Wait, it gets better! A Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output increases by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere.[6]

What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

This is one of the most powerful success principles for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

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“You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, you can succeed again.

You already rock. You just need to own it. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Final Thoughts

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Following these success principles will help you find the time and energy to do the things that really matter and live with clear intention.

By spending just one hour a week doing something you love, focusing on your strengths and achievements, embracing what makes you different, and acting on inspired ideas, you can create a life that is a perfect fit for you, step-by-step.

If you don’t have a clue about what your dream life could look like yet, don’t worry. Your heart knows. It has been “talking” to you for a long time. It’s just being muffled by KCRP, buried under a lot of “shoulds” and fear.

This article can also help you figure out the life you truly want to live: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

Stand still, get quiet, and listen. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rockstar potential. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

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Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

Reference

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