How to Stop Being a “People-Pleaser”
Updated: Oct 30
We have all likely heard the term "people-pleaser" before, and it may not sound all that bad in theory. After all, isn't it a good thing to try and help others and to make them happy? Well sure, so long as you aren't being taken advantage of, there are healthy boundaries, and you aren't sacrificing your own needs!
People-pleasing can have some serious consequences. Not only are your needs not being met and you are not living authentically, but you are likely to have too much on your plate, feel stressed and anxious, suppress your emotions, and experience low self-esteem and feelings of depression.
Learning to stop being a people-pleaser does not happen overnight, but here are 4 key steps to change your people-pleasing tendencies and to become more assertive.
1. Determine if you are a “People-Pleaser”
This may sound obvious, but the first step in knocking any people-pleasing tendencies is to first identify if this is even an issue for you. Here are some tell-tale signs you are a people-pleaser:
You have a hard time saying “no”
You feel responsible for other’s feelings
You apologize often, especially for how you feel
You avoid conflict or confrontation
You need validation and praise from others
You are quick to agree with others
You take on a lot of responsibilties and tasks
You feel uncomfortable if someone is angry or upset with you
You are a "perfectionist"
“When you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t saying “no” to yourself.” - Paulo Coehlo
2. Ask yourself “Why am I a People-Pleaser”?
Get curious here. No behaviour we do is without purpose. There was a time in your life when pleasing others was adaptive or beneficial to you in some way, and it is only now in your life that it is no longer serving its purpose and creating challenges.
Sometimes the people-pleasing part in us arises out of not wanting to disappoint others or is afraid of rejection. Perhaps you had overly critical parents that molded you into thinking that your worth was dependent on being “good” or “perfect”, thus creating the belief that if you don’t make them happy, you are “not good enough” or a "bad" person.
Whatever the case may be, reflect on where this part of you may have stemmed from and thank it for protecting you and helping you survive. There is no shame in having these characteristics; they originated from a genuine and adaptive place.
3. Identify your values and needs
This is a crucial step to successfully stop being a people-pleaser. People-pleasers tend to confuse pleasing others with kindness or trying to help. Not only is this perception skewed, but it creates the impression that other’s needs are more important than our own. This often leads to feeling unsatisfied in life and you may also develop feelings of resentment towards those you tend to please.
By identifying what you want in your life, you can learn to distinguish between your needs and those of others. This may be a challenging step for you if you have never thought about your own needs or even thought that they were deserving of attention.
Here are some prompts to help you reflect on what you value in life:
“When I am gone, I want to be remembered for…”
Think of those you admire most in life- what is it about them you admire?
If you could be doing anything right now, what would it be? What is desirable about it?
Discover your values and hold them with great importance. Allow them to guide your decisions and goals to truly live the life you want to lead. Be unapologetic for possessing these values; they are what makes you, you!
4. Learn to be assertive
For the passive communicator, trying to be assertive may brew up some uncomfortable emotions. People-pleasers tend to have unhelpful beliefs about saying “no” such as it is rude, mean, aggressive, or selfish. These uncomfortable feelings about being assertive and saying “no” are just thoughts, not facts; they are opinions we have learned that have fueled our people-pleasing tendencies. Remind yourself that you are entitled to your feelings and opinions and that you deserve to be heard!
When it comes to learning to be assertive, start small. Practice with someone you trust by saying “no” to something small or express your opinion about something simple. It is important that you ease into assertive communication to help build your confidence and self-esteem.
The main things to remember about assertive communication is to be brief, clear, and honest.
If you are having trouble with setting boundaries, assertive communication, and want to stop being a "people-pleaser", professional help from a counsellor can help you gain the confidence within yourself to change. Contact us to inquire about mental health services or book a free 15-minute consultation.