Is saying no to others, even when you have no interest in doing what they ask, difficult?
Are you constantly seeking approval from those around you?
Do you find yourself subtly changing into a different person when around diverse groups of people?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, people pleasing tendencies may be running rampant in your life.
People pleasing is an unhealthy coping mechanism which keeps you from becoming the person you truly are. It robs you of authenticity and results in exceedingly unsatisfactory relationships.
But you can take back control over your life and halt people pleasing in its tracks. Recognition is the first step.
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What is People Pleasing?
People pleasing behaviors can show up in your life in a wide variety of ways. Some ways may be obvious to others (external) and others (internal) may only be perceptible to you.
Internal examples may include:
- Taking responsibility for the emotions of others
- Feeling overwhelmed by tasks and obligations which are not even your own
- Fearfulness that others won’t like or accept you unless you are agreeable with what they say or ask of you
- Intense discomfort when you perceive that someone may be upset with you
- Inability to identify your feelings
External examples may include:
- Agreeing with the opinions of others even if you don’t actually agree
- Frequent apologies to others for actions or circumstances completely out of your control
- Inability to say no to others
- Avoiding conflict with others at all costs
- Inability to express your feelings to others
- Intense need to prove yourself to others through your actions
Unless you begin to recognize how people pleasing is impacting your life, change is impossible. And as someone who has struggled with people pleasing, I can tell you with confidence that it’s truly no way to live.
Until I began taking personal development seriously, I struggled with the vague sense that something big was hindering my journey. Something was driving my guilt and irrational need to agree with everyone around me. And something was getting in the way of being able to live life on my terms.
After countless podcasts, hours of self-reflection and journaling, and more discussions with a therapist than I can count, I finally had a revelation. People pleasing was at the root of so much of my unhappiness and negative outlook.
You may also enjoy reading this post about improving your mindset.
What’s Wrong with People Pleasing?
“There’s something very addictive about people pleasing. It’s a thought pattern and a habit that feels really, really good until it becomes desperate.”Anne Hathaway
At first glance, people pleasing may seem harmless. After all, what’s wrong with making other people happy?
One major problem with people pleasing is a complete lack of boundaries. Saying “yes” to everyone else can unfortunately mean saying “no” to yourself.
What can start as a simple desire to be nice can lead to a cascade of overwhelm and neglect of your own needs. It’s almost as if you become so hyper-focused on everyone else that you completely forget yourself.
The needs of those around you begin to take priority and you slowly lose yourself. Your needs take a back burner as you put out the fires of everyone else around you.
As you slowly assume responsibility for the thoughts and feelings of those around you, your mindset turns decidedly more negative.
And without boundaries, you start to resent those around you for all the work you’re doing and the work they’re not doing. This quickly transforms into resentment and passive aggressive thoughts, feelings, and actions.
A lack of boundaries is the fast track to overwhelm, burnout, and stress.
Looking for more information about boundaries? Check out this resource.
People pleasing often means your calendar is packed to the brim with activities you may not be particularly excited about. It may be so full that you feel as if adding even one more task would absolutely put you over the edge of sanity.
You’re constantly running, running, running but never feel as if you get anywhere. You also lack a sincere sense of accomplishment because instead of setting and meeting your own goals, you’re constantly going after the goals of everyone around you.
Self-care is consistently neglected in the name of self-sacrifice. In fact, you may be completely unable to identify activities which would be good for you because you’re too busy meeting everyone else’s needs.
You have zero free time and no hope that you ever will in the future.
Although stress can be good, too much over an extended period of time can lead to chronic physical and mental illness. It can also lead to low self-esteem and unfulfilling relationships.
Need advice on how to find peace despite stress? Check out this post.
Constantly focusing on the needs of those around you means you will completely forget your own needs. As your own needs sink lower and lower on your ever growing list of things to do, so will your self-esteem.
You begin to believe that everyone else’s needs are more important than your own which only serves to plummet your self-esteem even lower.
And as your self-esteem worsens, so does your relationships with those around you. Excessive people pleasing often means you’ve completely lost touch with who you are as a person, the very thing which can actually strengthen relationships with others. The loss of self means loss of connection with anyone else either.
Losing authenticity can further lower your self-esteem and worsen depression and anxiety. A constant sense of guilt and a complete lack of fulfillment clouds your thinking and can feed addiction, perfectionism, and an already negative mindset.
Looking for advice on how to achieve a more positive mindset? Check out this post.
Why Does People Pleasing Start?
In order to understand strategies to ditch people pleasing, you need to understand why it develops in the first place.
Your Early Years
As with almost anything in life, your early years may have had something to do with your current people pleasing tendencies. If your parents were overly critical, or emotionally/physically unavailable, your young self may have adapted a people pleasing coping mechanism.
You perhaps learned early on that if you were “helpful” and “agreeable” then people loved and accepted you. And because we are incapable of caring for ourselves when we are young, we depend upon others to care for us.
Acceptance, by any means possible, means survival.
Although you may have developed people pleasing coping mechanisms as a young child, you are now an adult. You have control over your own life now and can choose to make positive changes, especially if your current mindset isn’t working for you.
Fear of Rejection
This next one relates closely to the previous one in that a deeply rooted fear of rejection drives your people pleasing activities. You have learned that people like other people who agree with them, even if only superficially.
Rather than risk rocking the boat and possible rejection, you simply say “yes” to everything.
And on the flip side, you are seeking approval and validation from others rather than searching inside yourself. This leads to a constant cycle of people pleasing as you seek outside affirmation about your worth which is lacking from within. It ultimately means you end up believing that you need to prove your worthiness to others or face rejection.
At its core, people pleasing can also be about control.
Disagreeing with others feels intensely uncomfortable and you do anything possible to avoid it. Anything includes agreeing even when doing so means you become inauthentic with yourself, your beliefs, and your own needs.
Agreeing means taking control by avoiding conflict. Taking control feels safe and predictable because this is likely a long-standing pattern for you.
It’s a pattern in which you subconsciously assume responsibility for the emotions of others around you and act accordingly.
But you can break free. You can stop living your life for others and instead, starting living for yourself!
Struggling with perfectionism? This post is for you.
How You Can Ditch People Pleasing
Now that you have some insight into what people pleasing entails, why it’s bad, and where it comes from, it’s time to cover how you can leave it behind forever!
1. Listen to Yourself
This first one seems intuitive and almost too simple but if you’ve been living your life for others, it will take time and practice. Start small and pay attention to that still, small voice inside.
Pay attention to your feelings instead of balling them up and shoving them deep down inside. How are you feeling right now? Are you authentically living a life you love? Or are you living the life everyone else wants for you?
How does it truly feel to say “yes” to something? Does doing what you agreed to do make you feel energized and alive? Does it align with your core purpose? Or does it leave you feeling tired and drained?
Practice identifying your smallest, most basic needs. Once identified, take action to meet them and relish in the satisfaction of finally having your needs met.
2. Say No to People Pleasing
No can be a tough word. You’re so used to pleasing everyone around you that it may sound harsh and uncaring. But as a fellow people pleaser, I can say with certainty that saying “no” to others means saying “yes” to yourself.
Start by identifying something on your list which you truly can’t stand. Something which is a huge imposition to yourself or which causes extensive anxiety in a completely useless and unproductive way.
Think about how great it would feel not to have that thing looming over your head anymore. How amazing would it be to get back just a little of your time and freedom?
Pretty incredible, right?
Now say “no” to that thing. Dump the responsibility which was never yours in the first place. Put it back squarely in the hands of the one who should have done it in the first place.
3. Get Help
Working on yourself is hard! Sometimes we all need a little encouragement that we’re going down the right path. We all need affirmation that the tough path is indeed the one we need to be taking.
Whether it’s a therapist, a coach, or a trusted friend, find someone to help you through. Find the person who can give you outside perspective on your internal perception.
Breaking free from people pleasing is tough and you need someone fighting right along with you to ensure your success. Life is meant to be lived in harmony with others in a healthy, positive way. By seeking out help now, you’re taking the first steps towards a lifetime of fulfilling and meaningful relationships!
4. Commit to Improving Your Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem keeps you stuck in people pleasing mode. It keeps you from putting yourself and your needs first. And it encourages you to keep seeking validation from outside yourself.
But in order to be truly happy, you must realize that you, and only you, hold the key to your own happiness. Nothing outside yourself will ever bring the type of truly satisfying and fulfilling happiness that you deserve.
And you deserve happiness as much as anyone else! Your needs, wants, and desires are important. It’s only when you realize this that you can improve your self-esteem and ultimately break free from people pleasing forever!
Struggling with self-love? Click here for powerful strategies to improve your self-love!
5. Set Boundaries
People pleasing is all about blurring the lines. It’s about abandoning your own needs in the name of helping others. And it’s about taking on responsibility which is not yours.
People pleasing is an insidious loss of personal boundaries. It starts ever so gradually but quickly snowballs into completely unmet and unvoiced expectations, passive aggression, and loss of yourself.
Boundaries are important because they tell you exactly where your responsibilities lie. They give you the freedom to stop worrying about things which aren’t yours to worry about. And they give you the opportunity to be amazing in the realm which is your responsibility.
Boundaries actually give you the space to be who you are without worrying about what anyone else thinks. They bring authenticity and with authenticity comes the type of true and meaningful relationships you so deeply desire.
Extra Resources to Leave People Pleasing in the Past!
Even when you understand the who, what, when, where, and why of a situation, truly leaving it in the past can be difficult. Here are a few of my favorite resources in my own journey to ditch people pleasing!
If you’re looking for a quick, motivational read, look no further than Girl, Stop Apologizing! It’s just the kick-in-the-pants you need to break free from negative thought patterns and to instead head off into your own direction. Entertaining, real, and absolutely one of the most inspirational books I’ve read thus far.
Although not what I would describe as motivational, this next one is eye-opening. After doing work in counseling, I realized that codependency was intricately tied into my people pleasing tendencies and got serious about learning more. This book has become an invaluable resource in discovering codependency and more importantly, what to do about it.
And Don’t Forget This Book!
If boundaries are particularly challenging, this next one is for you! I also discovered this one during counseling and have read it multiple times to fully absorb the value found in its pages.
And there you have it! I truly hope you have found this post helpful and have committed to leaving people pleasing behind forever! Drop a comment below on what you took away from this post and your biggest struggles in leaving the people pleasing in the past. Have you found tips or tricks which we may also find helpful?