“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don't let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.”
- Jim Carrey
In this column, you will learn simple but powerful tips on how to overcome people-pleasing from a wide range of experts.
Clicking on the expert names below will take you to their individual blurb on how to overcome people-pleasing.
- Say yes to things you really don’t want to?
- Put everyone else’s needs before yours to the point of exhausting yourself
and neglecting your own self-care?
- Go along with things you’re not really comfortable with just to keep the
- Say no, but you make a lot of excuses for why and feel guilty?
If you do any of these things, you are engaging in what is called “people pleasing.”
People pleasers generally do this because of fearing the loss of friendship, the good opinion of others or love. They may have low self-esteem and dislike any conflict, so they go along to keep everyone else happy. They may also hold beliefs that being a good person means you have to always help other people.
It’s important to realize that your self worth isn’t based on the opinions of others. It comes from within you and how you feel about yourself.
Here are some strategies to stop people pleasing and bring more balance into your life:
1. Learn to say no when you want to.
This needs to be a good firm, no. There’s no need to justify it with excuses. You can be polite, saying something like, “Thanks for asking but I’m busy that day” (or, “My plate is full.” ) No one needs to know the details. If they push, simply say, “I’m sorry, but that’s my business.” This may feel a bit scary at first, so practicing with a trusted friend or coach is a good idea. People not used to you being this assertive may react at first, but they’ll soon get the message that you are no longer available 24/7.
2. Decide on your boundaries and stick to them.
Think of some things you’ve said yes to that you didn’t want to do. List them and then make a list of all the reasons you didn’t want to do those things. This will help you decide what your boundaries are. For example, if
getting eight hours of sleep every night is important to your health and well-being, that is a boundary for you. You’ll know not to say yes to anything
that causes you to loose sleep. Other boundaries may be things that cut
into your family time or your own self-care time. If saying yes exposes you to negative energy, such as gossipy, critical people, that could be a boundary for you. And certainly anything that goes against your values or integrity is a boundary. Once you clearly know your boundaries you won’t be caught off guard and say yes when you don’t want to.
3. Notice the difference between genuine goodwill and people pleasing.
When someone asks you to do something that feels good to you to do, then absolutely say yes. When you have the time and energy and desire to give from the heart, both you and the other person will benefit. However, if you are doing something just because someone else wants you to or you fear the consequences of not doing it, such as loss of friendship, that’s a red flag. If you do happen to loose a friend when you turn them down, that’s not really a loss. Real friends don’t use people.
4. Pay attention to your feelings.
Notice if you are feeling angry, resentful, overwhelmed, sad or frustrated. Your feelings have messages for you and these are telling you that this is something that you don’t want to do. Listen to what your feelings are telling you.
5. Don’t worry about being selfish.
Taking care of yourself and not over-extending is not selfish. If you actually wonder if you’re being selfish that’s your clue that you’re not. Truly selfish people don’t care if they’re being selfish! And the interesting thing is, doing something for someone that you don’t want to do will end up not being really beneficial to them or to you in the long run.
6. Stand up tall.
When you hunch or slouch, that’s a victim posture. People who manipulate others will go right for it! When you stand up tall and breathe deeply, it’s easier to stand up to people who are pressuring you.
7. Set a time limit.
To avoid getting taken advantage of if you do want to say yes, set a time limit for when you are available to help. For example, “I can help you between noon and three tomorrow.” Then be sure to leave by the deadline.
8. Practice your own self care.
Make self-care a regular habit and priority. Getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising are standard practices. Also engage in activities you enjoy and hold those appointments with yourself as sacred! Get some pampering such as a massage, spa day, or even soaking on a bubble bath or curling up with a good book and cup of tea.
9. If you have trouble doing this on your own, please seek professional help with a therapist or trained coach.
Estra Roell, Life Purpose Coach– www.americaslifepurposecoach.com
Do you often feel taken advantage of or feel your needs are being ignored or pushed behind others?
Then you may have fallen into the trap of ‘people pleasing’. Too often we fear negative responses, don’t want to let others down or feel guilty so we agree to do things we do not want to do to keep everyone happy. Sadly, we forget how to make ourselves happy and often create negative dynamics with co-workers, family and friends from feelings of resentment that develop in this cycle of trying to be all things to all people.
So how do we avoid being a people pleaser?
1. Do not make decisions based upon getting other’s approval. Seek inner counsel and listen to your heart.
2. Make your needs a priority. This is not about hoarding resources or being selfish, this is about identifying what you need and recognizing that you will have to play a part in manifesting it.
3. Set appropriate personal boundaries. Although it can be difficult to set boundaries they exist for a reason to protect both sides from feeling used or abused.
4. Avoid making assumptions.
5. Utilize proactive communication skills. Learn how to appropriately express needs and make requests.
6. Learn how to say ‘no’. Increase awareness that ‘no’ does not mean rejection. ‘No’ is simply a guideline for behavior.
7. Reality-check your expectations. Are your expectations appropriate?
8. Respect the boundaries of others.
Stacey Shumway Johnson, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS, BCC - www.2xlcoach.com
We all know that we sometimes need to go along to get along and that it’s a useful interpersonal skill to be affable and agreeable.
However, it’s one thing to be genial and easy-going and quite another to be a “people pleaser.” People pleasers tend to use this strategy to get most if all of their needs met. In simple terms, they’re afraid of confrontation and disagreement because they may lead to rejection and abandonment. Most people know if they are people pleasers. What they don’t know is how to modulate this behavior.
Here are some tips:
#1. Recognize where your need to people please comes from
Humans aren’t born people pleasers. In fact, in some ways, we’re highly selfish and focused on our own needs, especially in our earliest years. We become people pleasers when it is the only or most common way for us to get our emotional and physical needs met from our caretakers. With controlling and demanding parents, and those who are narcissistic and need to be right all the time, we can’t afford to disagree with them or we won’t receive the care we need. Our needs get met by pleasing them.
It’s worth taking a moment to understand the dynamic that underlies our relationship with parents like this. If, as a child, you please yourself, you risk losing the approbation of a parent. You stay emotionally connected to your needs, but may cause an emotional disconnect from your parents.
On the other hand, as a child, if you please them, you risk losing a connection to your own needs, but are more likely to stay connected to them. In childhood, keeping emotional attachment to parents is of utmost importance, so we learn to become people pleasers to survive, and remain so in adulthood when this behavior is no longer adaptive but, in fact, has become maladaptive.
#2. Start by risking displeasing people who are not that important in your life
I recommend to my many people-pleasing clients to start small and not try to tackle not pleasing parents, spouses or bosses until they are more comfortable with asserting their own needs and disagreeing with or confronting others. For example, if someone cuts in front of you in line at the movies, politely tell them that this behavior is unacceptable. If an acquaintance is rude to you, don’t flash a smile, but let him know that he has hurt your feelings. If a co-worker constantly interrupts when you’re working, nicely, let her know that this isn’t a good time.
#3. Stop repeating apologies
Many trauma survivors are addicted to apologizing. This inclination is often the sign of a people pleaser. It’s healthy to express wrong-doing and regret. It’s unhealthy to say it over and over again, because such repetition is often done out of unconscious fear.
If you’re not sure how often you say that you’re sorry, start listening to yourself. Better yet, ask friends or family members you trust if you overuse the phrase. Notice when you want to apologize and, rather than do it impulsively, think first if it’s really necessary. If you must express regret twice, make that the maximum.
#4. Tolerate the anxiety you feel when you say no or disagree with someone
You may initially feel anxious when you decrease your people pleasing and that’s expected. Remind yourself that this trait was adaptive in childhood, but is now detrimental to your mental health. You had reason to be anxious as a child, but generally don’t now. If a store clerk insists he gave you $10 back and you know you only received $5, speak up whether it makes you uncomfortable or not.
If your spouse insists that you two go to her favorite restaurant all the time, start making suggestions and stick to them. If your boyfriend wants you to wear your hair long and loose and you like it short and neat, stick to your decision. The more you stand up for yourself, the easier it will be to do so the next time.
#5. Detach from people in your life who only want you to please them
Be observant of how people react when you stop going overboard to please them. People who are emotionally healthy, will be glad that you’re taking better care of your needs, even if your doing so doesn’t give them their own way as much as it did previously. People who are narcissistic or unhealthy, will not be thrilled by your new found confidence. They may see it as a threat to themselves and to their power over you and this only shows their insecurity. These are people you’ll want to stay away from or, at least, detach from emotionally.
Two additional thoughts.
People pleasers often fear becoming overly selfish. Not to worry. You will likely always ride the brakes on the Selfishness Express. You won’t become highly selfish because it’s not in your nature, that is, how you developed, and because it’s not a trait you likely value. Moreover, recognize that in any relationship the goal is not that one person is the pleaser and the other the pleased, but that a balance must be struck so that there is appropriate and satisfying give and take.
Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com
Being pleasant and getting along with others are positive traits.
However, when you give up your own well-being and sense of self to be acceptable to others, you end up harming yourself and, in the bargain, not even creating a real relationship. You may think you’re just being considerate, going along, compromising, or being flexible, but you need to look carefully at what you are giving up and how it affects your well-being in the long run.
What you give up when you please others but not yourself
What you get for pleasing others but not yourself
- Fake relationships
- Short-lived acceptance
- Loss of identity
As you can see, always trying to please others is a lose-lose experience. So, if you are caught in the habit of focusing too much on others, it’s time to start putting your own needs and wants into the mix.
How do you do that? When a choice comes up, pause just for a few seconds and ask yourself: If no one else cared, what would I choose to do right now?
If you find it hard to think of your answer, that’s a pretty strong sign that you’re a people pleaser. I suggest that you NOT actually make a choice of what to do right then until you can figure out what you really want. Tell the other person you need to check your calendar, or you’ll get back to them, or you need some time to think about it. Anybody who cares about YOU will give you some time.
You can also start tuning in to the amount of time you spend thinking about what your loved ones want, and how you really feel about giving in to those expectations. Would you really like to wear your hair differently, cook less, spend more time with your hobbies or other friends, spend less money, go somewhere else on vacation, etc?
The next step is to take action on what you want to do.
You really don’t need the other person’s permission to do many of the things that you like, so go ahead and try out some things that please you. Also, start giving your opinion, suggest your choice, share your preferences. Then just see what happens.
People who really like and care about you, will be delighted that you are participating more.
People who just want to control you, however, won’t be as delighted. Just notice how others respond. You’ll get a lot more information about the real agenda of the people around you, and that will help you choose who is a real friend or loved one, and who isn’t.
If you want to be a person who others can trust, who is authentic, and genuine, then you can’t just focus on pleasing other people. You have to decide for yourself what is right for you and what fits in with your own personal journey. Only then will you have the deep, abiding relationships that you really want.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”- Ed Sheeran
People pleasing, the quickest way to misery. I myself am a recovering people pleaser. As a people pleaser, I would put others needs ahead of my own. I wanted to make everyone that I came in contact with happy. I actually believed for a long time that I somehow controlled this.
If I just took on more, said yes more, tried harder to understand everyone’s side, than I could make others happy. It was my life mission to have everyone around me happy. Until the day I woke up and realized that not only was everyone in my life not happy, but I wasn’t either.
It has taken time, but that is often our best teacher anyway. I started my journey away from people pleasing and I don’t remember ever feeling guiltier. How do you go from always saying yes to just saying no and believing that this is ok?
First is to believe, really believe that you are the most important person in your life.
For people pleasers this is especially hard, because we often base our worth on the recognition and appreciation of others. We forget how, or maybe were never taught, to appreciate ourselves. We long for the approval of others. The challenge to this is that it is literally impossible to make everyone happy.
Let’s look at a simple example of trying to please my husband.
If I place all my attention on pleasing my husband, my kids now feel left out. So I begin adding in extra time for them, still working to please my husband as well. Suddenly I have a friend who is upset that I haven’t been as available as I once was. So I make plans with her. Then I get a call from my boss who is worried about my level of engagement at work. Next thing I know, my husband is upset that I have not been spending enough time with him. The cycle and list is endless! So I am running in circles trying to please everyone, but pleasing no one. I am exhausted, miserable, and can’t seem to make anyone happy, especially not myself!
It’s not easy, but it is that simple, just stop doing it. We are not responsible for others happiness and if hearing the word “No” from you is enough to end a relationship, it was never a relationship that was meant for you to begin with. It’s so easy to lose ourselves in our quest to make others happy, but once we recognize that we are not in charge of their happiness we can truly be free.
We don’t have to stop being pleasing to others, we just have to be pleasing to ourselves first.
If it is truly important for you to please others, make a list of the most important people in your life. You are number one, always. Then choose who comes next, keeping the list to no more than five people. This is it. Don’t always say yes to these five, but always say yes to you. If it makes you happy to help others, don’t stop doing it, just stop trying to do it for everyone in your life. Top five and no more!
Finally, let it go.
Let go of the need to help or make someone else happy. Recognize and trust that you are not the only person they can call on for help or support. It will be hard, but they will be ok, I promise. And most importantly, you will be a happier you! When we are happy with ourselves, only then can we truly be available to another.
Kimberly Speer, CLC, ELIMP - www.destinybydesignlifecoaching.com
It can be exhausting and overall stressful when you feel the need to please everyone.
Perhaps you feel people will like and accept you more if you are always available and able to help. Maybe you feel if you say no; people will not like you. Whatever the reason is, it can be detrimental to your emotional health if you continue to do this.
Below are steps you can take to stop trying to please everyone.
- Set boundaries . If you do say yes to someone. Give a time frame that is convenient for your schedule that you might be available to help.
- Say No once in awhile. You don't need a reason but if you feel more comfortable; say maybe another time.
- Have self compassion. Change your irrational thoughts to rational thoughts. For example if you think you must say yes or this person will not like me anymore. Replace that with , if someone says no to me that doesn't mean I stop liking them.
- Instead of using all your time focusing on everyone else's needs; focus on yourself. How would you like to spend your time?
Remember you have a choice when someone ask something of you.
While it is nice to help when you can; it is also okay to say No sometimes. What do you get out of always putting others needs before your own? Is this fulfilling to you? If the answer is no, then try some of the suggestions above. If these are to difficult; it may be beneficial to talk to a therapist. You can learn how to change your thought patterns and also learn how to take care of yourself.
Trisha Swinton, LPC, LMFT – www.trishaswintoncounseling.com
The problem with people pleasing is that you forget how important you are because you want to be sure the other person is OK.
Here’s the key. Do not be a martyr. Take care of yourself, above all else, to ensure you maintain your health and well-being. You should never feel guilty about focusing on yourself and your personal needs. Nor should you delay your enjoyment or settle for what you don’t deserve. So you need to continuously nurture yourself, just to be reminded that you are significant, worthy and SO very important.
How do you do this?
Start with your self-talk. Repeat a daily message of support and encouragement over and over again. Your personal internal dialogue should reflect your belief that you're doing well and deserve the best in life.
Say things like, "I am doing and feeling well," "I deserve to be happy and do things I love doing," or "I love life and will continue to enjoy myself daily." This dialogue will keep you focused on yourself, something too many women and men forget to do in their personal, as well as professional relationships.
And remember to never compromise yourself for the sake of others.
Keep your integrity and the standards that you live by, so you won't feel put upon or diminished by anyone else. Honor yourself by thinking independently and enjoying your own perceptions and opinions. Live authentically, speaking and acting from your own convictions and values. Learn to trust yourself and you will be happier focusing on your own best interests than every body else’s.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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