The term people-pleasing refers to a person who has an emotional need to please others often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.
Does this definition apply to you? If so, let us try to understand why you people-please. In doing so, hopefully, you feel inspired to stop.
There are many reasons why you want to please others. Maybe you are genuinely kind and caring, and that is great! We are social beings who want to connect with others. However, more often than not, there is an underlying reason for wanting to please others.
Like most personality traits, a people-pleasing personality begins in childhood. Throughout childhood, we are learning who we are and how we fit into the world based on our interactions with our parents. From these interactions or attachment styles, we build our personalities and sense of worth. Psychologists believe that an early insecure attachment or co-dependent attachment style is a likely cause for people-pleasing. Or perhaps you may have received positive attention whenever you did something nice or caring for someone else, regardless of what you wanted.
Though you may have good intentions, people-pleasing is disrespectful to yourself and others because it is inauthentic. It does not allow others to know what you truly feel. It is also exhausting, depleting, and often un-rewarding.
If you have reached this point and decided to stop people-pleasing, here are a few steps that can help.
- Validate yourself.
An important step to stop people-pleasing is self-validation. Feeding your self-worth with someone else’s opinions of you harms your self-esteem. It makes you prone to intense bouts of anxiety and depression. Learning to validate yourself is a powerful tool to stop people-pleasing. Start by being self-aware. Learn what your needs are and what makes you feel good. Reflect on yourself with interest, curiosity, and respect. This process will help you identify why you want to please others.
Once you have figured out the reasons why validate and meet your own needs. In doing so, you are valuing yourself, your opinions, and your existence and no longer waiting for someone else you meet them for you.
- Say no.
Doling out a flat rejection can be intimidating, even for the person saying it. If so, try saying no more politely by offering a compromise. For example, someone invites you to a dinner date, but you do not want to go. If you are not comfortable rejecting, fearing that their feelings might get hurt, suggest a coffee date. That way, you do not have to hang around for such a long time.
- Be patient.
It’s okay. There will be times where you unintentionally agree to something because that is your default setting. You can still say no later on. However, try not to make it a habit to cancel plans later on. If someone asks something of you, do not give a response immediately. Say, “let me get back to you.” This phrase buys you time to check your schedule or check with yourself and make the right choice.
- Know where you are going.
Having a clear idea, goal, or intention can help you understand what you are saying yes to in your life. Take some time out of your week to evaluate or reevaluate your long-term goals and your short-term goals. Doing so will help narrow down the scope of the things you agree to do, and it will help you say no to anything that does not get you closer to your goals.
Here are some to ask yourself.
- Where do I want to be in five years?
- What am I doing right now to get there?
Hopefully, these questions will make it easier for you to say no.
- Eliminate toxic people.
There are various shades of toxicity, but in short, a toxic person is someone who does not respect your boundaries and values. They overlook and overstep your boundaries hoping that you will make an exception for them. They might ask you for things, and you will get sucked into them. If you have the gall to reject them, they might gaslight you by making you feel bad. Stay away from someone like this! Here are a few tips.
- Stop apologizing.
It is normal and commendable to apologize for something you did but stop apologizing for things that you did not do or have any control over. When you apologize for saying no, you are invalidating your choice and decision to stand up for yourself.
Instead of apologizing, you could try saying phrases like pardon me, after you, or go ahead. It is still acknowledging the other person, but it does not devalue your opinions.
It is a gift to want to be of service to others, but remember you are not beholden to other people’s demands. Stop seeking your worth from others and learn to live free of other people’s expectations.
- Abrams, Allison. Overcoming the Need to Please. 1 Oct. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201710/overcoming-the-need-please.
- Cookson, Paula. The Liberated Self: A People Pleaser’s Guide to Better Relationships. Unbelievable Freedom LLC (February 10, 2020), 2020.
- Garcy, Pamela D. “Needy? 5 Tips to Stop the People-Pleasing.” Psychology Today, 6 Oct. 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fearless-you/201410/needy-5-tips-stop-the-people-pleasing.
- Jack, Claire. “How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 20 Apr. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-autism-spectrum-disorder/202004/how-stop-being-people-pleaser.
- Morin, Amy. “10 Signs You’re a People-Pleaser.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 Aug. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201708/10-signs-youre-people-pleaser.
- Strauss Cohen, Ilene. How I Learned to Stop Being a People-Pleaser. 16 Mar. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-emotional-meter/201803/how-i-learned-stop-being-people-pleaser.
- The School of Life. “How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.” Youtube, 12 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hYTPl7MkiA.
- Van Edwards, Vanessa. 6 Steps to Stop People Pleasing and Start Doing What’s Right For You. 5 May 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PQdxnHteaU.