How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser and Grow Into Yourself in 2022
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management & Life Strategies Coaching
Are you a people-pleaser? Many people are. And there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting the people in your life to be happy. On the contrary, it's good to be pleasant, flexible, and easygoing.
But there is a definite distinction between people-pleasers and those with healthy boundaries.
People-pleasers put an extraordinary amount of pressure on themselves to do things for others to make them happy, even if it makes the people-pleaser unhappy. As a result, the people-pleaser may resent doing whatever they do for other people. They may grumble about it to themselves. But they don't dare to say "no."
The true-blue people-pleaser feels extremely uncomfortable saying "no" to anyone. They also feel discomfort when they turn someone down, even if they don't want to do what they are asked to do.
The typical people-pleaser may be guilty of practicing self-neglect because they don't prioritize themselves. Instead, they sacrifice themselves and their well-being to please others.
The people-pleasure may be seen as kind, helpful, and agreeable--but it's at all costs. She seems to care less about herself and shows more concern about the needs of others.
Most people-pleasers feel they must do whatever it takes to maintain their relationships. Their payoff is that they enjoy the approval of other people.
"Sociotropy" is the personality trait associated with extreme people-pleasing. It can take on an exaggerated form depending on an individual's psychological makeup.
But you don't have to be suffering from a severe personality disorder to be a people-pleaser. You just have to have weak social boundaries that make you feel that saying "no" to any request will put you on someone's wrong side.
Signs You Might Be a People-Pleaser
Some people may not even recognize that they're indulging in the habit of people-pleasing. There are specific characteristics people-pleasers have in common, though. Please take a look at the list below to see what I mean.
- Even though they have a different opinion, people-pleasers often pretend to agree with other people's views to get along.
- They tend to care more about the needs of others and less about their own needs.
- They're so occupied doing things for other people, and they don't have free time to take care of themselves.
- Even when they're not at fault, they accept blame for things that have gone wrong.
- They're constantly apologizing, sometimes for things they didn't do.
- They're always trying to earn the approval of people around them. So they strive to do things for others that will make people like them.
- They may well suffer from low self-esteem.
- They do things they don't want to do, and they're quick to agree to do more things they don't like to do. But they secretly resent having to do the very thing they agreed to do.
- They are terrified of being viewed as being selfish or mean. Because of that, they're frightened to turn people down even when agreeing to do something is a terrible inconvenience for them.
- They rarely say "no," but they feel guilty about it if they do. As a result, they may fret over it for an extended amount of time instead of moving on.
- They're often overly concerned with what other people might think of them.
- Saying "no" is practically impossible for them to say.
But life is not about always pleasing others when it comes at your own expense.
Although being a people-pleaser has its downsides, it also has its few upsides.
People-pleasers can be genuinely caring, thoughtful, and empathetic people. However, this still doesn't negate the fact that people-pleasers may feel stressed and drained. Trying to make everyone happy all the time can be exhausting!
Being Nice vs. Being a People-Pleaser
It's worth pointing out that there's a big difference between being a nice person and a people-pleaser. There are lots of reasons why people do nice things for others.
For example, someone may be motivated to do something nice to earn a favor, return a favor, help, or feel good. Nevertheless, you should know if you're indulging in people-pleasing. For example, if you do something out of fear of being rejected or disliked, you may be exhibiting symptoms of being a people-pleaser.
Tips to Stop People-Pleasing (If You Really Want to Stop)
People-pleasing is a habit that can prevent you from being the person you were meant to be. This is why you must understand what it is and take steps to overcome it.
It would help if you learned to balance helping others and yourself.
To stop being a people-pleaser, here are some of the things you can do:
Establish Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries helps you to communicate your limits. When you're very precise about what you can and cannot take on, people will understand the extent you can go. Creating healthy boundaries doesn't have to be difficult. You can start by fixing a schedule for yourself. See on paper (or computer document) the amount of time you spend doing things for others instead of the time you spend doing things for yourself.
Start Small at First
It might be challenging to change several behavioral patterns at first. So, brace yourself and start small. Start by asking for what you need. For example, give your opinion about something that may be contrary to popular opinion—or just say "no" to some requests that you're not okay with. Remember that you don't always have to say "no" all the time. However, when you do, you'll be taking control of your life. You will also gain greater confidence in yourself when you keep taking little steps.
Set Goals and Priorities for Yourself
Most people don't know if they're available to do something because they don't know their priorities. Be sure of what you're trying to accomplish. Define your goals. Where are you planning to spend your time? Why? Is it important? Is it necessary?
Try Positive Self-Talk
You're not born to please anybody in this world. Tell yourself that your goals are essential to you and you're worthy of having time for yourself. If you start to feel bad about not doing something someone asked you, remind yourself that it's not your job to make them happy or be constantly available to them. Your number one job is to make yourself happy.
Stall for Time when Asked for Help
Don't be too quick to agree to people's requests. Take time to think about it. How much time will the request take from you? Will you be sacrificing something of yourself to get it done? If yes, then reply with a polite but firm "no."
And don't bother making excuses or rationalizing your response. You don't need a reason to say "no" other than it just doesn't suit or it will take up too much time. Instead, respect yourself enough to just say "no" without apologizing for your answer.
Help When You Want to Help
The fact that you wanted to stop people-pleasing doesn't mean you should stop helping people at all. By all means, help when you want to help. The only thing you should do is check your intentions and motivations first.
Avoid helping people because you feel you owe it to them something or are afraid they won't like you if you say "no." If you refuse the request, they will likely find another people-pleaser to call on. But that leaves you free to pursue your own interests.
There is nothing wrong with being pleasant and agreeable. But don't do it at your own expense or the expense of your immediate family.
Next week I'll offer thoughts about the importance of maintaining interpersonal relationships for your growth and success.