People pleasing is the opposite of self-respect. And unfortunately, many of us have this habit.
See, being a people pleaser means you don’t live on your own terms. You believe you are just being easy to deal with, super helpful, and kind.
However, the reality is, if you have people-pleasing tendencies you are probably not able to set healthy boundaries with others — and you have the habit to put other people’s needs first.
And that’s how toxic relationships often develop.
Definition of people pleaser
First of all, what does being a people pleaser even mean?
As Kendra Cherry explains in an article published in Very Well Mind, “People pleasers are known for doing whatever it takes to make other people happy.”
“They have trouble advocating for themselves, which can lead to a harmful pattern of self-sacrifice or self-neglect,” adds Cherry.
While trying to help others is generally a good thing, always putting other people’s needs first can leave you feeling emotionally exhausted and anxious.
Here are a few rules that can help you stop being a people pleaser.
Become aware of your people-pleasing tendencies
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung
They say that when you understand a problem, you have half the solution. And I couldn’t agree more with this.
If you have people-pleasing tendencies, you probably know it, however, that’s not enough to break that pattern.
As licensed marriage and family therapist Katie Ziskind explains, the first step to stop being a people pleaser is becoming aware of your behaviors and observing yourself.
This step is crucial. When you notice your behaviors, you know exactly on what you have to work: you identify the patterns you need to unlearn.
Become aware of where these tendencies come from
As licensed psychotherapist and trauma specialist Melissa Lapides explains, an important step in this process is to notice how you feel when you give up your own needs in order to please someone else.
“Likely there is fear of losing someone, of not being liked or accepted, or of being abandoned. Notice where in your family you had to conform in order to be loved, validated, or feel connected. This wound might come from unhealed relational trauma with your parents or caregivers.”
Learn to say no
Don’t say maybe if you want to say no. ― Paulo Coelho
As licensed therapist Billy Roberts explains, the best way to stop being a people-pleaser is to learn to say no.
“Building the ability to say no is a process, particularly if one is accustomed to pleasing people. The need to please can be strong, and can stem from many different places, including a history of traumatic experiences. So, it is often a hard habit to break,” says Roberts.
When you learn to say no, you face your fear of being abandoned or of not being accepted. You choose your own needs over someone else’s demands. It’s a maturation process.
As Jon Rhodes explains, something that can help you say no more often is having clear life goals that motivate you.
“It’s much easier to stay firm on your boundaries when you have clarity. If someone encourages you to break your schedule, explain why your goal is important to you,” adds Rhodes.
It’s much more effective (and easier) than saying no.
Learn to enforce boundaries
You know what’s even harder — and more important — than learning to say no?
Enforcing your boundaries.
See, you can learn to set healthy boundaries, but if you let others violate those boundaries, your initial effort to setting them will become pointless. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.
That’s why, as Katie Ziskind explains, when it comes to stop being a people pleaser, the most important behavior to learn is to uphold your boundaries — not just set them.
As mental health therapist Ray Sadoun mentions, therapy can help you break the habit of people pleasing.
“When you work with a therapist on a regular basis, you will have the opportunity to discover the root of your people-pleasing behaviors and to heal that part of you first.”
“Your therapist can teach you useful techniques such as role-playing (where you will practice how to set boundaries with people), thought challenging (challenging negative thoughts that enter your head), and healthy conflict resolution (which teaches you how to boldly assert your opinion without being unnecessarily harsh, as well as how to defuse conflict if it does arise),” adds Sadoun.
As Sadoun explains, it’s essential to start small. This way, the idea of saying no, or of starting setting boundaries won’t scare or overwhelm you.
According to Sadoun, some examples of starting small are:
- Don’t rush to answer the phone immediately anytime someone calls;
- State a preference when a loved one asks you what you want to do;
- Practice saying no at least a two or three times a week.
Bonus tip: Indulge in self-care
A good way to focus less on others and prioritize your own needs is to practice taking care of yourself.
Indulge in self-care.
Take some time off and do things that make you feel good and in peace.
- Go for a long walk,
- Spend an afternoon in a SPA, alone or with a good friend,
- Drink a warm herbal tea,
- Go get a massage,
- Talk to a loved one,
- Eat a super healthy meal.
When it comes to stop being a people pleaser, it all boils down to self-respect and self-love.
When you learn to truly love yourself, when you believe in yourself, and put yourself first, you’ll automatically stop doing things out of fear (fear of abandonment and fear of rejection).
You won’t feel the need to impress others and you will stop seeking other people’s approval. And you’ll start leaving a happier, healthier life.
Article originally published in The Truly Charming