How to Stop People Pleasing – The definitive guide

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Striving to be good, being seen as the one who has got it all together, and keeping everyone happy instead of satisfying my own needs. It was my whole damn life! Until one day I woke up and didn’t recognise who I was anymore. This moment triggered years of research, study and experimentation on how to stop people pleasing.  

Trust me, I have been in the trenches wholeheartedly. And for years not knowing that I was even doing it. The need to please ran through my personal life through to my business. It left me feeling emotionally depleted, stressed and anxious. I had completely forgotten who I was, what my passions were and the direction I wanted to take my life. 

Because I was so darn busy worrying about others!

This article covers the traits of a people-pleaser, what people pleasing is and the cause and effect it has on us. Why we aim to please and most importantly how to stop people-pleasing. 

What is a people pleaser?

A people pleaser is someone who puts other peoples needs ahead of their own. They are highly aware of others and what their needs are. However they have trouble advocating for themselves which can lead to harmful patterns like resentment, self-neglect and assumption.

People pleasers come across as helpful, kind and agreeable folk who go with the flow. Yet under the surface their is a lot of unhealed pain that they live with which can lead them to take on responsibility to earn approval as a way to maintain relationships. 

Most people pleasers see themselves as less than those around them, they are not equal. They instead behave as if everyone around them is more deserving which leads to self-sacrificing. So they over compensate in a multitude of situations in order to keep the peace.

People pleasing is a mental health issue that affects our relationships – with our self and others.  

Signs you are People Pleaser

YOU’RE CRUSHED WHEN SOMEONE DOESN’T LIKE YOU

You feel that it is important to be friends with everyone or at least get along with everyone. Making enemies is not okay in your book and to discover someone doesn’t like you is soul-crushing.

YOU GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO AVOID CONFLICT

Those uncomfortable feelings that happen when you are on the brink of an argument or being confronted. Ick! So you do everything in your power to make sure these events don’t play out or will do anything to avoid them.

YOU MIRROR THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU

You love your friends so much that you will do anything to fit in and if that means getting on board the latest trend to get your belly button pierced, a hideous tattoo or Friday night drinks at the seedy pub. Well, you will probably follow suit even when you know you don’t want any of those things.

YOU LIKE TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE AROUND YOU IS HAPPY

You are constantly thinking of how others perceive you and if they are happy or having fun. This leads you to mother others to make sure that they are comfortable and often sacrifice your own needs for them. 

YOU HATE SAYING NO

The thought of letting someone down and saying no just makes your stomach turn in knots. You might be able to do it in some situations but often get caught out saying YES when you really just wanted to say no. Especially when it comes to work or with loved ones. 

TAKE ON EXTRA RESPONSIBILITY {Priortising other’s needs ahead of own}

You often find yourself busy darting around, from doing overtime at work, dropping a doctor’s appointment to save your mate whose car has broken down to make sure your guest’s teacup is full at all times. It’s exhausting.  You feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders because you feel responsible for others. 

YOU APOLOGISE WAY TOO MUCH

You say sorry if you have to go to work, you say sorry for not passing over someone’s cup when they reach out for it, you say sorry for being 1 minute late, you apologise for things that don’t need an apology. There is no need to apologise for being you!

SEEK OUT VALIDATION

You are constantly second-guessing yourself so you seek out validation for who you are, your ideas, thoughts, opinions to even the way you dress. Receiving praise for getting it right solidifies that you are on the right track. This keeps you in a loop of people-pleasing others over believing in yourself. 

YOU DON’T SHARE YOUR TRUE FEELINGS WHEN SOMEONE HURTS YOU

You brush off your feelings as less important, as an “inconvenience” to others. You don’t want to upset the person who has hurt you by sharing your feelings with them, that wouldn’t be nice to make them feel bad, would it? Keeping your emotions in and past hurt boasts resentment of others and yourself. 

YOU DON’T WANT TO HURT OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS

When the truth is hard to deliver, it can cause all kinds of pain in your body. You know that a friend might need to hear something but you don’t want to tell them because you know it would crush their heart. Good intentions are often held tightly by people pleasers for the fear of hurting their loved ones.

YOU DON’T TAKE SICK DAYS

People pleasers like to punish themselves, living up to others’ expectations and will go to work even when they are sick to show that they are capable of still being able to do the job. They would hate to let anyone else down by taking a day to rest and recover. 

People-pleasing comes in all shapes and forms, and each of us has our own unique set of traits. However, once these traits are identified, this is where the work really begins.

What are the Dangers of Being a People Pleaser

The number one danger of being a people pleaser is that you lose your identity of who you are – your sense of self. This can look like having no clue what actually makes you happy, what you love doing, or what your dreams are. 
 
The second danger of being a people pleaser is that our relationships suffer because we don’t see ourselves as equal to others and play to their needs. 
 
When we allow pleasing others to take over our life we see the following behaviours: 
  • Lack of self-care and neglecting one’s own needs. 
  • Find it hard to have a good time because you are constantly observing others, ready to pounce and save the day to make sure that other’s needs are met.
  • Stressed and anxious due to being overly stimulated which makes it hard to wind down. 
  • Passive-aggressive behavior due to built-up resentment of bottling up emotions of frustration or anger. 
  • Find it hard to make decisions due to self-doubt. 
  • Weakens or cultivates unhealthy relationships that are out of balance.
  • Communication can shut down due to people pulling inwards instead of letting others know how they are feeling. 

BEING NICE VS. BEING A PEOPLE-PLEASER

Humans love to help, it makes us feel good, it’s not about ego it’s about generosity and strengthening bonds. We all want to be seen as useful as it gives us a sense of purpose. 

BUT there is a distinction between doing things to be nice and doing things because you’re a people-pleaser. 

When we do things because we are afraid of being disliked, rejected or face confrontation this is people pleasing at work. It’s not all bad news – its only a concern if you are trying to win approval due to a lack of self-esteem or focusing on others happiness instead of your own emotional well being. 

What causes us to be a people pleaser

The need to please lives in all of us, yet doing it consistently and at the expense of our own mental health is where we need to uncover our patterns. When we are people pleasing we are not showing up as a true representation of ourselves. We find ourselves altering or manipulating others or situations in order to maintain our relationships. 

People pleasing is learned – it’s a coping behaviour that usually stems from childhood that unconsciously follows us through to adulthood. It tests our relationships – first with ourselves, then with others and our communities. These behaviours can be caused by trauma, emotional neglect and people we looked up to who modeled these behaviours. 

Here are a few of the reasons why you might be engaging in this kind of behavior.  

TO KEEP YOURSELF SAFE

This is a natural response in dangerous situations. Yet people pleasers don’t like to take risks that could see them becoming hurt emotionally or physically. This is where we would try safer solutions or avoid situations altogether. Not wanting to be seen as an outcast, different, or even wrong. We please others because we are driven by fear, fear of judgment and of what other people might think. 

TO FEEL LOVED

As children we all loved seeing our parents smile at us with acknowledgement that we were doing something right. Rewarding us with a hug to validate our successes yet this exchange carries a lot of weight. In adulthood, we may struggle with our emotions if we ever experience emotional neglect due to our caregivers not having the awareness or resources to notice, respond or help us navigate our emotional needs. The need to feel loved makes us do almost anything for another, to satisfy their expectations and meet them in order to receive praise, validation or emotional security. 

NOT SEEING YOURSELF AS EQUAL

This is where we see ourselves” as less than” others. When we do this we revert back to the role of a child and that those around us are authoritative figures. When this happens we try to live up to their expectations, act in accordance with their values and beliefs and disregard our own. This stems from a complete lack of self-esteem that we can be an individual and that our needs are less important than those around us. Hense we give and give.

TRAUMA 

Painful, difficult, or traumatic experiences also play a role in people pleasing, especially if one has experienced physical or emotional abuse. It enables a heightened sense of self-awareness, which leads to anxiety, stress, emotional sensitivity, phobias and depression. As the person is always waiting for a moment that could trigger them. Thus they end up pleasing others to avoid situations that could trigger behaviors in others that would lead to similar experiences.

The two core undercurrents of being a people pleaser is poor self-esteem and feeling insecure. 

People pleasing is a result of our childhood conditioning, it’s not our fault that we learned these skills however we do have the choice to change them. We get to decide. We get to put ourselves first.

How to Stop being a people pleaser

STEP ONE: Acknowledge that You are a People Pleaser

It can be a hard truth to own, I remember my bitter-sweet moment of realising that I was a chronic people pleaser. That moment where I had just given my power away for the 5 millionth time but this time to a stranger who called me out. Once we identify how we go out of our way to please others we can start creating change in our life. We can go on to rediscover who we are and what makes us unique instead of tieing our values to what others think of us. 

STEP TWO: Identify your Patterns

Our patterns are simply learned behaviours that we do on autopilot. Catching ourselves in the act of giving our power away is the tricky part because we are so used to responding/reacting in a certain way in situations. What we want to look out for is any rise in emotions that could give us insight into when we feel the need to please. Most of the time we realise after an incident occurred what has just played out. And that is okay – it’s about acknowledging that behaviour. “I do xyz when zyz happens” 

For example – I use to get angry and snappy while cooking the daily meal because I felt like it was my responsibility to feed the family. Once I realised this pattern I could then look to WHY!

STEP THREE: Uncover your “Why” you Need to Please

Discovering the root of the cause is the best way to overcome any illness, mental or physical. Once we see our patterns we can then start digging deeper as to why we react this way. What is it that makes you feel like you need to deliver happy vibes to everyone around you? 

Understanding your why – the driver that enables you to behave this way allows you to then cut ties with the emotions, stories, beliefs that you hold to keep you in that cycle. 

STEP FOUR: Keep a Journal

The road to recovering from people pleasing is a long process of trial and error as you lean into your discoveries. The best way to record your progress and dig deeper is to get a journal and write through what is happening. This is not something you need to share but keep as a personal record of how far you have come and how you have bettered your life. Need some journal prompts? Head over here > 10 Journal Prompts for People Pleasers. 

STEP FIVE: Rebuild your Self-Esteem

What causes people pleasing is a lack of self-esteem and feelings of insecurity. Re-building your confidence to trust yourself is an important step to stopping the need to please. It’s about reconnecting and focusing on your strengths in order to thrive. 

Each new pattern that you take on to rewrite is an opportunity to regain your self-confidence.  It’s about deliberately creating change for yourself, putting your needs first and prioritising them. Showing the world what you deserve. 

Feelings of expansion and freedom follow great acts of courage. Practice asserting your voice, opinion and preferences. Say No, drop the excuses and remember you are equally important to those around you!

STEP SIX: Build & Maintain Boundaries

Creating boundaries helps you to protect yourself. They show others our limitations of what we are willing or not willing to do. Clearly communicating our boundaries can be met with resistance especially when we have been a yes person for a long time. 

Know that placing boundaries will affect your relationships, some will change and grow while others may fall away. Your personal boundaries are for your own good, and they are an expression of what you value. 

Boundaries setting is a skill all people pleasers need in their back pocket. Want to dive a little deeper into boundaries, head over here > How to set & Maintain Boundaries. 

STEP SEVEN: Stop Assuming

There is no right time, no right way to do anything. So please stop assuming that you are responsible for other’s happiness. Let it go, so you can focus on your needs. When we assume we are judging situations and make calls on what we believe the outcome is going to happen. Thus we might hold back our feelings, we might not ask for help we might say yes because we feel like we should.  Letting go of the perception of others is a tough cookie to crack, but once you set and reinforce boundaries you will come to learn the difference between helping because you want to feeling like you “should”. 

STEP EIGHT: Start Communicating

No one can guess how you feel, don’t keep it all bottled up. Share what is going on for you, many people pleasers have forgotten how to share their voice because they have often been the great listeners of the world. There are times when we need to express what is going on, open ourselves up and get vulnerable – find someone who can support us, a friend, family member or even a therapist. Asserting your voice comes with practice and relearning how to communicate is tricky but the rewards are healthy relationships that thrive. 

STEP NINE: Practice Self Love

In order to ditch the need to please we need to come home to ourselves. Remember who we really are, what makes us laugh, what we love to do and bring more of that magic into our lives. When we love ourselves we feel more confident and that draws people in, the right people. Self-love is about honouring ourselves inside and out. When we nurture our soul we encourage it to blossom. The need to please stops us from looking after ourselves and diverts our energy on to others. Find your practices and do them daily – they could be – walking, swimming, reading, sitting with a cuppa for 15min outside, meditation, yoga or even crafting. 

TIPS FOR DISRUPTING THE NEEDS TO PLEASE:

  • Remind yourself daily that you can’t be everything to everyone!
  • Start small – focus on one area that you want to change and watch how it filters through to the rest of your life. It might be simply to start saying no. 
  • Stop apologising for shit that is out of your control
  • Drop the excuses and justifications when asking for things
  • Keep a journal and write down your discoveries, your lessons and tips that you have found useful. 
  • Know that uncomfortable feelings come with the terrain of healing and disrupting the need to please – it’s a part of the learning, nothing to be scared of. 
  • Say NO with conviction >>read more here

GET HELP

If you are struggling with the need to please having a professional to help you identify your habits will fast-track you to rewrite the behaviours that have kept you stuck in the past. As a cognitive behavioural therapist who has spend the past decade dedicated to this work. I would love to support you on your healing journey. Contact me today!

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Hey Rockstar

I'm Lizzie Moult

Storyteller, mentor, and adventurous Aussie country girl who’s here to teach you how to stop taking on other people’s shit so you can learn to trust yourself and your vision while feeling confident enough to create it.

Say goodbye to putting everyone else first and hello to living from your heart! With these 10 journals prompts – to ditch people pleasing & reclaim your power!

Packed with loads of goodies, templates to kick start your business, cheat sheets to help you manage your time, workbooks to plan out your content and so much more!

With 30 stories and journal prompts of how Lizzie put others needs ahead of her own and the big questions she asked herself to identify her habits and turn them around.

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