People-pleasing is not about just being nice or helpful to others. People-pleasing is putting other people’s needs before your own, neglecting your own needs in order to satisfy others. Over time, people-pleasing is likely to lead you to feeling resentful of others, feel taken advantage of, and lead to increased stress because you are taking on more than you can handle in order to please others.
Here are some examples of people-pleasing behaviors:
- You apologize often, for things that you do not need to take blame for
- You feel responsible for the way other people feel
- You put everyone else’s needs before your own
- You have trouble saying NO
- You have difficulty when you think someone might be mad/upset with you, and try to do everything to make them happy again
- You need others to like you
- You agree with others just for the sake of agreeing with them, and not because you actually agree with them
- You avoid conflict at all costs
Does any of this resonate with you? If so, you may be thinking “okay…so NOW what??” First of all, begin by being gentle with yourself. Judging yourself is not helpful, and it is certainly not going to be what changes your behaviors.
Here are some ideas to get started with changing those people-pleasing behaviors.
1.Start by separating who you are from your behaviors. Notice that I am not saying “You ARE a people pleaser,” but I am saying “You have people pleasing behaviors.” This is important because it provides us with some separation and allows us to make changes, instead of “well, this is just who I am…”
2. Notice what you enjoy… What do you find meaningful in your life? What brings out that spark in you? Are you living your life in a way that is consistent with your values? If it helps, as you start to notice, write yourself a list of the things you find meaningful and enjoyable so that you can more intentionally do more of those things.
3. Practice making yourself a priority, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Putting yourself first does NOT mean ignoring other people’s needs. It also does not mean putting your ego first. Putting yourself first is about being as kind to yourself as you are to others, checking in with your body and mind and paying attention to what you need, and shifting your relationship with yourself and discovering your values.
4. Start saying NO. Learn how to set boundaries with others and with yourself. For example, if you are used to saying yes to everything, practice delaying your response when someone asks something of you (i.e. “Let me check my schedule” or “I’ll get back to you with an answer”). This will give you time to figure out for yourself whether it is something you want to commit to, or if you are saying yes because you always say yes.
5. Most importantly, take baby steps! If you are someone who can relate to people-pleasing, this has likely been the case for a long time. It is not realistic for you to change these behaviors all at once. Begin to recognize when you are engaging in people-pleasing behaviors, and take small steps toward making a change.
You cannot be everything to everyone. As you begin this practice, be gentle with yourself, as changing behaviors is never easy. Slowly start letting go of these habits in order to create new, healthy habits. It may be helpful to seek out a therapist to process underlying emotions related to these behaviors, and to practice assertiveness skills and boundary-setting with yourself and with others.