Is it hard for you to say no? Do you apologise or accept fault when you’re not to blame? Are you quick to agree when you don’t really? If so, then you might be a people pleaser.
These people are known for trying hard to make others happy, often at the expense of their own wellbeing. Although being kind and helpful is generally a good thing, going too far to please others can have serious health risks.
This pattern of over-giving can leave you feeling exhausted, emotionally drained, stressed and anxious.
People pleasing is often so deeply rooted that it can be a hard habit to break free from, but it’s important you do as you’re essentially giving away your own happiness by not putting your own needs first.
A people pleaser feels the need to make themselves indispensable for others to like them and feel a sense of belonging. Why you people-please can be for a number of reasons but it’s often seen to be rooted in childhood parent-pleasing, or as a result of anxiety, self-esteem issues, and trauma.
Unfortunately, more often than not, all of that ‘going the extra mile’ and keeping schtum for fear of upset can lead to a people pleaser feeling frustrated and resentful, taken advantage of, unsatisfied with their relationships, and a good candidate for stress and burnout.
Thankfully, people-pleasing doesn’t have to be a life sentence. With these tips and a little patience, you can start putting yourself first.
1. Set boundaries and communicate them
Don’t feel mean when you set boundaries. Instead, set your boundaries clearly so that you don’t feel undervalued and resentful.
Having personal boundaries are important because they set the basic guidelines of how you want to be treated. Loose boundaries will only lead to resentment and fake friendships. Once you put yourself first, you’ll feel empowered because you’re recognising that your needs matter as much as everyone else’s.
2. Stop saying sorry
A recent study found that the average Brit says sorry at least eight times a day — that’s 3,480 times a year! Ask yourself, how often do you say sorry when it’s not needed? Next time you’re about to say sorry, remember that it means you’re in the wrong. Have you actually done something wrong? If not, then try these alternatives:
Instead of saying:
- I’m so sorry I’m late, say: “Thanks so much for waiting for me”
- I’m so sorry I can’t make it, say: “Thanks so much for understanding”
- I’m so sorry I can’t help, say: “Thanks for asking, I’d love to help next time”
- I’m sorry this is taking me so long, say: “Thanks for being patient with me”
3. Take time to give replies
A people-pleaser’s achilles heel is giving an answer right away — so don’t. Instead, either leave it or say “I’ll get back to you”, and allow yourself some time and space to think about what you really want.
If the answer is no, respond with a text or email without apologising. Say something like, “No thanks, but that was lovely of you to ask”. Do not apologise for putting your peace and happiness first, especially when it doesn’t cause the other person any harm.
4. Start saying no
It’s only a two-letter word, but saying no can be pretty scary — especially, of course, if you’re a people pleaser. Steve Jobs once said, “It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” Saying no shows confidence and outlines your boundaries, so people will appreciate this.
If you manage the situation and make it clear as to why you are saying it, you’re not damaging yourself or others. To begin with it might be difficult, so try starting with the smallest “No” and carry on upwards from there.
5. Know your goals
Don’t agree to things just to fit in. In order to share who you really are, you need to care enough for the other person and yourself. Take time to figure out what that means to you, what goals you have, and what makes you happy.
Once you know, you’ll be okay with saying ‘no’ when you’ve got lots of more rewarding things to say yes to. Living truly and authentically aligns your values and beliefs, and boosts your self-confidence and coping skills.
6. Get rid of toxic people
If you have anyone in your life who is all for taking but not big on giving, then it’s likely the relationship is one-sided. People who make you feel guilty when you don’t want to do things can slowly build fear in you, and that’s not right.
These people have the ability to ignite emotions and hold you back. If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells because you don’t want to upset them, it’s probably time to break away.
7. Stop relying on others for validation
To stop looking to others for approval. Try to find true happiness by developing a more stable relationship within yourself.
The next time you find yourself stressing over what someone thinks of you at work, during the school run or on social media, take a step back: take out the emotion, examine the facts, and ask yourself why this person’s opinion matters. Be kind to yourself, have a little self-compassion and in time you’ll begin to feel more confident about who you are.
The bottom line…
Remember that your time and energy are precious, and it’s your right to choose how to spend them. It’s key that you set boundaries, so love and respect yourself enough to do so. Establish what you will and won’t accept so you decide how people treat you — and, how you treat yourself.