Stop Pleasing Others: Steps to Break the Habit Forever

Do you wrestle with the need, or disease, to please? In patriarchal societies, this characteristic is woven through generations of women (and some men). As we continue to evolve as a society, we recognize more and more how toxic this quality can be.

Stop people-pleasing and learn how to embrace and advocate for your needs. When we people-please, our primary goal is to placate, satisfy, or appease another person, usually to avoid an undesirable or uncomfortable reaction.

The instinct occurs as a result of a particular upbringing, social, or home environment where keeping others happy results in more peace, love, or acceptance. So, we learn what makes people upset and then avoid it at all costs. 

The upside? A ton of empathy and intuition. The downside? To start, we almost always end up sacrificing our needs. If you’re ready to stop people-pleasing, then read on for nine ways to ditch this pesky, inherited habit.

A people pleaser is typically someone everyone considers helpful and kind. When you need help with a project or someone to help you study for an exam, they’re more than willing to step up.

If you recognize yourself in the above description, you may be a people pleaser. But at some point, constantly making yourself available to others can take an emotional toll. You may find that you neglect your own needs because you fear disappointing others when they ask for your help.

What Is a People-Pleaser?

People-pleasing involves putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own. People-pleasers are highly attuned to others and are often seen as agreeable, helpful, and kind.

However, people-pleasers may have trouble advocating for themselves, which can lead to a harmful pattern of self-sacrifice or self-neglect.

People-pleasing is associated with a personality trait known as “sociology,” or feeling overly concerned with pleasing others and earning their approval as a way to maintain relationships. This behavior can be a symptom of a mental health condition like:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Avoidant personality disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
  • Codependency or dependent personality disorder

Signs You Might Be a People-Pleaser

There are a number of characteristics that people-pleasers tend to share. Here are some signs that you might be a people-pleaser:

  • You have a difficult time saying “no.”
  • You are preoccupied with what other people might think.
  • You feel guilty when you do tell people “no.”
  • You fear that turning people down will make them think you are mean or selfish.
  • You agree to things you don’t like or do things you don’t want to do.
  • You struggle with feelings of low-self esteem.
  • You want people to like you and feel that doing things for them will earn their approval.
  • You’re always telling people you’re sorry.
  • You take the blame even when something isn’t your fault.
  • You never have any free time because you are always doing things for other people.
  • You neglect your own needs in order to do things for others.
  • You pretend to agree with people even though you feel differently.

People-pleasers have a knack for detecting how others are feeling. They are also sympathetic, thoughtful, and kind in general. These favorable traits may be accompanied by low self-esteem, a need to be in charge, or a proclivity to overachieve.

9 Steps To Stop People Pleasing

1. Know Your Worth

Habitual people-pleasers, knowingly or not, rarely put themselves first. Reestablish your value and worth as a human being. You have rights, needs, desires, and dreams that deserve to be shared and also supported.

2. Explore The Origin

Take a trip down memory lane and revisit your childhood and adolescent years. Journaling is a great way to get started. If you look closely, you might see a few common themes that indicate where you picked up this need to please.

Did you experience:

  1. A chaotic home life? 
  2. Critical or controlling family members? 
  3. Volatile or unhealthy relationships?
  4. Shame, fear, or anxious feedback loops?
  5. High expectations to be seen but not heard? 
  6. A traditional or male-dominated environment? 

A better understanding of your past (and realizing you weren’t just born this way) can help you reassess future behavior.

3. Change Your Perspective

Remember, pleasing people is all about appealing to the desires or needs of someone else in an effort to make them comfortable. Often at the expense of your wellbeing.

It is not the same thing as being polite, cordial, collaborative, or considerate. It’s not a healthy or reasonable expectation to believe that a situation’s outcome or a person’s reaction relies on your agreeability.

Nor is it a requirement that a woman, by default, sacrifice her needs to meet the needs of her partner, family, or friends. 

4. Identify Opportunities To Change

Once you have a good idea of where your people-pleasing instincts took off running, pay attention to the moments you’re most likely to indulge in them. 

Do you silence your needs…

  • at home?
  • in the workplace? 
  • around strangers?
  • with your friends or in social settings?
  • for a particular person in your life? 

Why is this? Have these situations or people made it difficult for you to be true to yourself? Or are you working off an old template of behavior that’s worth revising? 

5. Get Reacquainted With Your Needs

When pleasing has proven a significant and useful tool for you to keep the peace or win love, affection, or praise, it’s time to upgrade your perspective. 

At some point, you lost sight of the reality that your needs matter just as much as anyone else’s. Your desire not to rock the boat has allowed others to benefit from your silence or sacrifice. It’s time to work on believing that your needs are inarguably as urgent as anyone’s. 

Start by reevaluating your needs in your intimate relationships. This workbook will help you identify what you’re lacking and what’s going well!

6. Prioritize Your Needs (and Desires)

The moment you start reassigning value and worth to yourself and believing your needs are important is the moment to dig in and invest with all you have. Not only are your needs important, but they are the most important!

You are the owner and manager of the mind and soul that reside in your body. As her manager, it’s up to you to make sure she has what she needs. Dying for more alone time at home? Ask for it. Don’t want to speak to a stranger on the bus? Let them know. 

Need accommodations at work? Start the conversation. If you need some tips on caring less about what other people think of you while you break this cycle, start with this book.

7. Relieve Yourself From The Burden  

To make this internal work stick, you’ve got to accept that you are not responsible for anyone’s feelings, words, actions, or reactions. ever. Regardless of what you’ve been told. You are only responsible for your feelings, words, and actions. 

Imagine there is a physical cord attaching your body to the body of a person you often attempt to please. On one end of the cord is a negative reaction or cue that you often try to avoid encountering.

The reaction, or even the threat of it, reverberates down the cord and hits your body. That vibration makes you second-guess yourself, hesitate, ignore your instincts, or sacrifice something.

To avoid that reaction, you continue to keep the peace, even if it means silencing your needs. You don’t need to live with this cord anymore – you can cut the cord.

8. Consider What You Sacrifice

As you work thru the tips in this article, you might stir up a lot of emotion. It can be frustrating, and painful at times, to think back on your history of people-pleasing and its origin.

Especially since you’re still moving through it! I urge you to push toward the discomfort and take it a step further. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • How has people-pleasing held you back or silenced you? 
  • What has it cost you to make someone else comfortable at your expense? 
  • Are these sacrifices ones you’d feel comfortable making for the rest of your life?

Keep your answers in mind as motivation to keep evolving into your new level of empowerment. 

9. Witness Your Life Change

Changing a lifelong habit takes time, but it is doable. When you stop people-pleasing, you’ll start to see results – and rewards – each time you step out of your comfort zone. 

You will be a happier, healthier family and community member when you have the tools to thrive. Own the mess of the journey, but don’t give up on yourself. 

A Word From Verywell

If being a people-pleaser is making it difficult to pursue your own happiness, it’s important to find ways to set boundaries and take back your time. Remind yourself that you can’t please everyone.

If being a people-pleaser is interfering with your well-being, talk to a mental health professional. A trained therapist can work with you to help manage your behavior, prioritize your own needs, and establish healthy boundaries.

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