Updated: Sep 25, 2022
A small how-to guide to start the journey to stop being a people pleaser.
There is a natural need to feel excepted in any group setting or situation you will encounter in your life. Sometimes to feel connected to someone for the sake of making friends can lead you down a rabbit hole of decision you really don't want to make. Saying "no" is probably the hardest thing to say for most people. And by saying "no", I mean with no explanation to follow. However, saying "no" can actually lead to people respecting you and your decisions in the long run.
Here are a few reasons as to why you may be a people pleaser and not even know it.
Reason #1 - You feel guilty telling people 'NO'
Ask yourself, why do I always feel bad telling people no when I know I really want/need to say 'no'? You feel like if you say 'no' that the relationship will end? Or you will look like an unreliable person to your peers? Or maybe you want to prove to yourself that you go above and beyond for others even when it is inconvenient for you.
If you are shaking your head yes while reading the statement above, chances are you may be a people pleaser. This behavior can come from poor self esteem. You may feel like you are not worthy of being in the company of others if you are not doing something for them unless you prove yourself and your worth. You may even experienced external validation from this behavior in the past and have been "rewarded". I use the term rewarded so loosely because it is actually no prize at all. Remember: every time you tell someone yes (especially when you don't want to), you are telling yourself no.
Reason #2 - You take the blame even when its not your fault
This is a big one. Since childhood, many of us have been programed to say "I'm sorry" or "I apologize" when it feels like we are at fault. One of the reasons behind this behavior is because somehow you feel that it is your fault if you are forced to say 'no' or set boundaries.
The problem here is that this behavior often times comes from past behaviors and traumas that have shaped us into people pleasing adults. When you come from an abusive situation or experienced a parent or someone close to you exploding because of something you may have said or done, it because a never ending pattern. When those triggers show up time and time again, the only way to make it better was to immediately apologize and agree with what is being said. Most people pleasers are empathetic and do not like confrontation but the apologies are often superficial because that what you have taught yourself to do to fix a situation. It is always best to truly apologize for your actual wrong doings and nothing else.
"The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself" -Rita Mae Brown
Reason #3 - You worry about people's perception of you
Ask yourself, "why do I focus so much on what other people will think of me? Why do I feel the need to portray myself as the perfect friend, spouse, co-worker, employee, etc.?
Perfectionism and insecurities also plays a part in why we do not acknowledge our boundaries. You want people to feel like they can depend on you. I once heard someone say "no cares about the truth, only the perception." In this case, this is what most people pleasers feel. From one recovering PP to another, it is very easy to want your reputation to be one of perfection. It is almost like controlling the narrative because in our minds, we feel that the word of 'what kind of person you are' will be passed on to everyone. Building this perfect persona. Truth is, people will see you however they see you, even if you do any and everything for them. You could grow fruit from you own self made garden, tire yourself out by preparing their favorite dish from scratch, spend hundreds of dollars on fine china, and serve it to them in a room full of gold and that persons perception of you (in most cases) will still be the same.
Tips For Changing this Behavior
Respectfully say 'NO': No is a complete sentence.
Set healthy boundaries and KEEP them: Do not let anyone sway you from a decision you stand firmly on. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Remember: telling someone else 'yes' is telling yourself 'no'.
You can't please everyone: In section 3, we talked about this. You can be the best you can and someone will still be unhappy. Focus on the positive and not hone in on the negative.
No exceptions: Sometimes we will talk ourselves out of keeping our boundaries. You will see this a lot when it comes to family. Do not make excuses for anyone.
Learn to be alone: Sometimes we people please because we are afraid of being alone. This goes back to the discussion of 'perception'. Being alone does not mean you are lonely. Solitude helps to strengthen the relationship with yourself. Learn to love ALL of you and learn to respect yourself.
Make yourself a priority: Never treat yourself like an option. Truth is, we teach other people how to treat us based off of how we treat ourselves. Give yourself grace and learn to validate your own feelings.
Learning to heal your past traumas and forgiving yourself will help you to become your best self. Being healed, happy, and whole comes from acknowledging these behaviors and finding ways to unlearn them. Learning new habits can be hard but they are worth the journey. Forgive the past, because you cannot change it. Do not rush to the future, because you are not there. Focus on the present, so that you can change the outcome of the future by your present day changes.
We hope this helps you to become the best versions of yourselves. Tell us, are you a people pleaser? Or are you a recovering people pleaser? Leave a comment below and let us know.