People-pleasing involves putting other people’s needs ahead of your own. People-pleasers are highly attuned to others and are often seen as agreeable, helpful, and kind.
There can be benefits of being a people pleaser in the short term, such as not rocking the boat and being thought of as a ‘nice’ person. However, in long run, people-pleasing can leave us feeling anxious, exhausted, resentful, and disconnected from people. People-pleasers may have trouble advocating for themselves, which can lead to a harmful pattern of self-sacrifice or self-neglect.
How to spot if you might be prone to people-pleasing
- be really nice and want people to like them
- avoid conflict or confrontation
- have trouble saying no
- be overwhelmed and stressed
- be prone to resentment
- take the blame for things that aren’t their fault
- have trouble being true to their beliefs
These behaviours are often linked to perfectionism and anxiety. Delving a bit deeper these behaviours can be linked to an inner battle with ‘I’m not enough’ thoughts.
5 steps to overcoming people-pleasing
1. Realise that you have a choice
If people-pleasing feels like it has become an automatic behaviour, remember that you actually have a choice. Awareness is often the first step toward change.
2. Sit with the discomfort
If people-pleasing is a way to mitigate against the intense feelings of discomfort arising from not being enough or the fear of rejection or judgment, then learning to sit with these feelings can mean that they have less power over your actions.
For meaningful change to take place, it can be useful to dive into the belief that to be more genuine in your interactions and ‘be more real’ with people it will be necessary to go through some discomfort. With practice this can free you up to have more peace of mind and real connections with others.
3. Speak your truth even if your voice shakes
It’s just that really – say what you really want to say.
4. Be nicer to yourself
If you are often finding yourself bending yourself out of shape doing things for others to the detriment of yourself, how can you start to take better care of yourself? A useful way to start to be nicer to ourselves is using the best friend technique. What would your best friend say to you, or what would you say to them? If you spot that you are speaking more harshly to yourself than you would to your best friend, then great – you are noticing – and this means you can change how you speak to yourself and what your expectations of yourself are.
For some people, creating mantras can be affirming and empowering. Such as saying to yourself ‘I am enough’ or ‘a no to them is a yes to me’ and so on.
5. Don’t give a litany of excuses
Part of setting boundaries for your own time and energy is to say no when you don’t want to do things. The more details you give, the more people can talk you out of your decisions, especially if they have poor boundaries. Remember “No is a complete sentence”. Only apologise when things are genuinely your fault. Decline invitations briefly and politely if you don’t want to do them. Saying ‘I won’t be able to make it’ is enough.
Becoming aware of people-pleasing patterns, and turning your attention to ways of overcoming them can be a real game-changer. It will take plenty of practice and self-compassion along the way. But being more real with people is hugely connecting in the long run, and can help put yourself back in the picture.