Do you have a habit of doing whatever it takes to make others happy? Do you take on every request asked of you, even when you don’t want to or feel guilty every time you have to say no? If you do, then you might be a people pleaser.
Whatever the case may be, the underlying urge to make others happy and to be positively regarded can drag you into being in-tune with others’ needs. If you are someone who always say ‘yes’ to everything and everyone, it’s time for you to take control, set your boundaries and stop being a people pleaser.
Being social beings, we all want to be safe, loved and accepted. Caring for and helping others is our natural tendency towards making meaningful relationships. Wanting to help people or make them feel isn’t bad.
However, when we do this constantly at the expense of our own needs or feelings and give preference to others’, it impacts our mental and emotional well-being negatively. For some people, the constant validation gained so makes them feel like they are needed and useful.
“For some, saying ‘yes’ is a habit.”Dr.Newman
Signs you might be a people pleaser
There is a difference between genuinely helping people and doing things because you want to please others. People pleasers do nice things for number of reasons, to feel good, to improve their self-image, to earn approval or praise or for the fear of being disliked or rejected. For them assertiveness might feel harsh, setting limits feels rude, and requesting our needs be met might sound demanding. There are many other traits that people pleasers exhibit. Here are some of them. They
- Just can’t say ‘no’.
- are conflict-averse
- agree to things even when they don’t like.
- are preoccupied with what other people might think.
- prone to feel guilty expressing their needs.
- offer to help, even when they are busy because of their excessive need to be liked.
- have trouble being true to their beliefs.
- undermine their own needs or feelings.
- have an inherent urge to be liked by people and do things in order to earn others’ approval.
- struggle with fear of rejection and abandonment.
Flip side of being a people pleaser
Self neglect. People pleasers are generally empathetic, thoughtful and caring. But relying heavily on external approval often leads to poor self-image. Your opinions can be completely ignored where you need to try hard to be taken seriously. Agreeing might feel less outer conflict, but the flip side of putting others’ needs ahead of your own at all times is that it can take a toll on your emotional and mental health.
Stress and burnout. Efforts to keep others happy can stretch your own physical and mental resources not leaving time for yourself. People-pleasing behaviour increases your inner conflict leaving you feeling emotionally drained, stressed, and anxious. If you are utilising your mental resources towards other’s needs or what they want, it might deplete your limited inner resources like will power and self-control.
Resentment or guilt. If you like to say ‘yes’ always, overtime you can become resentful, especially if you feel taken advantage of or unappreciated. You may feel guilty when you have to say ‘no’. Such a behaviour can reduce the quality of your work, authority and stunts your professional growth.
Being too accommodating makes you resent the fact that you are always the one called upon for help. Or you may overwork to please your superior when in reality you aren’t enjoying at all. While it’s a great set of skills to be able to work with others, being too much of a people pleaser actually sets you back.
Negative emotions. People-pleasing may also result in feeling unappreciated or unimportant in the sense that your needs and desires aren’t considered. While you might actually like helping, you are also bound to experience anger or frustration when you think others are taking advantage. People might take your kindness and attentiveness for granted at times making you feel not valued.
Weak personal or professional relationships. Even though people strive to do nice things for the other in a good relationship, doing things to present yourself as the person you think others want you to makes you inauthentic.
When people like you only because you do nice things, it’s difficult to maintain a fulfilling relationship. Moreover, putting your needs last on your list makes you more submissive and compliant. People-pleasing leads to relationships that are empty, inauthentic, and based on false foundation.
Low confidence. Accommodating others is so ingrained in us that we most of the times don’t feel as if we have a choice. For many of us, people pleasing is the safest way to survive or win others’ acceptance rather not to agree or to object. This is because of our inherent tendency to gain external validation in order to be accepted, and to avoid conflict. However, becoming a people pleaser takes us away from our authentic self and lowers our confidence to make decisions.
Where does it come from
In order to stop being a people pleaser, it is important to understand some of the reasons why you might be engaging in this kind of behaviour. It often comes from a place of low self-esteem, low self-worth, fear of rejection, and insecurity about being liked, accepted or approved by others. Perfectionism or excessive need to be Just, including how others think and feel also lead to such behaviour.
People-pleasing can be rooted back to childhood as a way to meet high expectations of care givers or parents or as a survival mechanism when pressured to perform. If you happen to see people in your life meddling in such a behaviour during growing up years, it would become your natural response or means to earn acceptance or approval of others. Difficult past experiences like intimidation or abuse often lead to people-pleasing as a coping mechanism to stay safe, feel valued, and liked.
How to stop being a people pleaser
While it may be difficult to curb people-pleasing behaviour, it’s important to keep it in check if it is triggering negative consequences emotionally and mentally. If being a people pleaser is interfering with your well-being and making it difficult to pursue your happiness, it is important to find ways to make changes. Acknowledging the signs and making simple steps towards putting yourself first is always a good place to start. Here are some changes you can make to keep your people-pleasing in check.
Establish healthy boundaries
Since Pleasing others is often a survival strategy, setting limits can be hard and may seem like a risk to survival. Also, if you consider yourself as being generous, dependable and as someone people can always count on, saying ‘no’ can be threatening to your identity. However, there are constructive ways to say ‘no’ without being disrespectful. By having clear boundaries in place, you can always communicate your needs and limits so you may care for yourself as well as others.
Next time someone asks for help, consider asking yourself, Is it something you really want to do? Will you have time to see your needs? How helping them make you feel- will it make you feel happy or resentful? If it seems like someone is asking for too much, let them know that it’s beyond your ability to do and that you won’t be able to help. Remind yourself that saying ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily have to define your relationship with others, but is a step in right direction to set healthy boundaries for long term.
Start with small changes
If you are someone who is deep down into this behaviour, it can be hard to make big changes. So, it’s quite helpful to begin with small changes that help you work your way to being less of a people pleaser. Many times, you not only have to work on asserting yourself to make people around understand your boundaries, but also train yourself to say ‘no’ to things you are not interested in.
Start by saying ‘no’ to smaller requests. It may be tempting to say “may be” or “I don’t know” to a request or invitation you are not interested, but making too many excuses can give others a chance to talk you out of your decisions. You don’t need to give lots of reasons for saying ‘no’, instead providing just one explanation will suffice. Try not to add unnecessary details about your reasoning. If saying ‘no’ outright seems harsh, find some polite ways to decline, for instance, you can say, “I won’t be able to make it” or “I’m honoured, but have some other plans.”
Realise you have a choice
People-pleasing is a way to avoid rejection, judgment, abandonment, or feeling less than perfect. It is important reflect on feelings of discomfort so they have less power over you if you feel hesitant to decline someone’s request. You always have a choice about whether or not you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ even if it feels like you don’t.
If you have committed to something you can no longer do, be open and honest, and explain that you are overwhelmed. Reminding yourself that it’s your choice, and you are within your rights to change it can help you overcome this behaviour.
Look for signs whether other people are trying to take advantage of your helping nature or are they manipulating. For instance, excessive flattery to convince you to complete a task could be a way to manipulate. If you feel like you are being g manipulated into doing things, take some time to assess the request or situation and decide how you want to handle the things. Awareness that you always have a choice can help you to be assertive.
Related Read: Are you influencing or manipulating
Take time to respond
When someone asks for a favour, you don’t have to give an answer straight away. You can delay your response, take time to reflect on what’s been asked of you and then make a decision later. This gives you the opportunity to consider if you can commit to helping them. On the other hand, saying ‘yes’ quickly can leave you feeling obligated or overcommitted. Ask for details about the request they are making to decide if you have time, energy, and ability to commit.
Responding by saying “I need to think about it” or “let me come back to you on this” can give you time to evaluate your choice and whether or not to say ‘yes’. By giving yourself time to respond, you will better be able to decide if it is something you would like to take on. If you find yourself being agreeable for the sake of being agreeable, pause to ask yourself, Does agreeing with this particular opinion go against my goals or values? Does this do more harm than good?
If your giving is disproportionate in any of your relationship, there will always be a lack of reciprocity. Who you are and what you want will always be replaced by the needs and happiness of others. It will be at the cost of your goals, dreams, and preferences.
Practice putting yourself first when it comes to friends and family who repeatedly get you to do things you aren’t keen on doing. Also, you need emotional resources to help others. If you don’t tend to your own need, you won’t be capable of helping others.
Don’t apologise for prioritising yourself. When you say ‘no’ and if you find others not accepting or respecting your decision, that’s an indication that you need to set more limits. If your priorities are not going to be met because of what others are asking from you, remind yourself that your needs are just as worthy as those of others.
Read more: How to be more assertive
Work on your self esteem
At the root of people-pleasing is low self-esteem. So it’s important to build your confidence and one way to do it is to learn to focus on the positives. Take time to focus on your strengths, accomplishments, and positive qualities. When we are dealing with a situation, major or minor, constantly worrying about what will people think can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and unpleasantness.
Avoid letting others make decisions for you, instead try and voice your opinion even if it means going against other people. Remind yourself that you are perfectly capable of making your decisions. In fact others often feel grateful for someone who is willing to express his/her opinion and make a decision. Avoid denying what you truly feel. As you learn to express your emotions, you can also learn to say no when you need to.
Questions to reflect,
Are you someone who tries hard to make others happy?
Are you always available to everyone all the time?
Do you often go out of your way to please others, even if it means sacrificing your time, energy or other resources?
Do you often feel responsible for others’ emotions?
How is your people-pleasing habit getting in the way of your goals right now?
Which areas of your life can you improve by doing away with people-pleasing?
Are there specific people or areas in your life that you have hard time saying no?
How often do you find yourself going along with someone else’s opinion even if you don’t fully agree with them?
It is very easy to think that people-pleasing is part of your personality, or assume that it’s just the way you are. This can lead to permanency or make you think that this behaviour is part of your identity. However, people-pleasing is just a behaviour, a pattern or a habit that can always be unlearned.
There are many ways in which one can combat such a behaviour. Apply above simple ways to begin with if you are a people pleaser. Having said that you don’t need to give up being kind and thoughtful. The key is to check your motivation and intention behind accommodating others’ needs. Don’t do things because you fear rejection or want approval of others.
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