As a recovering people pleaser, it was little uncomfortable writing this article. My approval-hungry behaviour started very early on. I thought I would get over it by the time I reached my 20s but to my disconcertment, it worsened! But to o stop people pleasing felt like having to let go of a part of me, and what would I replace it with?
Before I dive into the steps I used to break that stubborn habit, let's take a few moments to reflect on what people pleasing actually means.
What does people pleasing look like?
People pleasing comes in all shapes and sizes but here are few examples that should give you a clear picture:
- Saying yes to things because you don't want someone else to be disappointed.
- Disagreeing with someone but choosing to pretend you agree to keep them happy
- Feeling the need to abundantly justify a decision you've made for something, eg. "I'm SO sorry I can't go out after work because [insert litany of excuses] vs. "Sorry I can't make it, I have other plans".
- Feeling guilty when unable to fulfil someone's request, regardless of how busy you are.
- You constantly try to do things for others in an attempt, sometimes unconscious, to be liked.
Can you stop people pleasing?
Absolutely! If any of these scenarios sound familiar, don't fret about it. There are simple ways to tackle the behaviour, below are the ones I found most effective.
1. Practice saying 'No'
Don't say yes when what you really want to say is 'No'. Easier said than done but trust me, it is necessary. The first couple of times will feel daunting but remember that your 'No' is justified. It gets easier with practice, I promise.
Not quite ready for the big NO or perhaps the context is not appropriate? Solution: buy yourself time! It could be something like "I'll get back to you later on today".
3. Identify your needs
Sometimes we are so caught up in others' demands that we don't even know what we want. Take a little time to reflect on your own needs and notice what emerges....without judgment!
4. Set boundaries
Be clear on what you are and aren't willing to do. Decide where you draw the line, be it at home or in a professional context. You may meet some initial resistance but give a little time and people will get used to it.
5. Stop apologising
Stop saying 'Sorry' unless you're responsible for a mistake.
6. You are not everyone's flavour
This one was definitely a tough pill to swallow on my people-pleasing recovery journey. Yep, not everyone is going to like you, no matter how hard you try be nice. My advice, dedicate that energy to learn to like yourself 😉
7. Take baby steps
If you want to make your pleasing tendency a thing of the past, starting small is key. Like with any new habit, breaking it is a process, not an overnight miracle. Trust the process, you got this!
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy How to Help Others without Hurting Yourself.
If you're curious about my personal journey and have 45 minutes to kill, check out this interview I did a few years ago 😉