If you are looking for your happiness, you have to learn to stop your people pleasing behaviors. Let’s end the cycle and get healthier.
How To Stop People Pleasing
If you think of yourself as a people pleaser, you are not alone. Lots of people do things because they want to make others happy. But there is a limit.
If you find yourself doing things to be a nice person, but you know that it is more than you can handle, it is time to start making better decisions for yourself.
There are ways to stop the people pleasing habits that you have gotten used to. Whether you’re doing things to fit in or trying to help someone who can never get enough, it is time to think about your personal goals (both emotionally and practically) and whether this behavior is helping or hurting you.
Sometimes we do things because they are routine – we’ve always done them. It is the way it has always been, so why think about changing it?
The reason it is time to change is that we need to break some of the cycles that are not contributing to our happiness and well-being.
What’s more, these behaviors are not things we want to continue passing down to the next generation.
What Is People Pleasing?
People pleasers are those who focus on taking care of other people’s desires and will do anything necessary to avoid conflict. They are afraid of disappointing others and value other people’s opinions greatly.
While those with people-pleasing tendencies typically have good intentions, their behavior can become codependent and unhealthy in the long run. A lot of people-pleasers also deal with low self-esteem, as the most important thing to them is external validation.
If you see yourself exhibiting people-pleasing behaviors, there are things that you can do to help yourself. The first step is having the desire to make the necessary changes and the second step is knowing how to do it.
You can still take care of others without doing it in an unhealthy way, it’s just time to tweak your outlook.
1. Know What You Want
When you are a people pleaser, other people’s expectations are often a driving force. But when was the last time you asked yourself what you wanted? Do you want to go to that playdate or over to that person’s house? Do you want to cook dinner for your extended family during the holidays?
Knowing what you want is an important step towards setting healthy boundaries and differentiating other people’s wants from your own.
Think about whether taking care of the needs of others in every single situation is something that fulfills you. If not, ask yourself what you want to keep and what you do out of obligation.
The things you do solely for the benefit of others may easily lead to resentment, and for good reason. When we feel continuously obligated to do things for a family member or friend that takes away from our sense of self, it has a negative impact on our mental health.
If we continue without expressing our discomfort in the short term, it is going to have a damaging impact on our relationship (with them and with ourselves) in the long term.
Your gut is often a good gauge of your subconscious point of view. You will know the difference between doing something to help someone that makes you feel good and doing something that makes you feel unhealthy or taken advantage of. Listen to that inner voice – you know yourself better than anyone.
2. Learn to say NO
Many of us were raised with the understanding that saying “no” bordered on being rude. That we should give everyone the benefit of the doubt because they probably had the best of intentions. But did they? Do they still? Should we?
Most people are good people just trying to make it through the day, but even the best people can do things without fully understanding that they are asking too much. Many people, by their very nature, will push to see what they can get away with.
Whether the intention is more time with you, laziness on their part, being overwhelmed, or just not caring, you can’t always expect people to understand your limits if you don’t set them.
People love to hear other people say yes. Particularly when they are thinking of their own happiness and their own goals – what you can contribute to their world becomes an emotional need.
They will not stop asking just because you hope they will. You have to be the one to say no. And remember, the first time is the hardest. It will get easier.
There are different ways to go about this, and you will have to choose what works for you.
Whether you are suddenly busy during the time they always ask for assistance or you explain that you can come by only once per week because you love them and want to be close, it’s up to you. But if you don’t make yourself your first priority, no one else will do it for you.
3. Start Small
As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time – small changes turn into big changes. Think about the things and people that you struggle with now. Do you have phone calls with someone twice per day every day and feel like once is plenty? Slowly become unavailable or send a text during that second time.
You can still see to people’s needs by setting limits. Unless it is something you enjoy, there is no reason for you to be spending time doing things that you don’t benefit from on a regular basis.
We don’t all love our jobs, but payment is the reward. Pleasing others at the expense of yourself doesn’t do anything except fuel someone else’s “fix.”
Everyone gets used to the pattern of people. You expect this particular phone call in the morning, you see this person on social media in the afternoon, and the bus will be there at 3pm. We depend on our routines.
In the same way that you continue to do the things that stress you, others will expect you to do them because they are normal. They are what’s expected.
So start by changing small things. Add one item per week that you do only for yourself. Whether it’s reading a book, writing in a journal, taking a yoga class, or sitting under a tree, do this thing on your own terms, in your own time.
The more you get used to doing things for yourself, the more comfortable you may be with starting to set boundaries with situations that make you feel less comfortable.
4. Set Your Boundaries
We all desire the approval of others on some level, so it is natural to put other people’s wants before those of your own sometimes. When we take care of other people, we feel good.
There is nothing wrong with giving our time and resources to others. In fact, it can easily enrich your own life. But when we allow heavier workloads into our emotional life than we can manage, it will have a negative effect.
You need to start setting firm boundaries. You need to make decisions about what benefits and takes away from your life. It is a process, so it won’t happen all at once. In fact, it shouldn’t happen all at once.
You need to feel your way through and slowly decide what is a good thing and what is a bad thing for your psyche. You will know, so trust yourself.
We all deal with a fear of rejection and that will be no different for our friends and family members. Taking small steps and reassuring them at the same time is the best way to help them understand that while you can have unconditional love for somebody, your time and your energy is finite.
You cannot always be the person to take care of their needs unless you take care of your own needs as well. Anyone who loves you and is thinking of your needs will understand. It may even encourage them to think about how much time you do spend on them and appreciate it more.
5. Know That You Have A Choice
One of the things that a chronic people pleaser will tell themselves over and over is that if they don’t do it, it won’t get done. That it will only take a little time to accomplish and that they know a better way than anyone else does.
And while catering to the expectations of others comes so naturally, it is also a very comfortable and unhealthy coping mechanism.
Setting strong boundaries in your romantic relationships or with your family is incredibly important, but having a healthy relationship with yourself goes hand in hand.
Pay close attention to the things another person feels comfortable asking you to do for them. Are you comfortable with the request or are you pushing down your feelings of resentment at their asking?
You have a choice in everything that you do. We all like to hear nice things and get positive feedback for completing a to-do list, but as the list of the things becomes endless, it is a surefire way towards a lack of self-esteem.
If you only work towards making someone else happy, you send a clear message to yourself that your own wants and needs matter less. And that is not the truth.
You are the one making the choices, and although it may be difficult to do something different, acknowledging that there is a choice is a powerful way to give self-love.
6. Be Uncomfortable
One thing that every recovering people-pleaser will tell you is that the process is hugely uncomfortable. You have spent a long time living in the comfort zone of taking care of others’ needs and when you spend less time focused on that area, it can be disconcerting.
Guilt will be one of your major stressors. Your inner people-pleaser will make you uncomfortable and try to engage in negative self-talk.
You will think that you are being selfish, that you are doing this for the wrong reasons, and that there will be negative consequences. But if you can take a short pause and take a breath, it will pass.
Change is uncomfortable and for a little while, you may get some push-back from both yourself and others. When people come to expect something from you, that expectation doesn’t just stop.
But it is a human need to be wanted and appreciated. And any anxiety response that you get from others will lessen over time. Be consistent, be loving, and live in the discomfort. It will all eventually begin to move in the right direction.
7. Don’t Apologize
You never have to apologize for setting healthy boundaries. Always be kind and gentle with people’s feelings, but just because someone doesn’t understand your boundaries doesn’t mean that you have to apologize for having them.
Allow your loved ones to have a hard time if they need to, but continue to hold up the end of the bargain that you have made.
If you have decided that you are only going to drive a friend to work two days per week instead of five, make sure that you are there to pick them up on those two days.
Continue to be your best self and take good care of the commitment you’ve made. If they witness you being dependable, and that all of your positive attributes are the same, the shift will come more easily.
Most people don’t like change, so don’t be surprised by some pushback. That said, if you are consistent, it shouldn’t take too long before you are both in a good place again.
8. Some People Will Never Understand
There are some people who will never understand or accept your boundaries. Some people are so focused on themselves or so stuck in the ways of the past that they would rather continue what they know than accept the possibility of growth.
This doesn’t change your responsibilities to yourself. You cannot stop people from feeling the way that they do, but you can continue to practice self-care and develop personal relationships that feed your soul rather than take away from it.
In some ways, knowing that some people will not accept your boundaries will help you remove toxic people from your life.
You don’t need anyone inflaming mental health issues or stresses that you may be dealing with and when you see who is pushing back against your boundaries, it can be very telling. Give some serious thought as to who has the privilege of being in your life.
9. Learn To Let Things Be
When you have a people pleaser personality, it can be natural to make sure that you are staying on top of all of your relationships.
Whether it is someone from an old job or someone you haven’t seen since college, you feel like you should reach out. Are you sending holiday cards or texts to people you used to know? Do they reciprocate?
It is okay to let things go. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have love for people you knew in grammar school or from the old neighborhood, but the amount of energy you put into absolutely everything is taking away from something else.
Some relationships are best had on social media where you can like each other’s photos and wish a happy birthday. Life happens and some relationships were special at the time and can remain a fond memory.
But things change and it is not your responsibility to try to force them to stay the same when they are naturally moving in a new direction.
The other thing to consider in this situation is someone else’s boundaries. Has their life changed such that they don’t have the same kind of time for you?
Try to understand that, respect what they can give you, and appreciate what you have. If you want others to respect your boundaries, you have to respect theirs as well.
The only person that you have complete control of is yourself. People pleasing is not getting you to where you want to be and it is wearing down your patience.
Look for where you can set boundaries in your life to take some of the stress off. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to effectively take care of anyone else.