6 Ways to Set Yourself Free from People Pleasing

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

While it’s admirable to be a caring person, learning to accept and respect myself has helped me to set healthy boundaries and to say “no” without feeling guilty. For instance, I used to take on too much responsibility at work because I thought that others would “like” me and I’d feel better about myself. As it turns out, it was a quick way to burn out and I ended up feeling resentful and depleted.

The term “People Pleaser” is often used to describe people who go out of their way to make sure someone else is happy to the detriment of their own happiness. They seek approval from others due to unresolved issues with their parents or a need to be accepted. Becoming a people pleaser is a way in which many individuals neglect to set boundaries and convey to others that they’re not good enough.

If you’re not sure if this description fits you, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

-Do you have a hard time saying “no” when you are asked to do something for others?

-Do you worry a lot about disappointing others or worry they’ll leave you?

-Do you bend over backwards for other people, often at your own expense?

-Do you do some things because of a feeling of obligation, and then feel resentful afterwards?

-Are you afraid that if you don’t take care of others, they’ll think you’re not “nice?”

-Do you avoid speaking up for yourself or voicing your opinion because you’re afraid of conflict?

-Do you let your other people “take advantage” of you?”

If you find yourself recognizing yourself in a lot of these, then you probably can benefit from being more assertive. After all, although pleasing others at your own expense might gain you some recognition, it won’t be good for your self-esteem in the long run.

Letting Go of Being a Victim

Studies show that while some men may experience “People Pleasing” it appears more often in women. Over time, a lack of setting boundaries in relationships can damage a person’s sense of self-worth. The good news is that this damage is reversible with self-awareness and support from others.

Before you can begin to  build healthy relationships you must have healthy self-esteem – which means evaluating yourself in positive ways and believing in yourself. Honestly take stock of your patterns of relating to others. One of the first things to ask yourself is: how do I treat ymyself? No one is going to treat you with respect if you beat yourself up. Get rid of all those self-defeating thoughts in your head – such as calling yourself “stupid” that won’t help you get back on your feet.

The first step to addressing people pleasing behavior is to examine your attitudes and beliefs. Often people get stuck in the role of “People Pleasing” because they lack self-awareness.  The following 6 ways will allow you to gain control of your life.

  • Embrace the idea that you can’t be liked by everyone. There will always be those who don’t agree or approve of your words or actions. Accept that you can’t control what others think of you. All you can really control is yourself.
  • Ask yourself: do I give too much in relationships? Do you ignore your own needs due to seeking other’s approval? Therapy, reading, and keeping a journal can aid you in this process.
  • Challenge your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts about your self-worth. You don’t need to prove anything to another person about your self-worth. You are just as deserving of attention and caring as other people are.
  • Put an end to playing the role of a victim. Make new decisions to change your life – such as taking time to do the things that you enjoy rather than deferring to the needs of others.
  • Practice compassion and self-approval by learning to set personal boundaries and saying “no”to unreasonable requests from others.  You will feel better when you give yourself time to replenish yourself rather than focusing too much on others.
  • Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you are selfish. As you begin to care less about seeking the approval of others, you’ll find you have more energy – people pleasing can drain us of time and make us feel tired. Strive to achieve balance between your physical, mental, and emotional heath.

Take a moment to ask yourself: Am I able to freeing express my thoughts, wishes, and desires without worrying about my partner or friends reaction? If the answer is no, it may be time to consider working on freeing yourself from being a people pleaser. By learning to be more assertive, you will no longer feel like a victim. Making yourself a priority isn’t the same as being selfish. You are worth the effort and deserve a freer, happier life.

I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments at movingpastdivorce.com. To find out more about my research, order my book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy Long-Lasting Relationship.

My forthcoming book “The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around” will be published by Sounds True in the February of 2020.