How to Stop Being A People-Pleaser (While Still Being Kind)

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be generous with your time and resources. But healthy relationships entail a mutual sense of take-and-give. If you feel like you’re always neglecting your needs or sacrificing what you want to satisfy others, you may be struggling with people-pleasing tendencies. If this resonates with you, it’s important to consider making small changes to avoid burnout or resentment.

Consider What Drives Your People-Pleasing Behavior

People pleasers often worry about being rejected. They desire approval and fear that saying no or disagreeing with the status quo might trigger rejection.

This can stem from low self-esteem. You might assume that someone else’s opinion is inherently better than your own, or your fear of disappointing others is larger than the fear of disappointing yourself.

People-pleasing can also run in families. If you grew up watching one of your parents please others, you might have internalized the behavior as normal. Or, if you grew up taking care of others, you may have been validated and reinforced in that role.

In addition, it can also stem from childhood trauma. Even if it entails some self-neglect, people-pleasing may be a subconscious coping strategy intended to avoid conflict or getting hurt again.

Consider When You Want to Say No

Overcoming people-pleasing requires recognizing the times in life when you want to say no. Do you find yourself disliking certain types of requests? Does it correspond to specific people? What emotions do you notice when you want to say no to something?

Pay attention to these patterns (even if you still feel obligated to please others). Having this insight can help you identify where you want to make changes and set healthy boundaries with yourself and others.

Practice Small and Safe Boundaries

Changing people-pleasing tendencies takes time. Setting boundaries can feel scary, and it’s likely that you will feel guilty saying no at first.

It can be helpful to consider how and when it may feel “easier” to practice establishing limits. For example, you might find that it’s easier to politely decline a dinner invitation with an old acquaintance than an urgent request from your boss. But the more you practice saying “no” in the smaller ways, the easier it becomes.

It’s important to remember that many people feel some discomfort and guilt when they set boundaries. Those feelings don’t inherently mean you made the wrong choice- they just mean that you care about the other person and don’t want to hurt their feelings. But, you also deserve to consider your overall well-being and limit saying yes to tasks that make you feel exhausted, upset, or resentful.

Prioritize Your Own Goals and Needs

Nobody will ever look after your own life better than you will. If you want to develop a stronger sense of self-confidence, consider what you need to change about your current routine.

Starting with self-care helps. Self-care refers to intentional acts of kindness and comfort. It also includes implementing healthy coping skills into daily life. Practicing more self-care may help improve your self-esteem, and it can also support emotional regulation and a sense of self-compassion.

It can also be beneficial to think about what you’ve said “no” to by saying “yes” to others. How might you change your free time if you focused less on making other people happy? By taking advantage of your own needs, what would feel different?

Spend More Time With People Who Respect Reciprocity

People-pleasers often find themselves in relationships where they disproportionately give to the other person. You may find yourself in perpetual caregiving roles with friends or family members. Even if you know they have good intentions and care about your well-being, their actions may sometimes speak otherwise.

Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, it’s important to practice asking for things in relationships. A true friendship entails some take-and-give. But if you’re always the one giving, you never offer yourself the chance to receive support yourself. And if a friend is unwilling to offer what you need, it may be time to reevaluate your intentions in this dynamic.

Therapy for People-Pleasing and Improving Your Emotional Well-Being

If you have spent your entire life engaging in people-pleasing behaviors, looking after your own needs can feel foreign. But self-love matters, and you absolutely deserve to take care of yourself and have personal boundaries that honor your own well-being.

It can be hard to stop people-pleasing, but therapy offers a supportive environment to process your emotions and identify where you want to set limits in your life. We will together to strengthen your confidence in a way that will allow you to act authentically with yourself and others.

I am here to support your growth and would be honored to walk this journey with you. Contact me today to schedule a consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

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