Escape People Pleasing

How to Escape People Pleasing

One of my readers asked for some more tips on how to to stop being a people pleaser, a personality type I described in another post.


If you are in the habit of saying “Yes” to others as a way of getting their approval, and also because it makes you feel important and needed, then you know by now there are certain drawbacks to being a serial people-pleaser:

  • People will use and abuse you because you’re an easy target.

  • You feel unhappy and frustrated because you neglect to take care of your needs.

  • You are emotionally exhausted a lot of the time.

  • You live with a constant fear of rejection.

Here are four tips on how to break the cycle of people-pleasing. Try using them as often as you can; you owe it to yourself.


Become Aware of the Habit

This is the first important step – and should be ongoing. Every time the desire to say “yes” or do something simply to please someone arises, become aware of it. You cannot change something if you are ignorant about it, and neglect to observe how it influences your life. There is a lot more to ending the people-pleasing habit than simple awareness, but it starts with becoming increasingly conscious of this pattern in your life.


Accept that it’s your Choice

You have to get to the point where you realise, with utter clarity and conviction, that you do have a choice to say “no.” On a piece of paper or note card, write down in big bold letters: I have a choice!” and put it up in your house where you can see it everyday. Say the words aloud to yourself everyday – with conviction. Think about what it means, and reflect on what your needs are. You might want to try using the phrase “I will think about it” and really take that time to consider your motivation.

Stop Apologising and don’t be Scared

Catch yourself apologising or wanting to apologise. When you begin to politely refuse requests from others, they might try to make you feel guilty, and blame you for being unsupportive, or selfish. If you know why you refuse a request, then do not apologise for saying “no.” Simply acknowledge their feelings and move on. Often, you will agree to do things for others because you fear the negative repercussions of saying “no.” However, in most cases, the consequences are not as bad as you imagined them to be.

Seek Professional Help

You need to address your need for approval in a supportive environment with a psychologist or counsellor who empathises with your situation. Therapy is also a good place to start rehearsing saying “no” and working though the fears and insecurities that are likely to emerge. Therapists will help you notice things about yourself you don’t yet see, and make you aware of strengths you did not know existed or doubted. It’s not going to be easy trying to make a positive change for the better, but the challenge is going to be well worth your while.


Categories: Psychology

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 replies

  1. Excellent work as always. I think the word “no” has been misrepresented in recent years, like it is something negative – and for me who always tries to look for the positives, I don’t think “no” is a bad word. It generally makes people appreciate you more the next time you say “yes” and gives you back a sense of power and control.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I just found out that I am a people pleaser. I never understood why I couldn’t make my own decisions about what I felt or thought. I always say yes and I will go to an extreme to do what I am asked. People get so much out of me. I often feel like Ella enchanted because I can’t say no. My policy in life has always been to aplogize or take the blame for anything. I hate and avoid conflict like the plague. I would rather give in and have peace and make everyone happy. I struggle with excessive stress levels and chronic depression. Negative remarks or any form of criticism cuts deep and makes me feel worthless. So then I stress to do more and feel depressed and angry at myself for not being better or trying harder.
    My other policy in life is to be satisfied with where I am and to never be demanding or want more or be selfish. But sometimes this is hard.
    I also struggle with friendships and always doing everything to make the other person happy. I then get exhausted and resent them. Then i feel bad for having negative thoughts and try to do more. Its a vicious cycle. After reading your article I finally was able to see that my behavior isn’t normal and needs to change. So thank you. You have helped me more than you can know.

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