Stop People Pleasing With These 4 Steps
Hello, my name is Edith, and I want to share with you what I did to stop people pleasing. Today, I’m a recovered people pleaser. But back then I would put everybody’s needs ahead of my own; my family, my neighbors, my friends, my coworkers, even total strangers!
And you would think that spending all my life pleasing people would make me feel all good inside, but it did not.
The truth is I felt terrible inside.
I felt used and taken for granted. Every time I pushed what I really wanted to ‘win’ some points, I was powerless and unable to stand up for myself. I was caught in the vicious people pleasing loop without knowing how to make it go away.
Yep, that was me. I was so scared of confrontation, I would go to any lengths to avoid it. Whenever I noticed someone took advantage of me, rather than confront them, I would just phase away; lose contact with them.
After many years of neglecting my own needs and disowning my sense of self, I eventually fell into depression. I knew I must interrupt the repeating programming that had gotten me to the exhausting people pleasing syndrome. I tried, but it seemed I was doomed to stay a pleaser forever.
How I Stopped People Pleasing
I remember the moment like it was yesterday.
A friend of mine had asked me to help her with packing for her big move, and even though I had pressing things to do, I could not bring myself to say no.
Like the true-to-life people pleaser that I was at the time, I showed up on time and waited in the car beside her house. 30 minutes later, she still had not shown up.
Then I decided to call:
“Sorry I’m late,” she said, “I was really busy. I will get there as soon as I can.”
“No rush,” was my reply. “Take your time.”
The second I uttered those words, I was disgusted with myself for being so spineless. Sitting there in front of the wheel, I shook my head at how easily I allowed anybody to walk all over me. I decided something had to give.
That experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was determined to make a change and not gratifying people at my own expense.
As a People Pleaser You Find Yourself Saying Things Like –
- “That’s okay, your loud music doesn’t bother me.” – even though you are preparing for a major exam.
- “Sure, I can do your work for you” – even though it is the end of the workday, and you have other important things to do.
- “Yeah, I would love to go out on a night around the town with you guys”, even though you are dead on your feet and would love nothing better than to hit the sheets.
- “Oh that’s fine, I know you didn’t mean to leave that where water would fall on it and destroy it. We all make mistakes” – whenever somebody borrows your stuff and fails to take good care of it.
If you are reading this article, I suspect you have reached that turning point too, of experiencing too much pain that you just can’t take it anymore. I want to let you know that change is possible.
But before we talk about how you can put an end to people pleasing and start living for you, it is important to explore why you have a personality that tends to please others in the first place.
Why You Feel So Compelled to Please Everyone Else But You
First things first: It’s not your fault that you are a people pleaser.
Your uncontrolled urge for pushing what matters to you aside in order to please others is 100% learned.
Most likely, you learned it in childhood as the caregivers around consciously or unconsciously made you understand that the things you really wanted to do, or become your values and desires – were not important.
You learned to give up what mattered to you in exchange for catering to the needs of people – a job that never belonged to you, to begin with.
Maybe when you were a little boy, you really wanted to do ballet but your macho dad thought it was “too girly” and signed you up for boxing instead. Perhaps as a girl, you really liked running around in the hedges like the boys do, but your mom demanded you to stop it right away.
Or you may have heard them say things like –
- “I’m your mother so I know what is best for you.”
- “I hate it when you act this way”.
- “That is a dumb idea, how can you say that?”
- “Don’t annoy me, you cannot have a Popsicle!”
- “Why are you this way? Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
And so on and so forth.
Fear of Abandonment Is The Root Cause of People Pleasing
You interpreted your parents’ negative reactions to you as abandonment. This is traumatic for a child because the parent’s love is a substantial threat to their survival.
As a child, you took the blame inward for their behaviors: “The things I say are stupid, that’s why mom always shouts when I speak up. I better stay quiet from now on.”
So eventually you developed the unconscious pattern of “if I won’t do what they want, they will leave me”. Your life depends upon your parent’s love and protection. That’s how people pleasing was formed.
Destructive as it may be, this pattern served and protected you. You see, the child version of you could not possibly allow such a dreadful scenario to happen.
Therefore, out of an absolute automated mechanism, you made a fatal choice to relinquish your wants and what’s true for you, to ensure your parents’ love and protection – to ensure your existence.
And that imposed people pleasing silence followed you into adulthood, long after you had left the nest.
Your brain learned to associate a lack of approval with abandonment. Deep down you are terrified you will DIE if they will not like you.
So you must always accommodate them and please them, to avoid triggering this existential anxiety. Your lizard brain is convinced that you MUST HAVE all peoples’ love and validation in order to survive.
A child living in such a restrictive environment quickly absorbs the wrong messages. They assume their desires are not relevant; they quickly conclude that they are not worthy of having their needs met.
Today you are an adult who thinks that if people don’t approve of you, you will die. So you go all out to please other people, even if they’re taking advantage of you. And then console yourself with the hollow joy that comes with “surviving”.
But Are You Really Surviving?
Constantly pleasing people at your expense for no reason is a constant sacrifice of your being. Your inability to prioritize your needs without feeling guilty about it pushes you to constantly do things for other people at your own expense.
As a result, you feel terrible instead of being happy.
People pleasing doesn’t feel good. Deep inside you become a bitter, depressed, submissive, and angry human being who is terrified of staying true to yourself. You secretly resent everybody while smiling outwardly.
But the most painful part of it all is that you resent yourself the most. You are a coward and you know it.
Pleasing people even affects the physical body. All of those I’ve met either have stiff necks and shoulders or back problems. Some also have IBS and other chronic illnesses!
They neglected their desires so systematically, that all of these emotions are just rotten inside their body.
Below are the 4 steps to break free of living according to other people’s expectations and stop people pleasing.
How to Quit The Unhealthy People Pleasing Behavior
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
The fears that lie at the bottom of your people pleasing are real and very strong. So get used to practicing the discomfort that arises whenever you put your foot down and say no.
You may sense your temperature rise, your heart rate quicken, and shortness of breath like you are in an existential crisis—you’re not. The more you set boundaries and choose to live for you, the more this fear will dissipate.
Have a Talk With Yourself
Make it a priority to question your motives when doing things. For example – Am I doing this for me or simply to find favor in the eyes of this person? Have this conversation with yourself whenever you suspect you are not quite sure about your intentions for agreeing to please people at your expense. Mindfulness is important to heal people pleasing.
Watch Your Mouth
Are you shooting yourself down with your words? When I was still pleasing everyone else but me, I would reply, “Sure, no problem” whenever someone thanked me. Today, I confidently say, “You are welcome”.
I know the value I provide when I choose to do something for another.
You Don’t Have to Respond Immediately
When you receive a request from the people you are used to pleasing, politely tell them you will take the time to think about it. This response is advantageous because it gives you time to be reflective of your intentions and has that important internal dialogue.
Also, you could just say no, you are not going to die, and change your decision later if you choose to. This is easier than saying yes and then trying to back out later, right?
If you are ready to put yourself first, as you deserve, without feeling you’re doing something wrong, check out an outstanding tool. That can set you on the path to stop people pleasing.
You don’t have to please people forever. It’s definitely doable to get yourself out of this cycle. You owe it to yourself to be rooted in your values and wants, otherwise – what’s the point of being here anyway?
It’s your natural right to respect your time and values. Sure, some people will get angry with you for not doing as they demand. But it’s their job to check-in with themselves why they’re so bothered by your natural right to live according to your own standards.