How to Stop Being a People Pleaser

Are you a people pleaser? Do you try to accommodate everyone at the expense of your needs? Do you try to make others happy as a means of circumventing confrontation? Do you feel guilty when you put yourself first? If that’s the case, then you’re a people pleaser.

Constantly trying to make others happy at the expense of your own needs and desires is a lackluster way to spend your time and energy. Who has your best interest at heart when you’re always looking out for everyone else? You may think that this behavior is a form of kindness, yet that’s not completely true.

People-pleasers feel a necessity to make others content, but the purpose isn’t completely altruistic. People-pleasers, most of the time, are striving to sidestep confrontation. They also feel a heightened sense of self-importance when helping others. When they do something nice for another individual, they feel great about themselves. Meanwhile, their desires are typically left unattended and become unraveled.

They’re also prone to quickly lose the respect of others. Yet, when you don’t value your time or needs, the likelihood is that no one else will either. Meaning that ultimately you’re signaling others to treat you badly and take advantage of your kindness.

What Does Being A People-Pleaser Mean?

The conventional definition of a people pleaser is someone with a strong urge for approval, even if it means conforming to other people’s expectations and opinions.

Subconsciously, these people-pleasing individuals want to be loved more than stand up for what they feel or think is right. They also routinely experience an immense amount of fear surrounding allowing their opinions to be known because of punishment, humiliation, or rejection.

People Pleaser

Psychology Today gives two main reasons for people-pleasing behaviors:

  • Fear of rejection is the underlying sentiment that “If I don’t do everything in my capacity to make these people happy they may leave or stop loving me.”

    Fear of rejection normally comes from early childhood relationships in which love was conditional. Or relationships in which the people pleaser was abandoned by someone in their life. As an example: a parent left, was emotionally unavailable, or unpredictably available.

  • Fear of failure is the underlying sentiment that “If I fail or make a mistake, I’ll disappoint people and be punished.”

    Fear of failure can result from early experiences with strict punishment for even the smallest of mistakes. Individuals who had extremely critical parents may acquire a people-pleasing behavior pattern.

Signs You’re A People Pleaser

If you’re constantly saying yes to others, you’re likely giving up time better spent on things that are important to you. If you’re continually behaving in a way that makes others happy, but not exercising the same principles for yourself, you may not be living according to your desires.

Bending over backward for the sake of pleasing others can swiftly intensify into unhealthy behavior. If your conversations with other people are based on what you assume they want to hear, you might start telling white lies to appease them, a habit that once picked up becomes easier and easier, according to one study. Worse still, what starts as little fibs can quickly develop into fabricating bigger and more significant lies.

When you become accustomed to trying to please someone else, you indirectly get caught up in guessing or supposing how they want you to be. This ultimately leads to a change in natural behaviors.

Experts say that this behavioral change is an example of manipulation towards the other individual, even though you might be conscious of what you’re doing. People-pleasing can disintegrate one’s sense of integrity—and can lead to negative thinking about oneself.

Specialists say that being yourself and taking the risk of people not liking you is more agreeable than enduring the tension and stress that results from bending over backward to please others.

How To Avoid Or Change People-Pleasing Behaviors:

1. Realize that it’s not necessary for everyone like you

It’s not even feasibly possible. There are always going to be individuals that you dislike because ultimately we as humans navigate towards wanting to spend time with people who have similar values, interests, or circumstances to our own. Understand that some individuals just won’t like you, no matter what you do.

  • Understanding and accepting this simple fact can be astonishingly liberating.

2. Get validation from yourself, instead of external sources

Individuals that try to please everyone are obtaining their validation externally. You don’t need external parties to make you feel good about yourself. Simple work on self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love and use these tools to regain confidence in your ability to validate yourself.

3. Say “no” more often

Say No
With continued practice, it becomes more comfortable to say no to others. When you’re invited to do something that you don’t have time for, say “no.” When you place pressure on yourself to make others content, say “no”. It is that simple.

  • When you say no to something, you’re by proxy saying “yes” to something else. What are you choosing to say “yes” to?

For example, you don’t want to go out for drinks with your friends after work. By declining the invite, you’re saying “yes” to seeing your family or catching up on Netflix and sleeping. This applies to all the choices we get to make daily.

4. Deal with the consequences

What are the negative outcomes you’ll face when you start to refuse inconvenient or exorbitant requests? From other individuals, you can expect some form of negative reaction. It can be a little bit of a shock for people especially when they are used to your people-pleasing behavior. Nevertheless, stand your ground.

  • Another thing to note is that you’ll most likely encounter a negative reaction from yourself, in the form of guilt. But, if this occurs, remind yourself that there’s no reason to feel guilty because you’re finally putting yourself first. And your wants and needs come before anyone else’s.

5. Be mentally prepared to lose a few friends

You might find that there are a few people in your life that have been pretending to be your friend because your people-pleasing benefited them. Once you stop being so obliging, they’ll probably move on. Although this can be hurtful, you’re better off without them. Plus, by letting them go you’re creating space for new friends.

  • People will start to have a different kind of respect for you, and you’ll attract new friends that bring more fulfillment to your life.

6. Stop apologizing

Stop apologizing
You don’t have to apologize for your priorities not being in tune with someone else’s. You have every right to prioritize your time as best works for you. Try to avoid apologizing if you don’t have anything to be sorry for.

7. People-pleasing produces anxiety

You’re more likely to experience feelings of guilt and anxiety when you’re a people-pleaser. You end up spreading yourself thin by doing too much for others. Furthermore, the constant concern surrounding the opinions and judgments of others can create excruciating anxiety. These feelings will ultimately lessen the more you put into practice boundary setting and remove people-pleasing patterns of behavior.


The benefits attached to being a people-pleaser will never outweigh the costs. But, by taking small steps towards setting healthy boundaries with loved ones and learning how to say “no” more often – the cycle of negative behavior can ultimately be broken.

It’s important to learn how to gain validation from oneself, instead of trying to please others as a means of externally sourcing this validation elsewhere.

Focus on giving attention to your own needs, wants, and desires, instead of focusing on meeting the demands of others.

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