How to Stop People-Pleasing

People-pleasing isn’t exclusively a woman’s issue…so then, why are so many women people-pleasers?

You know what I’m talking about – worrying about what other people think and the aversion to displeasing someone or looking difficult or high-maintenance? It’s all around us: if we disagree, people can see us as hard to work with. The pressure of “having it all” and niceness, and with that, likeability, often leads to women making choices that might not align with their beliefs, desires, and choices.

This can be as simple as what to eat for dinner and what to do on the weekend to life choices – and it doesn’t only happen in romantic relationships!

If you apologize often, feel responsible for how others feel (we’re all in charge of our own emotions!), pretend to agree with everyone and cannot say no – you’re a people-pleaser. And if you’re reading this, you might be thinking about how to stop people-pleasing. Try one (or many!) of these four tips and start thinking of yourself:

Understand you have a choice and priorities

If someone asks you for something, you do not have to say yes.

Read that again, slowly, out loud.

You can say yes, which is probably what you’ve been saying…and you can say no. Before you answer – or say something just to say something, take a step back and think about your values and priorities. If you understand where you stand on things, and give yourself time to think about it (stalling is a great tactic here!) you can see if you’re making a choice out of obligation or intention – and aim for intentional choices.

Set a boundary

My favorite phrase from my therapist: Boundaries aren’t meant to feel good, they are meant to keep you safe.

By setting a boundary even if you say yes, you’re starting to chip away at the idea of you being taken advantage of. A boundary can be something like, “I can only help you until 4 pm” or “I’m only available on Tuesday” or it can be something like “I can only help you in this way.” By limiting your help, you’re saving some of the energy – and choice – for you.

No is a sentence.

This might be the hardest of all – “No” is a complete sentence. The first time you say no, you’re going to feel strange, awkward and nervous. And the next time you say no, you’re going to feel strange, awkward, and nervous, but less so. The more you say it, the easier it’s going to get. By saying no without offering a paragraph of solutions, you’re being assertive. When you offer excuses, you allow the other person to dig in and possibly manipulate your excuses into getting you to help them.

This isn’t to say that people try to manipulate people-pleasers.  Sure, there are some folks out there trying to manipulate everyone, and people-pleasers are easier. That being said, the moment you start to say no when you’ve always said yes is going to be a little weird for everyone involved.

Don’t apologize

If you’re a people-pleaser, you probably apologize a lot.

This isn’t because you’re wrong all the time, or constantly hurting people – it’s because you think you are responsible for other’s feelings.

Surprise! You’re not.

A great way to stop apologizing? Think about what you are apologizing for – are you responsible for the situation or do you think you’re responsible? Where are the facts? Assess the situation and see if you need to be apologizing, or you’re just doing it because you don’t know what else to say.

People-pleasing is a tough habit to break: start small and be sure to reward yourself for those little victories. And remember, you’re doing this for yourself, not for anyone else.



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