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Am I a people-pleaser?

There are many traits associated with People-pleasing which may include:

being agreeable – being conflict-averse – having difficulty saying no – being stressed or overwhelmed – being passive aggressive – being prone to resentment – being hasty in taking blame – having trouble being true to their beliefs


Research suggests that saying yes too often at work can lead to overstretched resources, reduced quality of work, and feeling overwhelmed.

Tips to stop people-pleasing

It’s not exactly easy to stop people-pleasing behaviour. StudiesTrusted Source show that it’s hard to disagree with others because it elevates your cognitive dissonance, a distortion between your values and the actions you want to take.


Realise you have a choice

Though it may feel like an automatic behaviour, you actually have a choice. Awareness is often the first step toward change.

Identify your priorities

Once you’ve given consideration to what your priorities are and the kinds of people you want to be around, it becomes easier to say no to anything that doesn’t align with your life goals.

“Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Dr. Seuss

Set your boundaries

It may be helpful to think of boundaries as the outward expression of self-love. 

Boundaries

Once you know what you’re willing to do, communicate those needs with kindness. 

Don’t be surprised if your relationships start to change and some connections fall away. Knowing this ahead of time can make it easier to hold the line. 

It will be scary at first to voice your true feelings because you’re so used to catering to other people and their feelings. However, those that love and support you will applaud your efforts to live an authentic life

Those who become defensive or angry more than likely are benefitting from your people-pleasing lifestyle and feel threatened by your newfound freedom.

Keischa Pruden, a licensed therapist in Ahoskie, North Carolina
Time is everything!

Set a time limit

When you set up a date, let someone know you have to be home by a certain time. When you answer that call, let the other person know you’re on your way out the door.

Time blocking is not only helpful for productivity, it also allows you a hard stop when assisting someone. Think of it like avoiding the “give an inch, take a mile” addage.

Consider whether you’re being manipulated

Take notice of anyone in your life who uses excessive flattery to convince you to complete a task. It could be disguised as a compliment when it’s really a way to pass off something they don’t want to do themselves. 

I’m the guardian of my time and energy

Create a mantra

An empowering mantra posted somewhere where you can see it often is powerful, on the bathroom mirror OR as a background image on your phone — a mini pep talk throughout each day

I’m allowed to say no.

“No” is a complete sentence.

A “no” to them is a “yes” to me.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

Say no with conviction

As a people-pleaser, it may be tempting to say “maybe” or “I don’t know” to an invitation, even though you know you’re not interested. 

Instead, cut yourself loose with an effective yet polite way to decline. If the idea of saying no outright seems a bit harsh, give these a try: 

Try saying:

I won’t be able to make it.

Unfortunately, I’m at capacity.

I’ll have to pass on that project.

I’m honored, but someone else can dedicate the time that deserves.

I have plans that day, but thank you for thinking of me.

Ask for time

“Learn to say no by starting to delay the yes,” says Kinga Mnich, a social psychologist in Lexington, Kentucky. Mnich recommends trying the following responses:

Try saying:

  • Let me get back to you on that. 
  • I don’t have my calendar with me, so let me check when I get home. 
  • I need to check with my [partner], I’m not sure if we have any plans that weekend.” 

Sit with discomfort

For some, people-pleasing is a way to mitigate the intense discomfort of rejection, judgment, abandonment, or feeling less-than-perfect. But if you learn to sit with those feelings, they may have less power over your actions.

Don’t give a litany of excuses

The more details you give, the more people can talk you out of your decisions, especially if they have poor boundaries. Keep your no’s as general and punctual as possible.

A reminder (to yourself):

One idea to avoid rambling, making excuses, or using a tone that indicates your unsure after you decline a request is to think: 

“Period, no comma. End of sentence.”

Practice successive approximation

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that means “continuous improvement.” It doesn’t matter if changes are big or small, as long as you’re moving in the right direction.

Be encouraged. You’re not going to flip your script entirely overnight, but with incremental changes, you can give some leg room to your mental wellness. 

Remind yourself that you can’t be everything to everyone

No matter what you do, someone is going to disapprove. You can’t win them all over. At the end of the day, there’s one opinion of you that matters more than the others: yours.

Why am I this way?

You may be wondering, “Is being a people-pleaser bad?” 

Wanting to help people or make them feel good isn’t bad. 

Authoritarian household

Doing it constantly, at the expense of your own mental health, is a coping mechanism — and it’s not your fault. People-pleasing is usually a behaviour learned in childhood (among other adaptive behaviours) that unconsciously are brought into adulthood.

If your caregivers had high expectations of you and punished you for making even small mistakes, people-pleasing is a natural response.

Tiger parenting

If you were pressured to perform or pushed to a high level of success, you may have learned that this success equals love.

Childhood trauma

If you had to behave a certain way in order to stay safe (emotionally, physically, or otherwise), people-pleasing may have been an effective coping mechanism.

Modeling

If you saw people-pleasing behaviour during childhood, you may have followed suit, even if you were conscious of the negative effects of doing so. 

Upbringing is a powerful antecedent to people-pleasing behaviour, as children, we’re sponges. We take in all conscious and subconscious messages in our environment, positive or negative.”

Let’s recap

People-pleasing behavior may leave you feeling stressed or burned out from taking care of everyone’s needs but your own.

To find out what’s at the root of this behavior, consider working with a professional. You may want to use the BACP to get the ball rolling.

You can’t please everyone! However, those who truly love you will be glad that you’re doing something positive for your mental health.

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