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Are you a people pleaser?

People-pleasers are often individuals with low self-esteem and self-worth issues. They feel responsible for how others feel, and they often apologize. While praise and kind words can make anyone feel good, people-pleasers depend on validation. Their self-worth depends on what others think of them. People- pleasers go to a great length to avoid conflict at all costs and feel uncomfortable when people are angry at them. They can’t say no… to anything that is asked of them. They don’t admit when their feelings are hurt. More often than not, people-pleasing isn’t the problem, it’s a symptom of a deeper issue. For some people-pleasers, the eagerness to please people stems from the hope of being liked and accepted if they say yes to everything that is asked of them. Other people-pleasers have a history of maltreatment, as a result, they try to please their abusers.

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My childhood experience

It all started with the hope of finding where I belong, I had lived a lonely childhood. Everybody thought I was a happy girl because of the material things my family had. We were not rich but we weren’t lacking anything either, we always had leftovers and were able to feed others. We were well cared for, however, I was never a happy teen. My point of view has always been different from my culture and others around me. In my culture, kids have no voice, they don’t get to give their opinion or thought on matters that concern their lives. So you can imagine what life must be for a young girl with a strong sense of good and bad, a young girl who is never afraid to speak her mind. Over time it became clear to me that I could not wait to get out of this environment.

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My experience as a people-pleaser

I felt unwanted and isolated from my tribe. Every day is a constant battle between my values and my culture. Eventually, I had to compromise my values to avoid conflict. I would agree with whatever is said to avoid conflict. I would even pretend to be something I wasn’t, I would do anything to avoid people being angry at me. Over time, this became my life, my way of feeling accepted and wanted. Consequently, people took advantage of my search for love, my need to feel belong, I became their poppy. I valued people’s opinion of me over my peace, I kept changing to meet their expectations. Moreover, I was a lonely girl looking to belong to anything but sadness. In other words,  I was living the life people wanted for me. Above all, there was no peace within me, I was an empty barrel walking around.

 

Who is this person?

Eventually, my pseudo personality faded and I had to find myself. Thus, I didn’t know who I was, one thing was certain, pretending to be something I wasn’t was not my personality. I had to do soul search and rediscover myself on my own terms. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make, but it was one that needed to be made. After all, there is nothing one can do to buy love, it doesn’t last. I started by saying no to people around me. At first, I was scared of losing friends, but these people were not my friends in the first place. How can they be? Friends don’t belittle each other, they don’t take advantage of their friends. Suddenly, it all began to make sense. Who I was, the person I became and the person I’m evolving into.

What I did differently
  • Realize you have a choice: I used to feel like I have to say yes when people ask for my help. No, I don’t, I have a choice, and it’s up to me.
  • Set your priorities: there is only so much I can accomplish in a day, so I have to set my priorities straight.
  • Stall: I can ask to get back to you later if you need my help with something. This gives me the opportunity to ask myself, “Do I have the time? what does this commitment entail? What do I have to give up? Would I be stressed and angry at this person later? And if this person needs me to respond right there, the answer is no.

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  • Set a time limit: I inform people of when I’m able to help and for how long I can help.
  • Don’t give a litany of excuses: I don’t defend my decision to say no, this helps avoid long discussions and the temptation to change your mind.
  • Consider if you’re being manipulated: some people are really good at this, they start their sentences usually with ” oh you are good at baking cakes, would you make a cake for my birthday?” I learned to stick to my guns.
  • Create a mantra: I always remind myself to pause before saying anything, I repeat the word pause to myself.
  • Say no with conviction: my first no to someone was the hardest, once I got over my first bump, I was on my way off the yes treadmill.
  •  Use an empathic assertion: sometimes, people are in situations where they really need help, if I’m unable to help at that moment, I empathize with them and politely say no.
  • Don’t apologize — if it’s not your fault: I stopped apologizing when I’m not at fault.
  • Set clear boundaries: we all have our limit, I live with chronic illness, so there is a limit to how much stress I can add to my plate in a day. I’m clear in communicating my boundaries with loved ones.
  • Don’t be scared of the fallout: it’s rational to worry about losing friends when you stop being a people-pleaser but understand that these friends were not meant to be in your life in the first place. My values are more important than being at their service.
  • Realize that you can’t be everything to everyone: I can’t make everyone happy, that’s just the way it is. I can only change my thoughts and feelings.

This post is not a green light for saying no to everyone that needs your help, be kind.

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Author

Raina is a psychology student who understands the importance of caring for mental health. She blogs about depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, men and mental health and parenting kids with ADHD.

30 Comments

  1. This is such a real and great article. It really made me think. You should never lose yourself. I read somewhere that you need to think and help yourself first so that you can think and help others. So, saying no doesnt need to be a bad thing, like many people think. You need to learn how to appreciate yourself so that others would too.

    • Yes, you need to help yourself before you can help others. The most important thing is to find a balance between kindness and people-pleasing.

        • This goes for work as well. One way to get yourself in trouble is to agree to do everything. And you can’t do everything.

          • Larry,

            Yes, this goes for work, I used to say yes to every demand at work and I end up not doing it all.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story on depression. I personally deal with anxiety, but I use very similar coping strategies. The podcast “Meditation Oasis” is great if you’re looking for something specific!

  3. This article is so real! I used to be a Yes person (that’s what I called it lol) until a few years ago. I can tell you I am so much happier not being a people pleaser!

    • Felicia,

      I’m glad to hear that you’re much happier, I understand the pressure and stress associated with people-pleasing.

      Thanks for visiting my blog.

  4. Hi Raina,
    Thank you for sharing your story. More people than we realize have gone through this same transition. I myself am one as well. I was a people pleaser for a long time and eventually realized it and made it a point to create a voice for myself. Mine also stemmed from childhood and constantly being told I was less then. Every day I feel like I learn something new about myself and have made great progress in empowering myself. Way to go on how far you have come in your own journey. Your post is very inspiring.

    • Heather,

      Thank you for your kind words! Parents often don’t realize the effect of their words on kids. A child that is constantly being told he/she is less than will eventually believe that he/she deserves nothing good. It took me a while to realize my loved one’s anger had nothing to do with me. I’m glad you found your voice.

      Thanks for visiting my blog.

  5. I like your article. I’ve always been this person that could never say no to someone else and it shows you what a different mindset can do and you need to priorities yourself first

    • Leana,

      Thank you for your kind words. Just like you, it was difficult to say no to people. It took me years to learn to prioritize myself. The first no was the hardest and will feel a sense of relief. It’s like the freedom you’ve been waiting for.

  6. Wow Raina – you have really hit on such an important topic here. I remember when I was in treatment for addiction the counselors were on at me about people pleasing. I didn’t really understand what the problem was – I thought that being “kind” and non-confrontational was being nice.
    I had to do an assignment and read it out to the group in therapy and then they had to give me feedback. To sum it up people don’t actually like a people pleaser and they don’t trust a people pleaser because they know that you are not being authentic. It was quite an eye opener for me.
    I’ve come a long was since that day and I say no often to people and without an apology!

    • Lynne,
      We are not consciously aware of this behavior, we tell ourselves have are just being nice while in fact, we were looking for love in the wrong places. I remember a friend telling me during a heated argument that I am a pretender, I was so angry at her for saying that because in my mind I was just being nice to her. The truth was I was avoiding confrontation with her. I am glad you realizer this and made amends. Kudos to you for seeking treatment for your addition, not many people can do that.
      Thanks for visiting my blog. I am honored to have you visit my blog, you are one of the influencers I look up to.

  7. Oh my goodness! I am most definitely a people-pleaser and have only really realised that more recently. Thank you for these strategies, I’m going to keep them handy.

    • Nicole,

      I think the problem is we confuse kindness with people-pleasing. It took me a couple of years to realize this just like you. We are not aware that we are people-pleasers until something happens and you take a step back and suddenly everything starts to make sense. Good luck!

  8. This is just the article I needed to read! I’m so guilty of this and I always feel like I can’t say no unless I have another valid excuse or commitment! Great ideas that are actionable

    • Nici,

      I used to feel the same, it’s almost as if I was forced to say yes, I took me a while to get off of the yes treadmill.

  9. This was me for so long. I’ve always been a people pleaser and tried not to disappoint people. It can be hard to say no, but it’s something I have been working on for years. And yes, it does get easier.

    • Candice,
      I’m glad to hear you’ve been working on not being a people-pleaser. It’s not a pleasant situation but it’s one that is necessary.

  10. Such a great article! I, too, am a people pleaser, I don’t really don’t think about it much but this article nailed it

    • Jessie,

      Most people don’t realize they are doing it. This is often because people-pleasing is just a symptom of something else that we don’t want to deal with.

  11. I’m a chronic people-pleaser, often putting others so far ahead of myself that I lose sight of my own needs. It’s a generational thing with me, and it’s just expected.

    These tips are excellent, I’ll really need to take these on board and try harder to break out of the cycle.

    • Nyxie,

      I’m glad you found this post useful. I share your point of view and I understand what it means to care more about others than yourself. Think about why you are doing everything to please people. Is it to fill a hole in your heart? is it for validation or others? Response these questions honestly and your cycle will be broken. It might be easier to write your response in your journal as a note to self, this puts you in a judgment-free zone and helps you see the reality. Best luck!

  12. This is fantastic advice, Raina!
    Since becoming chronically ill, I’ve had to say no to a lot of things like babysitting other people’s kids and hosting parties or cookouts. It’s hard. I was a people-pleaser for a long time and it wore on me for years.

    I will be taking some of these tips and applying them because I hate the guilt of saying no. But, it has to be done. Thank you for this.

    Liz

    • Elizabeth,

      I’m glad you find this information helpful. Yes, the guilt of saying no can make it difficult at times, but you have to take care of yourself. I have a chronic illness that enabled me to make some adjustments. I can only do much in a day now due to my illness, so I have to prioritize my tasks and break them down into small activities to do throughout the day. So next time you need to say no but feel guilty of doing so, think about why you are saying no. Is it because you just want to say it? or it’s because you need to?

  13. I love your writing style. As a “yes” person, I know it stretches me too thin sometimes and impacts my mental stress. Sometimes saying “no” is simply a tough but necessary response.

    • Jon,

      I appreciate your kind words. Change can be difficult to make and adjust to, but think about how you would feel afterward. I was anxious to lose friends and not having anyone to talk to, but I had enough of being taken advantage of. I was always on an edge as to what people are going to ask of me, yet as soon as they ask, I say yes with no hesitation. Eventually, I felt like I’ve given everything I had and yet that was not enough for them. Once again, it’s extremely difficult to take the first step, but when you do, you’ll be glad you did.

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