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.
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.
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 a soul search and rediscover myself on my 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.
- 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. You matter, and yes, some people may not like you for some reason. But know that others will like you for the same reason. It is important to figure out what is making us unhappy and learn to heal from it and accept our flaws. This article from Imbuedliving has a good journal about how we unknowingly sabotage our happiness.