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Am I a People Pleaser?

It’s likely you have heard the term “people pleaser” at least once or twice. Have you ever wondered if you’re a people pleaser and if so, what does that mean exactly? Let’s break it down. First consider the following:

  • Do I often try to please or make others happy, even if it means going against my own happiness, wants, or needs?
  • Do I struggle to say “no” when I want to or feel like I need to?
  • Do I often say “yes” when someone asks me to do something and then wish I hadn’t?
  • Do I feel bad or guilty for saying “no” to someone?
  • Is it hard for me to identify my own wants or needs?
  • Does it ever feel like I do more for others than I do for myself?
  • Do I worry that if I say “no” to someone, it will cause tension or someone being mad at me?
  • It is easier for me to pretend I want to do something that I don’t than to actually say I don’t want to do it?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s likely you at minimum engage in people pleasing behaviors at some point or another. If you answered “yes” to most of the questions, it’s very likely you are a people pleaser.

Let’s be clear, doing things for others often comes from a place of compassion, love, and generosity. All amazing traits and characteristics to have. Being a people pleaser, however, is different because we are no longer just doing things from a place of compassion, but in an effort to please other people or avoid conflict or tension. If that is the case, you are likely to feel a strong desire to say “no” but choose not to in an effort to “keep the peace” or “go along to get along”.

Being a people pleaser can create significant negatives in our lives, such as:

  • Involvement in unhealthy relationships
  • Poor boundaries
  • Using passive or passive aggressive communication
  • Internal conflict
  • External conflict
  • Increased anxiety, worry, or fear
  • Increased feelings of sadness or loneliness
  • Invalidation of our own personal wants or needs
  • Stress in other areas of our lives (family, health, finances, etc.)

If you are using people pleasing behaviors but don’t know how to stop this habit, there are several things you can start doing right now that will make a huge difference. Below are four steps you can start taking today to decrease the use of unhealthy people pleasing behaviors.

  1. Get clear on what YOU want, need, and value, and make them a priority in your life
  2. Become more comfortable with saying “no” and practice it as often as you can
  3. Let go of the desire to make everyone happy or like you. The reality is you could do everything “right” and they still find something they don’t like in you.
  4. Become more comfortable with making other people unhappy. If you truly want to make yourself happy, accepting that others may not always like what you say and do is important.

Regardless of what you’ve been told, how you were raised, or how others have made you feel in the past, you have wants and needs and they matter. The needs of people in your life, whether family, friendships, or colleagues, do not come before your own. If they do, that means your needs are likely coming last and not being honored, valued, or respected, which can feel extremely upsetting. Thankfully, it does not have to be that way in the future.

Still unsure how to stop being a people pleaser and take better care of your needs? If so, therapy may be a helpful place to gain support around this by: gaining a clear understanding of your wants and needs, learning how to verbalize those to others, exploring boundary issues and learning to set healthy boundaries, enhancing assertive communication skills, and implementing daily practices to help you honor your feelings. Reach out to Psychotherapy for Women to learn how we have helped many women better meet their needs and reduce people pleasing behaviors that were not serving them.