5 Ways to Start to Overcome People Pleasing

Many women become people pleasing divas, taking it to a dysfunctional art form continually performing at higher, sometimes extreme, levels.  People pleasing is exhausting and depletes your most valuable personal resources of time and energy.  It takes a lot out of you to continually worry about what other people think or strategize the right things to say and do that will please others.  Why do we do this?

Like most women, I was raised to believe that pleasing people and taking responsibility for the emotions of others was what a good girl does.  It’s supposed to be generous, humble, loving, and thoughtful.  Pleasing your parents, teachers, friends, teammates, coaches, boyfriends, roommates, bosses, spouses, children, and pretty much everyone.

As the child of an alcoholic and a female of color growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I went to great lengths from a very young age to keep the peace, please others, hold my family together, and fit in.  I used people pleasing as my drug of choice to avoid feeling any hint of rejection, dislike, or disapproval.  It became a part of my identity and even though I’ve come so far, it’s still something I’m occasionally challenged by but have learned how to manage it so it no longer controls me (more on that in a future blog post). 

People pleasing shows up in so many ways throughout your life.  Acting or agreeing with the people around you to fit in.  Apologizing often even if it’s unnecessary.  You have a difficult time saying no.  You need praise and the approval of others to feel good about yourself.  You don’t stand up for yourself or admit when you feel hurt.  You do whatever it takes to avoid conflict or upset someone and feel deep remorse when someone is angry at you.

When you’re a people pleaser, you can’t define the line between other people and you.  Every decision is based on what makes other people happy and comfortable.  It’s impossible for you to live your truth because you’re living life for everybody else and not on your own terms.  More than anything, life as a people pleaser creates a life filled with anxiety.  You’re always worried about whether or not you’re measuring up to others’ standards or the ones you’ve set for yourself to prevent rejection or humiliation.  Not exactly the placid, enjoyable, drama-free life we are working so hard to create the image of. 

Now I want to make it clear that when I talk about people pleasing, I’m not talking about loving others, being considerate, supportive, or generous.  After all, we’re wired to be accepted and liked by others.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  We should be kind to and thoughtful of the people around us.  And there are few things more rewarding than knowing your words or actions have positively impacted others. 

People pleasing, on the other hand, is about being so attached and dependent on how others perceive you that you neglect and lose yourself.  What others think matters more than what you think. You’re primarily motivated by feelings of inadequacy and fear of not being accepted or approved of. 

Okay, so are you ready for some hard facts?  Because you’re not going to be able to release people pleasing from your life until you understand what it really is and is not. 

First, you can’t please people.  It’s impossible because you don’t control their thoughts or their feelings.  Every person thinks their own thoughts that create their own feelings.  You may attempt to trick people into liking you by doing or being whatever you think they want.  You can also project your thoughts on them and they respond to it but it’s not necessarily making them feel what you want them to feel from it.  In emotionally manipulative relationships, one person will tell the other that they cause them to feel a certain way but that’s not true no matter how much they believe it.

Second, people pleasing isn’t about pleasing others at all, it’s all about YOU.  You’re the one who wants (or needs) to be liked.  You’re the one who wants to look good and impress others.  You’re the one who is not comfortable with others having their own opinions and feelings.  You’re the one who is choosing to hold yourself back and not live true to who you really are. 

When you do things to make others happy, it’s really about how you want to feel or avoid feeling.  Instead of taking responsibility for your own feelings and let others be responsible for theirs, you believe that if you can make them happy then you’ll feel happy and good about yourself. It becomes part of your identity, you keep repeating it in as many ways as you can, and you become desperate for validation from others.  Like it did for me, it becomes your drug of choice.  An addictive cycle that stops feeling good after years of doing it.

If you’re ready to stop people pleasing, then start by calling it out for what it is. 

“The art of pleasing is the art of deceiving.”  French Proverb

A selfish misuse of your energy to deceive others and manipulate their opinion of you.  Opinions you depend on to determine your worth and value.

It’s time to start taking steps to overcome people pleasing and creating the courage to make your own thoughts, feelings, and opinion the most powerful in your life.  Here are five ways to get started:

  1. Only apologize when you really have something to apologize for.
  2. Practice asking for what you want.
  3. Express your opinion and say what you really mean.
  4. When you want to say no, say no!
  5. Make your own decisions and honor them.

You can start doing these in small ways or steps.  Every bit helps to change your people pleasing ways.

Now just imagine what your life will be like without the weight of people pleasing.  It’s never too late to finally live life on your own self-honoring terms.  And I bet you’ll find that the more you please yourself and become the woman you’re meant to be, the more pleasing you’ll be to others!

Until next time!


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