If you’re reading this: that’s a sign you’re a people pleaser.
As a recovering people pleaser myself, I know how painful it can be. When your focus is on making other people happy, it’s easy to forget about YOU.
For years, I acted as if I didn’t even exist. My feelings and desires didn’t matter. I was just there to serve others.
This took its toll. I reached breaking point when I became so chronically overwhelmed I couldn’t keep on top of all the stuff I’d said ‘yes’ to and felt so disconnected from myself that I didn’t even know who I was anymore.
I hated that I constantly said and did things to make people like me that didn’t feel authentic.
It’s taken work for me to quit people pleasing—and start putting myself first—so I’m hoping these tips will save you the time it took me to figure it out on my own!
1. You say yes when you want to say no.
IT’S SO HARD to say “no” to stuff, right? Especially if nobody ever taught us how to set healthy boundaries (which is most of us). If we don’t honour our “no”, we end up ignoring our intuition, taking on too much, and feeling responsible for other people’s happiness. It’s how we become a people pleaser.
In other words—always saying “yes” is a recipe for disaster.
The first step to saying no is to believe it’s okay to do so without having to explain ourselves and to remember that how people react is their responsibility, not ours. To recover as a people pleaser, it’s vital to learn this skill. Plus, it’s possible to say “no” without feeling rude guilty or hurting anyone else’s feelings, I promise!
Not sure where to start? Download 3 free scripts to help you say “no” here.
2. You do more for others than for yourself.
Gah, I used to sacrifice your own needs SO MUCH. I honestly used to think people would only like me because of what I could do for them. That is until my mentor made me cry by saying I don’t need to earn the right to be worthy of love, happiness, and joy.
I’m already worthy just by being on this planet (and so are you).
I realised that giving made me feel needed. And being needed was intoxicating. After all, if people relied on me, then they’d never leave or reject me.
If you can relate to this, it’s time to work on your self esteem. Write down 10 things you like about yourself that have nothing to do with how you help other people.
3. You struggle to tune into your own feelings and needs.
It’s time to quit saying “good” or “fine” when someone asks you how you’re feeling. If you’re an empath like me, my guess is you’re amazing at tuning into other people’s feelings… but totally disconnected from your own.
It’s ALSO time to quit saying “I don’t mind” or “I don’t know” when someone asks you what you want—whether it’s what to eat for dinner, where to go on vacation, or which direction to take a project in.
Instead, you need to practice listening to yourself again.
Notice how you feel right now. Are you comfortable or uncomfortable? What emotion is present? Practice tuning into this on a daily basis.
Then start making decisions when you’re asked what you want. Pause, reflect, and propose an option or two. You never know, you might actually get it! Rinse and repeat.
4. You find it hard to ask for what you want.
Knowing what you want is one thing, but feeling entitled to ask for it’s another. Asking for what we really want is vulnerable. It exposes what’s going on inside of us. And the possibility of someone saying “no” can be scary.
The truth is, you deserve to get what you want. And asking for what you want is a gift to others.
If you tell people exactly what you want, they don’t have to guess. You’re actually doing them a favour. By making your desires clear, you create an opportunity for your loved ones to actually GIVE it to you.
Asking for what you want is a muscle like any other. Start small and practice regularly.
5. You say sorry… a lot.
I never noticed how often I used to say sorry. I said it constantly, to everyone. I even found myself apologising to people on the street who’d actually bumped into ME. *eye roll*
If you do this too, notice when you say sorry and what for. Is it for speaking? For expressing emotion? For existing? Of course, there’s a time and place for apologies.
But far too often, we say sorry as an automatic reflex.
Pay attention to the times you find yourself apologising for no real reason. Try to check yourself: do you actually need to apologise? Or are you doing it out of habit? The more awareness you bring to this, the less often you’ll do it.
6. You find it hard to respectfully disagree.
No people pleaser—recovering or otherwise—finds it easy or comfortable to disagree with someone. I still struggle with this, but I’ve also found that agreeing just for the sake of it means I compromise my integrity. I lose the congruence between what’s on the inside and what’s being expressed on the outside.
But a disagreement doesn’t have to lead to conflict.
It’s okay for us to have different ideas and perspectives and for these to be expressed. We don’t have to be aggressive about it. Even if we don’t want to share our views, we can still avoid smiling or giving encouragement about stuff we’re not on board with.
Authenticity is about being able to say, “I understand your perspective, but mine is slightly different. Do you want to hear it?”. It’s not easy—but at least you’ll stay true to yourself.
7. You avoid conflict and confrontation like the plague.
If you’re anything like me, you want to avoid conflict at all costs because you could lose the most valued asset of a people pleaser: the approval of others.
But again, confrontation doesn’t have to be aggressive. By confronting the things that aren’t serving you—whether it’s someone crossing your boundaries or doing something to hurt you—you’re practicing assertiveness. Because nobody will give you the respect you need unless you claim it.
If we don’t stand up for ourselves, we end up feeling like a “doormat”, constantly taking shit from people but never doing anything about it.
I’ve personally found that speaking up often resolves confrontation before it becomes conflict. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s also incredibly rewarding.
People often respect your boundaries when you make them clear. So practice letting people know what you will and will not tolerate.
Quit being a people pleaser—for good
If you really want to recover from the disease of people pleasing, you’ll need to develop a new belief:
You can say no, stand up for yourself, and set healthy boundaries… and still be liked by people.
Sacrificing yourself for others only breeds resentment. Give yourself—and everyone else in your life— the gift of putting yourself first.