5 Ways to Stop People Pleasing

If you find yourself on this post, it likely means you have experienced and want to change the exhausting and reinforcing habit of people pleasing. No doubt you have felt the short-term benefits and the long-term costs that come with the act of people pleasing. You may even be experiencing resentment or burn out as a result right now. While a difficult pattern to break, it is possible to find some relief from the “need to please”. Below are some initial suggestions to stop sacrificing self in unhealthy ways.

Adjust your expectations

Don’t expect a complete change overnight. You are not expected to change every aspect of your people pleasing tendencies right away. It took time to develop them, it will take time to unlearn them as well, and develop more productive and effective strategies. As with most goals, successfully stopping the people pleaser mentality is to start small. Decide on a realistic amount of time and a specific aspect of people pleasing you want to work on and start there. For example, decide that for one week you are going to challenge yourself to say “no” to a request that would violate a boundary, or you don’t have time for, at least one time. You can continue to build on this as you move forward.

Give yourself permission

You are allowed to say “no.” Say it with me, “I am allowed to say no.” This can feel uncomfortable to admit to yourself. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable long enough for the emotion to pass. Distracting yourself, utilizing breathing techniques, meditating on a phrase, are a couple ways to self soothe as time passes and the emotion subsides. Then remind yourself that you have choices, one of those choices being “no”.

Think of other possible outcomes

Often when trapped in the zone of people pleasing, you may find yourself engaging in black and white thinking, assuming that if you do not show up in this way or do this for this person that they will reject you and you will no longer have a relationship. This is usually a worst-case scenario reaction. Slow down and reason that there are many possible outcomes to the situation in which you can decline the request and the person will be accepting. If you are able, write down some of these scenarios. Getting out of your head as much as possible and actually seeing the options listed can relieve stress and anxiety, as well as empower you to make an informed decision rather than an emotional one.

Accept you do not have to be everything

It is so much pressure to try to be everyone’s everything. It is simply impossible, and a role no human is ever meant to sustain. Radically accepting that you cannot and do not have to be sacrificing in the way you are in your relationships, can be a freeing start.

Seek professional guidance

If you notice yourself people pleasing because of a fear of abandonment or rejection, or out of a need to find significance, this may require some deeper work. Understanding subjects such as codependency, assertiveness, setting boundaries, and others can be beneficial to retraining yourself from people pleasing to healthier relationship with self and others. Reaching out to a counselor to help you navigate what this healing process looks like in a safe environment may be the next right step.

One great resource to help with this is the Boundaries book and workbook by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Our practice also has many trained counselors willing and equipped to help you make and keep boundaries that are healthy and lasting. Please visit our counselors page to find a therapist that could fit your current needs.

~Callie Gross