People-pleasing involves speaking and behaving to accommodate the emotional needs of others, typically to the detriment of your own needs. It can be hard to combat people-pleasing, but there are ways to overcome it, such as practicing saying no, scheduling time for yourself, and working with a therapist to improve boundary-setting and self-esteem.
What Is a People Pleaser?
A people-pleaser is a type of person who constantly goes above and beyond to make other people feel good. This kind of person is usually putting their own needs aside to cater for other’s needs. They will also put themselves in harm’s way for others who may or may not reciprocate.
People-pleasing usually comes from a place of insecurity and those who behave this way often feel that if they do, others will value them and accept them. Instead, these individuals are likely to feel burned out and resentful toward those who they always help, and as a result, feel too physically and emotionally drained to meet their own needs.1
Are There Personality Types That Are More Prone to People Pleasing?
While there are no specific personality types that are more prone to people-pleasing, we do know that individuals with low self-esteem and/or a history of relational trauma may be more likely to engage in people-pleasing tendencies as a coping mechanism.
It’s important to recognize how trauma can lead to maladaptive coping mechanisms such as poor interpersonal boundaries and putting your own needs last. The combination of these two maladaptive behaviors may make you more likely to be taken advantage of by others, leading you down a spiral of people-pleasing and seeking validation from others in order to feel good about yourself.2
10 Signs You’re a People Pleaser
Below are ten common signs you may be a people-pleaser:3
1. You Cannot Say “No”
You have a hard time saying no because you want to be accepted and liked by everyone. You think the best way to do that is by being overly agreeable.
2. You Feel Anxious About Others’ Opinions of You
This also stems from insecurity—you have fears about people perceiving you in a way you may not like, so you conform your behaviors to fit into a box even if you are not being true to yourself.
3. You Never Have “You” Time
You don’t schedule any kind of alone time or dedicated time for yourself so that you can always be available for others. Even if you do have time alone if you’re asked for something during that time you make yourself available immediately.
4. You Feel Guilty Setting Boundaries
You feel as though others need you more than you need yourself, and you don’t set boundaries because you want to be helpful. You feel bad saying no to others, maybe because you have felt shamed for setting boundaries in the past.
5. You Apologize for Things You Don’t Need To
You feel as though you are responsible for other people’s feelings and reactions to everything, so you own things you don’t need to and make things your concern that doesn’t have anything to do with you.
6. You Need Constant Approval
You have a history of needing to get approval, so you people-please because of the validation you feel in the short term.
7.You Generally Don’t Share Your Feelings With Others
You are reluctant to share any feelings because you feel as though they don’t matter and other people’s issues are more pertinent.
8. You Have Low Self-Esteem
You have a history of anxiety, depression, trauma, or any kind of emotional or mental health concern that has led to low self-esteem or low self-worth. You look for external validation to fill the holes inside you that require internal work and validation.
9. You Always Agree in Order to Be Liked
You often say “yes” to be accepted and succumb to peer pressure. You feel like this will make people like and accept you.
10. You Fear Being Labeled “Selfish”
You are scared of being called selfish because that would mean that you’re putting your needs ahead of the needs of others.
The Danger of Being a People Pleaser
People-pleasing can become a problem because the constant feeling of needing to prioritize others before yourself can wreak havoc on your mental, emotional and physical health. It’s damaging to yourself to rely on people-pleasing behaviors to improve your feelings of self-worth. Putting others’ happiness ahead of your own emotional well-being leaves you unable to attend to your own basic needs.
People-pleasing impacts mental health significantly as well. It is linked with increased feelings of anxiety and stress-related to trying to simultaneously manage your own responsibilities and the responsibilities of others. This leads to less time for self-care, a higher risk of being taken advantage of, and the potential for burnout. This can create unhealthy relationships as there is an imbalance between taking care of yourself and taking care of others.4
10 Ways to Stop Being a People Pleaser
Not sure how to stop being a people pleaser? Here are ten tips:5
1. Practice Saying “No”
Say “no” and think about what that was like, how you felt and where that came from. Continue practicing saying “no” until you are not triggered by this word.
2. Allow Yourself Time to Make a Decision
Stall for time or delay giving an answer immediately. By doing this, you give yourself time to prepare to say “no” and be firm in your answer. Also, if you are actually not sure, it’s perfectly fine to take time to weigh out your options.
3. Schedule Time for Yourself
Make sure you block out time in your calendar for alone time so you can take care of your own needs. Schedule it and stick to it.
4. Consider Your Priorities
Be aware of what your values and priorities are and if what you’re about to say yes to would compete with your needs. If your priorities are not going to be met because of what others are asking from you, prioritize yourself just like others prioritize themselves. Remember that your needs are just as worthy.
5. Don’t Apologize for Saying No
Say “no” without being sorry—you don’t have to feel sorry for prioritizing yourself. When you apologize, you lessen your own value and allow others to feel as though your needs could wait. Saying “no” without any other feedback or explanation can help you feel empowered to care for your own needs.
6. Work On Your Inner Self
It’s important to look inward and figure out where these people-pleasing tendencies come from, and heal from the wound that may be causing these behaviors. It might be old trauma or a poor experience with a loved one. Regardless of what it is, it’s important to make sure you feel comfortable with yourself and honor all your needs.
7. Identify Toxic Traits
When you say “no” and others don’t accept or respect the decision you’ve made, that’s an indicator that you should set more limits around that relationship—they’ve probably been taking advantage of you.
8. Set Boundaries
It’s important to set your limits and share those limits with people around you. If they respect you, they’ll be proud of your efforts to take care of yourself.
9. Consider the Source of the Request
It’s important to know and be mindful of who is asking something of you and how that person could support you as well. If this is someone who is always supportive of you and they are in crisis, it’s ok to be there for others and be a good friend. However, if you feel that other’s needs are more than you can support, they may benefit from professional help. It’s ok to share your concerns in a supportive and loving way.
10. Talk to a therapist
It can be overwhelming to deal with all of life’s pressures both internally and externally, so learning how to set boundaries and sort through inner issues can be helpful with the guidance of a therapist.
Final Thoughts on Dealing With People Pleasing
While it can be hard to break the pattern of pleasing people, there are many ways to take note of your habits and find ways to combat them. Talking to a therapist or reaching out to a trusted friend or family member can make a big difference in how you feel.