How to Stop People Pleasing and Live Life on Your Own Terms

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Tips to stop people pleasing for good and discover your true self.

Does stopping your need to please others seem overwhelming? I thought so too. People-pleasing was so ingrained in my identity, I just thought that was who I was until I got to a point that I was stressed out daily with everything I had to do. For my own mental and physical health, I needed to stop people-pleasing for good.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you have people-pleasing tendencies and you are ready to stop people-pleasing as well. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be reading this post. People-pleasing is SUPER common in women so you are not alone. I definitely still struggle with this daily. 

The first thing you need to do is realize that you are NOT a people PLEASER. You have people-pleasing TENDENCIES. 

This is huge because we’re erasing it from your identity. Now, I know this is easier said than done and you are still going to have the urge to say yes to everything. This isn’t just going to magically disappear. I get that. I’ve been there. 

The thing is just like anything, eliminating people-pleasing tendencies takes time and practice. If you use some of the below ways to stop people-pleasing, your brain is going to change and your habits as well. One step at a time, you’ll be closer to living life on your own terms. 

What makes you a people pleaser

If you are someone who needs the approval of others, you have probably developed people-pleasing tendencies. People who experience these tendencies are usually super indecisive, agreeable, easy-going, don’t usually initiate conflict, and have low self-esteem. These qualities are not inherently bad, it is just bad if you start living your life based on what others tell you to do or think.

You may justify being so agreeable because you feel bad. You’re just being nice. The list could go on and on but at the end of the day, you do things at the expense of your own sanity. 

The biggest problem with being a so-called ‘people-pleaser’ is that oftentimes you don’t really know who you are because you are waiting on someone else to make the decision or have the opinion.

Many experts say that people pleasing comes from how we interacted with our parents when we were children. That at some point, we learned that our parents liked when we were agreeable with them and not so much when we did something against them. This blog post from Psychology Today goes over this theory in more depth.

I feel like any mental health issue is often blamed on how we are raised but there are so many factors that go into it. I have very loving and supporting parents and I believe many people-pleasers feel this way but I believe there are other factors from our childhood that go into it as well. After all, we should blame our parents for everything!

People pleasing is also enforced in school especially if you were a kid that wasn’t popular. It’s in our human nature to want to fit in so it makes sense why it is so easy to fall into these tendencies. Growing up, I was bullied which definitely didn’t help since I so desperately wanted to fit in. Girls learn at a young age that other girls can be mean. 

Things to remember

As you embark on this journey to eliminate these bad habits and start living life on your terms, here are some things to keep in mind. I’m going to be honest. It’s not going to be easy and you will probably experience some backlash. You may even lose some friends but that is okay since that means they aren’t supportive of your true authentic self. They weren’t a good friend!

Your time is valuable too

This was always a big one for me. I would plan to go to the gym and then if my friend or family member asked me to do something, I would think to myself well I don’t have to go to the gym. The gym isn’t something I have to do, I just want to go to the gym. 

But there lies the problem. I wanted to go to the gym. Just because someone needed me to do something doesn’t mean that I can’t do what I want. Going to the gym is something I enjoy and how I want to spend my time. I shouldn’t sacrifice that just because someone else needs my help.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you want to go to the gym but your friend is stuck on the side of the road, you may want to go help. But if you want to go to the gym and your friend needs you to help them with painting their front room then you can certainly say no. 

Your friends and family will still like you even if you say no

Many people-pleasers have self-esteem issues. If you say no, then that person is going to stop liking you. As long as your relationship with them isn’t toxic (and that’s a whole different issue) then they aren’t going to be offended. 

Just think about when you have to say no because you are working or already have a commitment during that time. You aren’t worried if they are mad at you then since you have a legitimate excuse, right? 

Well to that point any excuse can be legitimate even if you simply want to relax. It’s your time and you should be able to do what you want with it. 

You aren’t on the top of everyone’s mind

This may hurt our egos but you aren’t on your family and friend’s minds all the time. Just think about how often you think about your loved ones. You’re not sitting there mad about them saying no. Or maybe you are if you always say yes and it feels one-sided but again that’s a different issue.

You’re probably too busy thinking about everything else you need to get done.

The same goes for the person who asked for the favor. If you say no, they are probably thinking of who else they could ask. I know I always had an issue that I thought if I couldn’t do it then they were screwed and this is just not normally the case. 

At the end of the day, they decided to do the thing they are asking for help with, whether that is moving, getting a pet, throwing a party, whatever it may be. If you want to go help them, go for it but if there’s something else you want to do, then you shouldn’t feel obligated. 

You can only control your thoughts and your actions

At first, when you start saying no to people and being less of a people-pleaser, you may experience some push back. After all, people could rely on you to be available the majority of the time. Things are changing and you are acting against the norm, which is great!

I’m not going to tell you that people are going to be happy with you during this process. If you typically helped them whenever they asked then they may get a little upset with you. It’s just part of being human. 

This is hard to accept as a people-pleaser especially when you want everyone to be happy all the time but you can’t control other people’s thoughts or actions. You can only control what you are doing. I would love for my friends and family to be happy all the time but I can’t control that. You can’t control that either.

Sure, you can be there to support your loved ones and listen to them when they are upset but you can’t make them happy. They have to make themselves happy. You can’t be everything for everyone so you might as well focus on you. Do you, girl, right? 

It’s much easier to be you

I just said do you, girl like it is easy. But it’s not. When it is normal to just agree to what everyone else wants to do, it is actually quite challenging to decide for yourself. You’re so accustomed to the decisions being made by someone else. You may actually not know what you want but this is the time to find out!

Maybe you identify yourself as a ‘nice’ person but what does that really mean? Fun fact, in the 14th century, the meaning of ‘nice’ meant foolish and I know that’s not you. There are so many better things to be known for than nice. I understand that you don’t want to be identified as that bishhh but you have the right to your own opinions and doing what you want with your time.

There’s a difference between being nice because you want to be, and being nice and adjusting your feelings and behaviors because of it. 

Trust me, it is much better when you break out of your people-pleasing shell and start making decisions. It’s a whole journey and you truly start to realize who you actually are. 

You can ask for help too

Another component of people pleasing is that you refuse to ask for help. You don’t want to burden your loved ones. This one is specifically ironic because you’re more than willing to take on everything to appease them but you can’t admit when you’re drowning. 

Getting help from a loved one is just part of being in a relationship whether that’s romantic or platonic. I’m sure they would be glad to help you out. I know I always struggle to ask for help at work and instead just get burnt out. I was so overwhelmed that I was making mistakes and who does that help? I’ve learned that raising my hand and asking for help is a way better route. Trust, me your mental health will thank you. 

Ways to stop Please Pleasing 

I’m just going to preface this section with a video from an expert, Julie Kristina who is a licensed therapist.

1. Make a plan

Saying you are going to stop please-pleasing is easier said than done. What I think is helpful is to make a list of HOW you are going to stop people-pleasing. Once you have actionable steps, you have a roadmap. It’s going to be much easier to start if you know what you need to do.

If there are certain people that ask you to do something all the time, say you’re going to say no every other time. Or if someone calls you complaining about their life and it completely drains your energy, you can start ignoring their calls every once in a while.

If you come up with some pain points then you can create more specific actionable steps that you can do to stop people-pleasing. 

2. Dive into why you have these tendencies

Your mindset is so important. Instead of just telling yourself you’re going to stop then keep on people-pleasing then it may be helpful to dig into WHY you feel the need to say yes all the time. Is it self-esteem issues? Do you need to be validated by someone else to feel good about yourself?

Keep asking why until you find the answer. I know I keep saying this a lot but this isn’t easy. Definitely, if it brings up things that you’ve repressed but it is so worth it. Knowing the why will give you a better understanding of how to stop. You can even come to terms with these things that are holding you back.

3. Focus on rewiring your brain for internal validation

To go off the reason why you are a people-pleaser, in some aspect you need validation from others. Otherwise, you wouldn’t care if someone is upset with you. 

You need to start being your biggest cheerleader. Your own hype woman. If you’re proud of something, BE PROUD. Move away from looking to others. As I said before, only you can control your happiness.

The best way to do this is to focus on rewiring your brain to be more confident. A few examples could be by starting a gratitude journal, practicing daily affirmation, or giving yourself a daily pep talk. One of the things I did was every time a negative thought entered my mind, I followed it up with a positive thought.

This made me more aware of how many negative thoughts actually go through my head and it gave me the opportunity to reflect and rephrase that thought into something positive. This is going to take some time but changing your mindset is huge in changing this bad habit.

4. Take baby steps 

We all know that we aren’t just going to wake up one day and have completely different habits. It takes time. It’s going to take guts to tell loved ones no when you have always said yes and made them happy. I understand that. 

That’s why I think this is super important on your journey to stop people-pleasing. You need to think of a plan that is easily digestible. Pick one thing that you always do that you dread and focus on that. Focus on one area in your life. 

One simple one would be picking somewhere to go to dinner and sticking to it even if people don’t seem super thrilled with it. I know we’ve all done it where your friend or significant other asks what you want for dinner and you say “I don’t care, whatever you want.” Or you pick somewhere and say “unless you want to go somewhere else.” Well, today is the day to decide what you want for dinner and stick to it. It’s an easy way to get your opinion out there.  

If there is a specific activity you dread doing every week or every month for someone, tell them that you can’t do it. Pick one thing or person that asks for favors all the time and focus on that. Once you feel confident there, then you can move on to the next pain point. 

5. Pick your battles

Now, you shouldn’t storm into your boss’s office and say you aren’t going to do that report for them. There are going to be things that you aren’t going to want to do but have to. That’s a part of being human. 

Maybe you don’t want to go visit your significant other’s family but that is something you should do since it will be important to your partner. Part of being in relationships involves doing things we don’t want to do to make other people happy but it should be somewhat balanced. It should be from a place of wanting to do it for them versus feeling obligated to do it.

You have to decide what you’re going to do because you love the person and want to make them smile or say no to because it is draining your energy. 

6. Stop Avoiding Conflict

This is most likely one of the hardest things for people-pleaser because we want everyone to be happy all the time. Something that was hard for me to accept is that people are going to be unhappy sometimes and it has nothing to do with you. 

If you agree to everything and spread yourself too thin, you aren’t going to be fully present in the things that you actually want to do. You are going to end up missing commitments or running late because you have too much going on. 

Would you rather someone be upset with you because you aren’t able to help them or upset with you because you let them down? If the relationship isn’t toxic, then the person isn’t going to be mad at you for saying no. If they are, do you really want them in your life?

It’s important to accept the fact that people are going to be upset with you sometimes but they will get over it. There are going to be times that people are annoyed and will inevitably take it out on you or act off and it’s not your fault. You can only control your thoughts and actions so try to stop worrying about what others are thinking all the time. I know this is easier said than done but you can do it with practice. 

7. Set boundaries

If you have someone in your life that is particularly pushy and has a way to convince you to say yes, setting boundaries may be a good way to avoid people-pleasing. Let’s say you have a friend that calls you every day and complains right when you want to go to the gym. You end up missing your workout because by the time they are done talking, your attention is needed elsewhere. 

Listening to a friend when they are struggling is part of being in a friendship but you are allowed to tell them it’s too much. You could set boundaries by simply giving them a timeframe when it would be a good time to call or say you can only talk for a long period of time on certain days. 

Boundaries are a way to set clear expectations. The people in your life should accept these boundaries and if they need something they will work around it. It’s a good way to block off time so you can do what you need to do. Even if that means lying on your couch all day watching Netflix.

If you want to learn more about boundaries, Healthline has a great article on it.

8. You can tell them that you have to think about it

When someone asks you to do something or is looking for your opinion, you are put on the spot. While this isn’t intentional, you may freak out internally. Your people-pleasing tendencies go into attack mode and you start thinking about their reaction and go down a rabbit hole that leads you to saying yes. 

A way to avoid this is to say “Let me get back to you.” It’s not a ‘no’ but it’s not a ‘yes’. You don’t have to see the disappointment in their face or hear it in their voice. Maybe they’ll even start thinking about plan B. 

This gives you the opportunity to calm down, weigh out your options, decide if you actually have time to help, and you can always send them a text saying you can’t and you don’t have to hear or see their reaction. 

9. You don’t owe anyone an explanation

It almost seems like human nature that if you have to ‘let someone down,’ that you need to explain yourself. This is simply not true. You can just say no and go about your day. You do not owe anyone an explanation. 

If you give an explanation, you give them the opportunity to find a gap in your busy schedule for you to help them or to say oh it won’t take long. As a recovering people-pleaser, it’s easier to say no and that’s it so they can’t convince you into it. I know if I work up the courage to say no and then they try to convince me, I’ll somehow end up saying yes. 

10. Think of the worst-case scenario if you say no

This is a good exercise to do because oftentimes our worst-case scenario just doesn’t make a ton of sense. After you tell them you have to think about it, then you can spend some time thinking about what could happen if you say no. 

You aren’t going to die, they aren’t going to die. They aren’t going to sit around hating you for the rest of their life. If they do, they shouldn’t even be in your life anyway. 

What is going to end up happening is that they’re going to find someone else to do it and go about their day. 

11. Don’t say sorry

This is a huge problem in today’s society. We have the need to apologize for things we had no control over. Why are you apologizing because you are busy? Everyone is busy and they are asking you for a favor. I know I do this all the time at work or when I do say no, and it just shouldn’t be something I do. 

This could probably be a completely different blog post because it’s so interesting why so many people apologize just to apologize. You should only apologize if you actually did something wrong. Sure, you can apologize if you’ve been blowing your friend off because you’ve been busy but we shouldn’t apologize because you can’t help them the moment they need help. 

Going forward, when you do decline a proposition someone makes or you disagree with someone, don’t apologize. You are entitled to your time and your opinion. You shouldn’t be sorry for how you think and feel. 

12. Be open; don’t sugarcoat the truth

This is something that I am trying to be very intentional about because clear communication is super important. If you can’t do something, don’t make up a lie. I’ve done this before and I’m not sure how the person wasn’t concerned that I was always at the doctor’s office. Then you have to remember the lies you tell and it just becomes a whole thing. It’s so much easier to be honest. 

Now, you don’t have to tell them anything but if you do give them a reason, be open about it. I think it is important to tell people you don’t want to do it too. In many cases, your friend that is constantly asking you to do stuff probably thinks you don’t mind doing it. All the while, you’re building up resentment. 

Honesty is always the best policy and being super clear about what you are thinking just makes everything so much easier. If you sugarcoat the truth, the message could become unclear and the person doesn’t realize you’re getting upset. 

13. Celebrate your wins

Even successfully completing baby steps is a huge win. It gets you one step closer to stop people-pleasing and finding your true self. Personally, I know I am my worst critic so I definitely beat myself up if I’m not hitting my goals fast enough or I trip up. The thing is that this journey is going to take time. You’re going to slip up and people please.

You’ve developed these people-pleasing tendencies throughout your whole life so it’s going to take time to rewire your brain. You aren’t going to wake up one day being able to say no to everyone all the time. It’s going to take practice so why not celebrate during the entire process. 

Everytime you take a step in the right direction, give yourself a pat on the back. Hype yourself up and celebrate how far you’ve come.

Kicking a bad habit is never easy but the reward is awesome. Once you begin living life on your terms, you’re going to be so much happier. You’ll be able to discover who your real friends are and more importantly, who you are.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Let me know in the comments below what you have done to stop pleasing others or what you’re planning on doing.

Until Next Time,

How to Stop People Pleasing and Live Life on Your Own Terms

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