Are you a people pleaser? Symptoms of

people pleasing

Most of the time a people pleaser does not know that they are people pleasing.

You might feel confused, anxious, on edge, exhausted, unfulfilled, overwhelmed  and frustrated.

You might not understand why you have these similar experiences that leave you feeling stuck. Like, there might have been times in your life when you wanted to say “no” to someone but it seemed impossible for those words to come out of your mouth.

For example,  when your boss expected you to do something that you didn’t want to do, or a friend had some unrealistic expectations imposed on you, the words just don’t seem to come out and you find yourself doing the exact opposite of what you wanted.



Then find yourself thinking,

  • Why am I doing this to myself?
  • Why can’t I just do what I want?

Since our childhood we have been asked to be nice to everyone. What does being nice mean to you? Does it mean that you cannot express your needs and have to always do things that make others happy?

For a lot of people being nice might mean never being their own priority, always having other people’s needs, wants, desires, dreams ahead of theirs. For some being nice could also mean never expressing your opinion, never saying “no”.

Being nice doesn’t mean overlooking your needs. We can be nice to people by setting boundaries, taking care of ourselves, expressing our needs, following our instincts and prioritizing ourselves. I have always heard people say “treat others the way you want to be treated”.

Does treating others well guarantee that you will get the same treatment in return? I don’t know the answer to that. However, in my experience by internalizing this thought process we end up taking responsibility for other people’s bad behavior and blame ourselves by saying “what did I do wrong that made you behave this way toward me?”

Our society encourages people pleasing traits. I have had first hand experience of the guilt that comes from prioritizing “me”. One of the primary elements of the culture I come from is people pleasing.

A person who overlooks their needs is more approved of than one who doesn’t. However, at some point in life we have to reevaluate and start focusing on ourselves and our needs as opposed to someone else’s.

In order to seek happiness from within we might have to move away from external approval and validation and provide that to ourselves.  The guilt that takes over if you focus on yourself might be overpowering, but don’t worry – you don’t have to be dominated by this guilt that makes every decision for you.

You can focus on your needs and take care of yourself without being dictated by guilt.


People pleaser symptoms

People pleasers are nice to everyone and make time for everyone. It is difficult to say no and set boundaries, the thought of saying “no” triggers a stress response of fight-flight-freeze. 

People pleasers tend to doubt themselves a lot. They have a hard time making decisions because for the most part they are trying to decode what other people want and fulfill their needs.

They tend to apologize for things they are not responsible for. They blame themselves rather than call out the responsible party because they are always trying to avoid conflict. They are always trying to keep the peace.

People pleasers tend to be very anxious, because they worry a lot about what other people think. They want everybody to like them. They don’t want to disappoint anyone. They want everyone to be happy. They want to accommodate everyone. They spent a lot of time focusing on other people’s needs.

People pleasers are not attuned with their feelings and needs. They don’t know what they like or dislike. It’s difficult for them to make an executive decision. For example, a simple question about what you want to eat for dinner, they will either say whatever you want to or give you several options rather than say what they want.

They find themselves in relationships where they are giving way more than receiving. It could be a romantic relationship or friendships. If they pause and evaluate they might notice that a lot of their relationships might not be reciprocal. 

People pleasers tend to take on a lot of responsibilities, and as a result feel overworked and burnout. The lethal combination of having difficulty saying no and not being attuned to oneself, results in you taking on way more than you have space for in your life. 


People pleasers tend to have perfectionist expectations of themselves. They are extremely critical of themself and impose a lot of rules on themselves. They have a self critic part that does not let them enjoy any achievement or success. They don’t feel like they are good enough.

They tend to have low self-esteem and low self worth. Their worth is attached to what they can do for someone else and what other people validate in them. It’s difficult for them to be happy with their hard work and be proud of themselves if people around them don’t validate it. 

Therapy for people pleasing

As a Therapist for people pleasing in the Austin and Cedar Park area, I work with individuals who overextend themselves, have a difficult time setting boundaries. The fear of rejection and judgement keeps them from prioritizing their needs.

Guilt that arises from thinking of setting a boundary or expressing our thoughts could be so intense that not giving in to the guilt might result in anxiety.

The thought of saying ‘no’ to someone can make you freeze, which is a stress response and is triggered when we perceive a situation as a threat or danger.

In order to avoid that uncomfortable feeling, we are more inclined toward avoiding our needs and choosing other people’s needs over ours. Hence resulting in being a people pleaser.

Growing up experiences with an emotionally unavailable mother could lead to developing an inner part within you called people pleaser. The job of this part might have been to keep you safe and make you feel loved and accepted.

The first step in our work together is to identify your attachment patterns (avoidant attachment or anxious attachment) and how you learnt that it was ok to overlook your needs.

We work towards gaining awareness of the inner resistance that might be stopping you from following your instincts.

We identify your inner conflicts.

We use this new awareness, insight, connection with your body and mindful presence of these emotions to heal unresolved wounds from the past that might be getting in your way of forming a deep connection with yourself

We work toward setting boundaries, prioritizing self, learning to express emotions and needs, learning to not allow the feeling of guilt to make decisions for us and leave us feeling worse.

We also work toward altering your self talk to a compassionate one.

Our work together consists of  identifying, acknowledging and working toward repairing whatever that is making you repeat these patterns, and also forming a positive relationship with yourself.

Different therapy approaches are used in our work together. Inner child work is used to identify your wounded inner child parts and protectors that were formed at different stages of our lives to protect these parts.



Gaining awareness of these inner parts will help you understand the why behind your patterns. We also focus on helping you recognize your feelings and get attuned with yourself and your needs. Then using EMDR we work though memories that are keeping negative beliefs about yourself in place.

Review the articles listed below to get a better understanding of people pleasing.

How does one become a people pleaser?

How to stop being a people pleaser?

5 reasons why people pleasers attract narcissists

How to say no politely?

The dangers of being a people pleaser

If what you read so far resonates with you and you think you could be a people pleaser and would like to work on connecting with yourself, your needs, learn to work through guilt and help build your self esteem, then drop me a line to set up an appointment for a free phone consultation to see if we are a good fit.

Take the step that will help you live the life you want

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