Learning how to stop being a people pleaser is significant to live a peaceful and content life.
You might have a good job, a great education, friends and family but you still might not be happy. You might feel a sense of loneliness, feel like you are not good enough, worry about making mistakes and judgement from people.
The over accommodating, self neglecting behavior that comes with being a people pleaser can jeopardize your inner peace. I have written an article on the dangers of being a people pleaser, feel free to check that out to learn about the high cost a people pleaser pays.
People pleasing is a coping skill that individuals develop very early in life. One learns that the way they can be safe is by meeting other people’s needs and keeping them happy.
Your sense of safety and self-worth is attached to how people perceive you. You are willing to make space for people at your own expense. Walking away from people pleasing is a process.
In order to survive as a young child you learnt to disconnect from your needs and started focusing on the needs of people around you.
At the ages between 2-7 years children go through the phase of cognitive development called egocentrism. Which means they are unable to look at a situation from another person’s point of view. For example, if their mom is upset then they will think that they must have done something wrong to make her upset.
The mother has to clarify that she is not upset at the child and they have not done anything wrong. This experience being repeated several times along with the absence of any clarification, could lead to forming core beliefs like “I am bad’ or “I am in trouble”. These core beliefs could cause a fear of abandonment.
This becomes a wounded part and even after growing up the same feelings of guilt and fear show up even if you intellectually know that you have not done anything wrong.
The people pleasing part shows up to protect this wounded part. People pleasing helps you feel in control. If you keep everyone happy and not disappoint anyone then you won’t risk abandonment.
A lot of my clients have mentioned that they did not want to inconvenience their parents, they were easy kids who did not ask for much attention and that was encouraged by their parents.
For a little child who is getting these messages from their environment, bringing attention to their needs might mean risking losing their parents approval, which to them could mean rejection and abandonment.
As adults they are still acting from this wounded part that thinks that being easy, accommodating and nice will protect them from rejection.
How to stop being a people pleaser?
The first step to stop being a people pleaser is to start connecting to your emotions and needs. Listen to the messages your body is trying to communicate to you through physical sensations. When you don’t connect to yourself it’s hard for you to know what you really want. Disconnecting from yourself and neglecting your needs can make one feel anxious and experience depression. Take a few minutes everyday and move your attention inwards to check in with yourself. Journaling is another way in which you can connect with yourself. Journal about how you feel about a situation rather than what you think about it.
You might be experiencing overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame. For a people pleaser the only way to not feel guilt and shame is by taking care of other people’s needs. If you focus on your needs you might feel like you are selfish or a bad person. Normally the feeling of guilt comes up if we do something wrong. However, in the case of a people pleaser because of developmental trauma in an early age they feel like not meeting someone else’s needs means that they are doing something wrong. The feeling of guilt will always show up. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Allow yourself to feel the discomfort and don’t try to get rid of the feeling by doing something you might not want to do.
People pleaser are very critical of themselves. They are very unkind and harsh to themselves. You are nice to everyone else but yourself. You impose demanding rules and perfectionist expectations on yourself. There is no room for error. If you make a mistake you are taken over by guilt and shame and you are extremely hard on yourself. Instead of criticizing yourself for something that you perceive as a failure, offer understanding and kindness to yourself. Self compassion comes from noticing your own pain and suffering, acknowledging your emotions and becoming aware of your needs. Respond to this awareness of your pain with kindness by saying something like, “I am having a hard day today.” “How can I take care of myself at this moment.”
Another way of being kind to yourself is taking care of yourself. People pleasers don’t take care of themselves as they always have too much on their plate. Any available time is seen as extra time that they can use to take care of other people. Taking the time to take care of yourself and prioritizing your needs is another step toward stopping being a people pleaser. Block out time for yourself in your calendar. Make a list of 10 things you enjoy doing and every day do one thing from that list. The list could have something as simple as having a hot cup of coffee on your patio or by the window.
Anxiety is another driving force behind people pleasing behavior. The constant fear of judgement keeps you anxious. Perfectionism comes from the anxiety of being perceived in a negative light. You care too much about what other people think. Your self worth is attached to receiving approval from others. Make space for the anxious feelings that are coming up. Keep yourself grounded in your body. Connecting with yourself, making space for the feeling of guilt and being kind to yourself will help you identify the feeling of anxiety and its triggers, then implement coping skills to navigate it.
People pleasers tend to be so overwhelmed because they don’t know how to set boundaries. You tend to take on every request that comes to you. In spite of having no space on your calendar or in your life you don’t draw the line anywhere. You rarely delegate, never say no and stretch yourself too thin. Boundaries are not for other people they are for us. Boundaries are our expression of what makes us comfortable and what we are uncomfortable doing. Your boundaries might be different from your coworker’s, your friend’s and your neighbor’s. Just because someone is comfortable doing something does not mean you have to feel the same way. It’s ok to say no.
People pleasers tend to be conflict avoidant. They feel like disagreeing means conflict. We are different people with different experiences and we will have different opinions and needs as well. Just because you don’t think like your friend and your likes and dislikes are different from theirs, does not mean you need to hide that part of you otherwise you might face rejection. The first step to becoming comfortable with expressing your authentic self is understanding that you are lovable just as you are, and a person who values you for who you are will not reject you because you disagreed with them. Expressing your needs and feelings and being your authentic self in any relationship is important for a deeper bond with the person.
As a people pleaser you are controlled by the need for external approval and your life feels overwhelming and out of control. The roots of people pleasing go deep into our childhood. Learn more about the symptoms of people pleasing in the article are you a people pleaser.
In order to stop being a people pleaser along with, practicing connecting with yourself, making space for uncomfortable feelings and practicing self compassion, working through developmental trauma is also a key factor. All of this together will help you take steps toward identifying your self-worth, setting boundaries and expressing your authentic self.
Check out the article on how to set emotional boundaries to learn more about boundary setting.
If you are ready to start your journey to stop people pleasing then get in touch with me to set up an appointment.