Do you find yourself saying yes when you really want to say no? Do you feel guilty setting a boundary at home or work? Do the opinions of others directly affect your self-esteem? If you resonated with any of these questions, you might be a people pleaser. But what does that mean?

A people pleaser is defined as someone who has the inability to say no for fear of rejection, disappointment, abandonment or angering someone. Often, the need to please people can stem from anxiety and eventually become a habit that’s hard to break. The mindset that a lot of people pleaser’s have is one oriented around the needs of others before their own needs. Additionally, being a compassionate and caring person is many times the justification that people give for their excessive helping behavior; which while not totally untrue requires further investigation.

Common experiences of People Pleaser’s:

→ Emotional burnout

→ Often feeling frustrated or resentful

→ Dissatisfaction with your relationships

→ Anxiety towards assertive behavior

→ Not feeling fully present or in control of your time

At first taking on the tasks of others may seem altruistic, but it can actually be rooted in fear and lack of boundary setting skills. A lot of people would rather overfill their schedule and commit to plans they do not want to attend because they would prefer to take on the added mental stress than to assert what they really want. This can in turn lead to emotional and physical burnout, leaving the person with no time to consider their own needs or honor the time commitments they wish they could. It can sometimes feel impossible to escape the cycle of people-pleasing, but taking time to look inwards and asking yourself what you genuinely align with will help you realize what’s truly important to you.

Breaking the hesitation to advocate for your own needs is usually the biggest thing that people need to overcome in order to feel that they are placing adequate value on their time and energy again. So what are some things you can do to stop being a people pleaser?

Step 1: Checking In

Remembering to put yourself first can seem like the obvious first step, but it can be one of the hardest hurdles to get through. Putting yourself first means taking back control over your time and agency by practicing saying no and sticking to it. You can do this through evaluating how much of yourself you can realistically give to an area of your life (such as work, school or family) without burning out; you have the power to decide what’s important to you and where to put your energy .

Step 2: Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries!

Saying no to things like projects at work that are not your responsibility, social events that are draining or loved ones who try to enlist you for tasks you really don’t want to do are all necessary parts of defeating your inner people pleaser. While we all have to do things we don’t enjoy sometimes, it is the frequency they occur and our motives behind completing them that are significant. Make sure you are communicating from a place of security and mindfulness instead of fear or worry.

Step 3: Asserting yourself

It’s one thing to set a boundary but it’s a complete other thing to follow through. Sometimes when you communicate to others no, or not right now, it can be upsetting or disappointing but by sticking to your boundaries it shows you are serious about your time and when you give it out. Sticking to your boundaries will mean being validated from others will no longer be your main source of self-esteem, but rather self-respect and self-discipline.

It is important to note though that getting rid of the people pleaser in yourself does not mean to get rid of your kindness, compassion or generosity. It means to look further into why you do things, so that when you go out of your way for someone the meaning and impact behind your actions remain genuine and sincere.

This article was contributed by Rollins Clinical Psychology student, Shannon Caicedo


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