Humans are wired for connection to others. Relationships are important to us!
The feeling of being well-liked and well-loved by others - especially family, friends, and work-colleagues - is part of our innate desire to make and maintain connection with people who are important to us.
It’s natural to have a handful of people in your life that you want to make proud.
However, when that handful becomes most of your phone contact list then it’s likely you’ve adopted a people pleasing mindset. This perspective and its accompanying behaviors can quickly become detrimental to your life and physical well-being.
Is it possible to change your people pleasing behavior, stop stressing, and give up trying to make everyone else happy?
Here are a few tips to say goodbye for good to the people pleasing way of life.
1. Recognize Your Choice in the Matter
People pleasing can be a cycle that makes you feel stuck.
Others see you as reliable and the person who will always pull through for them. But, do you often feel obligated or forced to please people the way you do? Do you feel guilt or shame about the prospect of saying “no” to requests or expectations others have for you?
One very important thing to remember is that you have a choice. You are not obligated to live just to make others happy.
Recognizing your choice will help you slow down and rethink the people pleasing cycle you are in.
2. Locate Where It All Started in the First Place
You might have wondered how you developed the people pleasing habit. Now is the time to figure out the origin of this behavior.
Were you rewarded or greatly praised for helping others as a child? Maybe you were raised by people pleasing parents and it’s simply been modeled for you when you were growing up. Being a people pleasure may feel like what you “should” do or the kind of person you “need” to be.
Knowing how it got started will help you to fill areas of your life with something else, rather than continuing down the people pleasing path.
3. Figure Out Why People Pleasing is Still Rewarding to You
You can also take your origin quest a step further and determine why people pleasing is still a way of life for you.
Why do you choose to make other people happy before making yourself happy?
Are you afraid they’ll be disappointed? Do you still seek the reward you were given as a child? Do you think people won’t like you if you stop living up to their expectations?
Knowing why you still feel obligated to please everyone will be a big step toward ending the behavior altogether.
4. Make a Very Short List and Stick to It
As mentioned before, it’s natural to want to others to care about you and be proud of you.
In your endeavor to stop people pleasing, intentionally determine whose happiness matters as much as your own. This list will likely include your partner, close friends, and family.
Everyone else will need to hear “no” from you more often from now on. Focus on those who truly love you and genuinely show them your love in return.
5. Learn to Accept Others’ Negative Response
One of the most difficult parts of giving up the people pleasing lifestyle is the perceived disappointment from others.
When you first start telling people that you won’t help, you might feel a little off-kilter. You might even feel like you let them down or that you are behaving selfishly.
The first few times you say “no” to a request, or don’t immediately volunteer to do something for someone are always the hardest. Lean into your feelings and realize that this is a normal part of breaking the pattern. Enduring the discomfort will help you learn to establish healthy boundaries for yourself. It may be a struggle in the beginning, but it will get easier the more you practice changing your people pleasing behavior.
6. Put Yourself First
Putting your own needs first might sound selfish. It’s anything but!
After all, how can you give your best to others if you’re constantly drained and exhausted from ignoring your own needs?
You can’t. And, that’s not something anyone deserves.
It’s important to take care of yourself first by establishing a healthy self-care routine. Think of it as keeping your gas tank full in your vehicle. Refuel your own tank routinely with premium grade nutrition, exercise, downtime, and rest.
Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with men, women, and couples to help them break the people pleasing habit in their relationships. Contact her 512-270-4883, ext. 108 to schedule an appointment, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.