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How to Stop Being a People Pleaser

Being a people-pleaser is detrimental to your health. It can lead to mental health problems and hamper your productivity. The first step to addressing people-pleasing tendencies is self-awareness.


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Kristina Segarra

4 months ago | 4 min read
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Being a people-pleaser can harm your mental health, according to experts.

The other day my husband was nagging me to watch a movie on Netflix with him. Part of me wanted to watch it and give him company. But another part of me rebelled because deep inside I knew I had a lot of unfinished projects to take care of, and one of them was writing.

As a busy mom and a writer, I often have to make sacrifices like this. I can’t just give in and sit down to watch a movie whenever I want if I know I haven’t checked things off my to-do list.

For me, the thought of having pleasure before pain is daunting. That’s why I was glad I stuck to my decision.

Being a People-pleaser Affects Your Mental Health

According to Healthline, being a people pleaser can harm your mental health. Think for a second: If you’re trying to please everyone all the time, by constantly being there and doing things for other people, then you’re leaving “you” behind.

When will there be enough time for you to pursue your passions, build your side hustle, or engage in much-needed self-care? The answer is never unless you let go of certain things in your life.

It’s all about creating a balance in life.

Imagine how much easier your life would be if you could give up some of your people-pleasing habits? Prioritizing your mental health means you have the power of saying no.

Being a people-pleaser is not only detrimental to your mental health, but it also can result in burnout and loss of productivity. By focusing on others, you’re stretching yourself thin and basically running like a hamster in a wheel trying to please others all the time.

As a result, you lose time for yourself and place your priorities on the back burner. You may postpone the goals or projects you’ve set for yourself, or you may completely ignore your self-care, which isn’t good for your health.

How to Know if You’re a People Pleaser

You can ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do you tend to say yes to people all the time?
  • Do you feel like you have to apologize to people all the time?
  • Do you have trouble saying no when you need to?
  • Do you feel guilty for saying no when you have to?

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind to people and offer your help and support to others. It’s all about creating the balance between helping others and wanting to help yourself.

If you constantly try to please others, you can be trapped in the loop of prioritizing others over yourself. And that’s when your people-pleasing tendencies can backfire.

Why Do People Engage in People-pleasing Behaviors?

Being a people-pleaser is a psychological defense mechanism and stems back to a person’s childhood. As Healthline explains, it can be a combination of factors. One of them is psychological trauma from childhood.

For example, as a child, a person may have developed fear in response to trauma, and they’ve developed people-pleasing tendencies as a way to cope and make them feel safe.

A person may have grown in a turbulent home environment where they didn’t feel particularly safe. It could be when things in their household were out of control and they had to be peacemakers within their family.

As children, they were conditioned to prioritize others, focus on other people’s needs, be polite and give more attention to others. So as adults, they become preoccupied with how other people think or feel of them.

Somehow they think they won’t be as likable by another person and be inauthentic to themselves if they don’t put others first. Being in an environment like this forces a person to internalize a message that other people’s needs should come before their own.

It could also stem from the person’s insecurities and low self-esteem. And the truth is, when you’re being a people pleaser, your insecurities are coming to the surface. When a person doesn’t feel secure enough within themselves, they view disagreeing with someone as a traumatic event.

Because deep inside, they don’t want to be rejected and abandoned. Saying yes as opposed to saying no helps them feel secure.

How to Stop People-pleasing Behavior

To get out of the people-pleasing loophole, you need to set up healthy boundaries and practice saying “no.” In situations where you need to say no, go ahead and say no.

For example, you can say no to an invitation when you have a burning project deadline or you can say no when you’re feeling exhausted and only slept 5 hours yesterday.

Don’t be afraid to say no when you feel like you have to prioritize your self-care. Maybe you need to take time off for yourself and have alone time. Don’t feel guilty for doing so. And remember, you can’t serve from an empty cup. Putting yourself first will remind you that your needs are a priority.

At the least, instead of responding with a reflexive “yes” to something, you can take time to consider the situation and mull over your response before you act on it. Think before you leap is the strategy you want to adopt.

For example, you can politely refuse someone’s request by saying “I wish I could help you with that, but I don’t have enough time or resources at the moment to do so.”

The Takeaway

Being a people-pleaser is detrimental to your health. It can lead to mental health problems and hamper your productivity. The first step to addressing people-pleasing tendencies is self-awareness.

If you’re someone with people-pleasing tendencies, get in tune with yourself and evaluate how you act in different situations.

Whatever you do, make sure you maintain a healthy balance between helping others and helping yourself. Practice saying no and setting healthy boundaries, which will help you focus more on your needs.

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Kristina Segarra

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Freelance health & wellness, self-improvement writer

I'm a freelance writer, musician and a mom of two kids. I love writing on health-related, self-improvement, and writing topics as well as world events.


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