6 Steps To Take If You've Ever Thought Of Yourself As A 'People Pleaser'

Photo: getty
How To Stop Being A People Pleaser, Set Boundaries & Learn How To Say 'No'

You're a people pleaser and you know it.

Being a people pleaser gets a bad rap, but isn’t being there for your friends a wonderful thing? Shouldn’t the desire to please the people you love most be considered an admirable and honorable thing? And helping others in need is a service of the heart ... right?

The moment these incredible acts of generosity crossover from healthy, life-affirming deeds to unhealthy and life-squelching endeavors is when they become stressors.

But when you struggle with the need for approval or don't know how to say "no" without feely guilty, learning how to stop being a people pleaser — even when doing so is stressing you out — can feel like an impossible task.

They key is learning how to set boundaries that help you prioritize your happiness, wants and needs.

RELATED: 6 Honest Reasons Dating A People Pleaser Is A TOTAL Turn Off!

These 6 steps can help you learn how to stop being a people pleaser, set boundaries and figure out how to say "no" without feeling guilty.

1. Recognize your people pleaser tendencies.

You may recognize yourself in the following people pleaser traits:

  • Saying "yes" to things you really don’t want to do.
  • Neglecting to speak up when you find yourself in uncomfortable and/or compromising situations.
  • Avoiding disagreements due to a deep fear of conflict.
  • Putting others needs before your own to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion and discouragement.
  • Ignoring the necessity of self-care.
  • Feeling an extreme sense of guilt on the rare occasion you say "no."

2. Accept the fact that not everyone will like you.

And that’s okay!

This will require you to learn to love yourself and increase your self-esteem. Learn to say no in a way that feels comfortable — but without excuses. Find a simple and truthful answer, then stick with it. In this case, less is more. You don’t want to open the doors for negotiation.

Try responses like, “I’m sorry, that won’t work with my schedule. Thank you for understanding," or, “Unfortunately, I am over-committed right now and can’t take on any more responsibility.”

3. Understand in advance that you will probably feel a sense of guilt.

The first few times you say no, it will feel awful. But keep in mind, this is false guilt. You’ve done nothing wrong. (And remember how much worse you would feel having said "yes" to another thing you didn’t want to do.)

RELATED: 10 Ways To Raise Precious Little Girls Into Strong, Capable Women

4. Start setting boundaries.

Look back at the patterns in your people pleasing history and learn from them. Set boundaries to prevent you from falling back into those patterns, such as committing to being true to your values, avoiding negative energy, and getting a good night’s sleep.

5. Let go of the people who purposely take advantage of your pleaser tendencies.

If possible, let them fall away from your life. If that’s not possible, create a healthy distance and prepare yourself by reviewing and confirming your boundaries to yourself any time you know you will be coming in contact with them.

6. Enlist a trusted friend or two to encourage you on your journey.

Make it clear you will be depending on them for encouragement as you learn how to stop being a people pleaser — and to celebrate your successes along the way.

Let them know also when you slip back into your old people pleasing behaviors, you will need their gentle patience and acceptance as you re-establish your footing.

Though these steps are solid and effective, they’re going to take practice, and transformation is going to be a slow process. As a people pleaser, you’re bound to experience success at the proverbial pace of two steps forward and one step back, and that’s okay. But you don’t want to stay there!

Keep in mind, too, there are healthy approaches to helping people — if it’s something you truly want to do and for which you have ample time or if you’ve negotiated with someone and have settled on a compromise with which you feel pleased. Those are healthy and life-affirming.

So, be aware, be present, and be intentional in how you live your life. Let your "yes" mean yes and your "no" mean no. Go forward into healthier relationships and a healthier you.

RELATED: The Surprising Danger Of Being Married To A People Pleaser

Nancy Kay is a counselor, therapist, and executive coach who helps people regulate and connect with their emotions, develop self-awareness, and better their communication skills. For more information, visit her website here.

This article was originally published at Self Aware 101. Reprinted with permission from the author.