The Insightful Question That’s Teaching This People-Pleaser To Stand Up For Herself

The easy way to check in with yourself, learn to set boundaries, and honor your needs.

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For most of my life, I was more concerned with other people’s needs than my own. Looking back, I realize it’s the result of both nature and nurture. I’m a sensitive person who’s more at ease when the people around me are happy. But it was also ingrained in me as a child that my needs were not a priority.

If I got sick as a child, I still had to go to school because my caregiver didn’t want to stay home. They also didn’t want to give me rides anywhere, so I had to arrange carpools with other parents. If I had an issue with someone, I was typically told I was to blame. 


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To put it mildly, it was a less than ideal situation. I was taught to suppress my needs from a young age.

If you’re a fellow people-pleaser, you know the world is full of folks who are happy to take advantage of your giving nature. Givers and takers are almost magnetically attracted to each other. After a while, the pleaser can start to feel upset and used.

For many years, I blamed others for my issues. Why did they have to think only of themselves? I thought if I set an example they would learn to be more considerate. But most takers don’t learn how to give.


As I matured I finally realized it’s my responsibility to ensure others don’t take advantage of me. We as pleasers need to self-advocate by expressing our needs and setting proper boundaries.

The old adage that “we teach people how to treat us” is very real. If as a people pleaser we constantly forego our own needs, others will do the same. While it may be difficult, we need to advocate for ourselves and not rely on others to do it.

If you’re a people pleaser, you may not always be certain what your needs are and when it’s appropriate to express them. Like anything else, being a good self-advocate takes practice.

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So, when I’m unhappy or frustrated, I’ve learned to ask myself:

What does honoring myself look like in this situation?

This question has a way of shining a light on what the real issue is. I use it when I suspect others are treating me unfairly or when I’m not taking care of myself. It’s helped me many times over the years.

Example 1: The Late Friend

A friend was chronically late for our get-togethers. I’d given her a lot of leeway and was getting increasingly frustrated. 

After asking what honoring myself looked like, I decided to say something. Without getting angry or accusatory (e.g. “You don’t care about my needs!”) I asked her to be more mindful of our meeting times because I didn’t appreciate being kept waiting. She immediately apologized and is typically on time now.


Example 2: The Inconsiderate Friend

After arranging dinner at a new restaurant with a friend, she started complaining that she’s always the organizer among her friends and we never made plans for her. Normally, I’d have kept quiet about the fact that it was actually me who made the plans that night. In fact, I often made the plans when we got together. 

After asking myself the famous question, I decided to politely point out my efforts. She scoffed: “Oh, Ellen…” which made me realize she took that effort for granted. I replied that if she didn’t appreciate it when I made plans, I’d no longer do it. She reached out a few days later to apologize.

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Example 3:  Finally Asking For Help

I recently joined a new co-working space. After struggling for half an hour to get onto the WiFi, I decided maybe this wasn’t the right place for me. I felt defeated and unsupported. 


Finally, I asked myself the question of the hour and realized I simply needed to ask for help. Like many people-pleasers, I almost never ask anyone to assist me. In fact, I do it so rarely that I often forget it’s an option. I don’t like the thought of inconveniencing people. But the staff were happy to help, and the front desk was (eventually) able to remedy the situation.

I realize asserting yourself is challenging for a people pleaser. Trust me, I struggled in all of these situations. But each time you stand up for yourself, you teach yourself and those around you that you’re worthy of the same consideration and kindness you give others. It gets easier over time as you realize that the Earth doesn’t fall off its axis when you finally ask for what you need.

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If you’re a people pleaser, I encourage you to try the question: “what does honoring myself look like in this situation?” It allows you to recognize when you need to assert yourself and what you need to feel like your needs are being met. Remember, no one else will do it for you, so it’s time to finally take care of yourself.

Ellen Eastwood is a freelancer, pop-culture enthusiast, and contributor to Yourtango.