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A Therapist, coach, supervisor and neuroscientist

How to stop being a people-pleaser by Bobbi Banks
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Bobbi Banks

Therapist, coach, supervisor and neuroscientist

How to stop being a people-pleaser

People-pleasing doesn’t have to be a life sentence but it is a very common problem affecting people of all walks of life. So you might be wondering how to stop being a people-pleaser …

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The tell-tale signs of people-pleasers

Before we begin to look at how to stop being a people-pleaser let’s make sure we’re talking about the same group of people.

Typically people-pleasers are one of the nicest and most helpful people out there. They’re always there for everyone, they care, they listen, they provide support but unfortunately at the cost of their own needs and wellbeing.

I mean, think about it – is it realistic for someone to be able to provide unconditional support at any time without neglecting themselves? My guess would be no.

So, here are some of the tell-tale signs of people-pleasers. They often:

  • Fear being rejected or abandoned
  • Worry about other people’s opinions and feelings
  • Find it difficult to say “no” and set healthy boundaries with people
  • Seek the approval of others
  • Get stuck in unbalanced relationships (meaning they give more than they take)
  • Have a high sense of personal responsibility towards others
  • Neglect their own emotional needs
  • Are overworked, exhausted and burned out from taking care of others
  • Repress their true feelings and emotions

How to stop being a people-pleaser

I think this paints a pretty good picture of what makes a people-pleaser but the one thing which is at the root of it all is the deep, painful fear of rejection or abandonment. This fear drives pretty much everything a people-pleaser does.

Does this sound like you or someone you know? Keep on reading to understand the WHY behind people-pleasing.

The real reason behind people-pleasing

The first step to understanding how to stop being a people-pleaser is getting to the root cause of the problem. 

After all, people-pleasing is just a symptom hiding painful feelings and beliefs such as not being good enough or worthy of love. 

People-pleasers start off as parent pleasers.

Throughout my experience I have realised that such behaviours often evolve as a way to maintain a sense of connectedness to parents who were inconsistent and emotionally unavailable to their children.

Those were often parents who were going through a difficult time of their own and were too focused on their troubles to notice what their children were feeling.

The child, of course, picks up on this and starts to treat the parent in question as if they were fragile. They become the adult and take on the caregiving role, looking after the parent and tending to their feelings.

Because of not knowing how to secure and maintain that love and connection, the child normally starts doing all they can to earn the parent’s love and approval, and to be noticed. This often means being “perfect”, which eventually leads to becoming a high achieving perfectionist.

The trouble is that the parent’s behaviour generally has nothing to do with the child, but since the child doesn’t understand this it starts to internalise those feelings. They subconsciously start to associate the parent’s unhappiness with themselves and think that only if they were perfect they would be loved.

This is then carried into adulthood and reflected in romantic and platonic relationships.

So now the real question…

How to stop being a people-pleaser?

Step 1: Get to know yourself

It is important to know who you are in order to know when to say no to others and yes to yourself. Get to know yourself, your values and beliefs and create an image of the ideal self you want to become.

Below are some questions you can use to reflect and explore your people-pleasing tendencies:

  • What are my people-pleasing behaviors?
  • Where do I think those behaviors come from? What in my childhood could have led to this?
  • What is people-pleasing protecting me from?
  • What are my values?
  • What are my likes and dislikes?
  • What are my limits and things I don’t want to allow in my life?

Step 2: Drop the people-pleaser label

Saying “I am a people-pleaser” can become your identity. It can turn into a deeply ingrained belief you hold about yourself, which can impact your self-worth negatively.

It’s important to remember that your beliefs affect the way you feel and determine how you behave.

Beliefs affect feelings affect behaviors by Bobbi Banks

Step 3: Learn to say no

Knowing how and when to say no is an integral part to learning how to stop being a people-pleaser.

Overextending yourself and always saying yes normally leads to emotional exhaustion and a build-up of resentment. Saying yes when you want to say yes, and saying no when you want to say no can keep this from happening.

You can start by saying no to small requests. Try to keep your responses short without giving a long explanation as to why you’re saying no. Don’t volunteer your time and energy automatically, but only commit to what you really want to do. When learn to say no, your yeses will become more meaningful.

To help yourself do this you can write down different ways of saying no. Afterwards, practice them in front of a mirror until the negative feelings associated with saying no disappear.

Examples of how to say no by Bobbi Banks

Moving from exhibiting people-pleasing behaviors to speaking your own truth and putting yourself first is a process which takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. 

Be kind to yourself on the journey of learning how to stop being a people-pleaser.⁣ Notice where you make small changes and give yourself a pat on the back. As you do, your confidence will increase.

You will feel more encouraged to make bigger changes next time. Small steps are the key to success!⁣

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on people-pleasing. Follow me on Medium for more writing content or check out my blog.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links and I may earn a small commission if you use them. This comes at no additional cost to you and my goal is to provide the very best reviews and recommendations.

Please note that this content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not replace therapy. You can read my affiliate disclosure and disclaimers in my privacy policy.

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