Are You ready to Break Free from People-pleasing?

If you’re a people-pleaser, you know how stifling this habit can be. When you’re always trying to please other people, you can never be who you truly are and you can never feel really free. I know, because I used to be a people-pleaser. Since this is a hard habit to break, sometimes I fall off the wagon. But now, when I do, I catch myself much more quickly and say to myself, “That’s the Old me. The New me knows who she is and what she wants.”

The reality is that it’s impossible to please everybody because each person has different expectations depending on their individual life experiences; our experiences shape how we see the world, and how we behave and expect others to behave. More importantly, trying to please everybody is a losing battle. You lose yourself. Your freedom. And the life you’re meant to live.

People-pleasing is a symptom of deeper issues. If you have self-worth issues, you’ll want to say yes to everybody to make them happy in the hope that you’ll feel accepted and liked. If you’ve been bullied over a period of time, you might unconsciously decide to stop being yourself in the hope that if you start to be who they want you to be, it’ll put an end to the bullying. If you’ve experienced maltreatment when you were younger, you might have decided to try to please the people who mistreated you hoping they would treat you better, and people-pleasing became a habit.

Here are a few tips:

  • Instead of pretending to agree with everyone, which can lead to going against your values, you can listen politely to other people’s opinions. It doesn’t mean you agree with them. You can express your opinion after they’ve finished stating theirs. Open-minded discussion is healthy.
  • Instead of trying to make someone happy – which is an impossible task because each individual is responsible for their own emotions and happiness – you can observe and recognize how your behaviour influences others. You’re not responsible for how other people feel.
  • Instead of apologizing automatically when someone blames you for something, or criticizes your behaviour, you can calmly ask that person questions to find out what the issue is. If you did in fact do something wrong, you can apologize, and accept that fact without judging yourself – we all make mistakes. If the other person is criticizing you or accusing you unjustly, simply state that fact. For example, if they criticize your decision about a personal health issue, you can calmly say, “This is my choice. I make my own decisions about my health. I ask that you respect my decisions as I would respect yours.” You don’t apologize for being you.
  • Instead of filling your schedule with activities other people want you to do, you can decide how you want to spend your time. Select only the activities you really want to do. This way you won’t feel burdened by all the things you have to do and you’ll enjoy more freedom.
  • Instead of denying that you’re angry, hurt, sad, disappointed, you can speak up. Otherwise, you won’t be able to form authentic relationships with people. Given our current situation where in-person contacts are rare, we don’t need more superficial relationships!
  • Instead of needing praise to feel good about yourself, you can practice self-love. Sure, it’s nice to get compliments and praise, but if your self-worth is based on what others think about you, you’ll only feel good when others praise you. For tips on self-love, check out my blog entitled Is something missing in your life?
  • Take baby steps. Start getting out of the people-pleasing habit by saying no to something small. Say what you think about something simple. Stand up for something you really believe in. With each step you take, you’ll gain more confidence in being yourself.

That’s the way to freedom and to the real You. And that’s how you’ll create the life you want and deserve.

Sylvie Grégoire