If you’re a “people pleaser,” you may be someone who feels they are often taken advantage of. You’re also probably not getting what you want out of life. It’s time to shift the focus from others to yourself more often, and stop being a martyr to niceness. Here’s how to make the transition and stop being a people pleaser.
Examine your fears. What would happen if you didn’t do what you think others want you to do? Is it realistic? Are it truly terrible? You might be afraid that no one will like you, that someone will leave you, or that you will be left all alone if you don’t say the right thing or do what someone else wants you to do. That is a prison you have trapped yourself in, and it’s time to unlock the doors and walk out!
- The people around you may be used to your compliance, but if they’re not willing to accept that you have your own needs, are they really worth having in your life?
Evaluate your boundaries. Compare those to the limits you set on others. To what extent are you willing to restrict your openness to being used by others?
- What is acceptable behavior for you and what is unacceptable? Being able to analyze this factor allows you to measure what can be done for others and what shouldn’t be done for others in a much more objective manner.
- Is that the same for you and for others?
- Do you tolerate the intolerable? Normalize the abnormal? Accept the unacceptable? Do you know what it feels like to be treated with dignity and respect?
- Learn how to identify and label unacceptable treatment from others and how to set limits on their behavior when they violate your boundaries.
Consider the source. Many people pleasers were raised in environments wherein their needs and feelings were pushed aside, not considered, or even belittled. Being able to identify and understand the source allows us to better understand ourselves, and to better eliminate our being a “people pleaser.”
- Were you always expected to anticipate and mold yourself to everyone else’s needs? Were you expected to shoulder the family’s need at a young age?
- Did you learn that the only way to receive a positive response was to do what others wanted you to do? That if you did not do what they want, they would disapprove of you and berate you?
- If so, here’s a newsflash — not all the world wants a pushover. By focusing on pleasing others, you open yourself up to manipulation and abuse. You will never reach your potential as an individual if you are constantly imprisoned by others’ expectations. Eventually, when people have had enough of your services, they will not recognize you for your true worth: but for the number of errands you can do for them.
Learn how to say “no.” Don’t make up excuses — give your reasons for not wanting something.
- Your best friend wants you to go with him to a party that will be full of people that you can’t stand? Say, “No thanks, Bob. It’s just not my scene.” You don’t have to say “Seriously, Bob? Your friends are all jerks and I gag a little when I see them.” A simple “no, thanks” will generally suffice.
- Start small by finding something small to say “no” to, and say it firmly. Say it politely, but mean it! You’ll be surprised — the world will not collapse around your ears! People rarely take offense, and those that do aren’t worth pleasing.
Ask for what you want. If everybody’s going to the movies, and most people in the group want to see a particular movie, but you’d rather watch something else, speak up! It doesn’t mean you get to watch the movie you want, necessarily, but who knows — maybe there are others in that group that would prefer to see your choice, and were people-pleasing too!
- There’s nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, and it doesn’t have to mean you’re making a demand. Simply reminding people that you’re an individual with your own preferences is a big step forward.
- Even asking someone to help you do something will help. Ultimately, you must remember that no one can read your mind. If you feel that you do so much for others, but they don’t do much for you, maybe it’s because you don’t express your needs or desires. It’s not fair to make people pry an answer from you. If they ask you what you want, or if there’s a decision being made, put in your opinion, and let that be that.
Do something for yourself. Do one thing you have been wanting to do, but feel afraid someone else will not like. Heck on ’em. Do it anyway!
- Dye your hair, get that new look, have a treat that you enjoy, go on vacation, or go see that movie you like but nobody else wants to see!
- Whatever you do, do it for yourself, and practice not worrying what anyone else thinks. Don’t get caught up in doing things “their way” just because no one else wants you to do them “your way.”
- Remember that there ought to be things that you truly want to do for yourself, regardless of what anyone else thinks, not in spite of it. Other people’s opinions are a factor in our lives, but they should not be the determining factor.
Compromise. While it’s not good to be a pushover, it’s no better to be a manipulative bully or a reckless rebel. Don’t become totally selfish. In fact, many people pleasers have low self-esteem. So do those who are selfish. It is best to develop good self-care skills which include healthy assertiveness skills.
- You can listen to others, but ultimately, what you do is your choice. Keep a balance!
- Sometimes the needs of other people should come first. Whenever there’s a conflict of desires, try to come up with a solution that will meet both desires halfway, or better yet, a “win-win” situation where both sides get even more than they bargained for.
Stop basing your self-worth on how much you do for other people. It’s noble that you want to help others, but it’s something you should do because you want to, not because you feel you have to. The willingness to help others should come after you know how to help yourself.
- The greatest acts of kindness are those done by choice, not out of fear or guilt. If you’re doing things for others because you would feel bad if you didn’t, is the action really genuine? Would you want others to help you under those terms? And, if you’re helping others to such an extent that you are neglecting yourself, is that really wise?
Adapted from How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.