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Fed Up With People-Pleasing? 5 Things You Can Do Differently

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It’s funny how life serves up lessons in such a timely manner. Do you know what I mean? Take today, for example. I woke up early with my day planned out: 

Drop the daughter off at school. Hit the gym. Write. Therapy appointment for my ankle. Write some more. 

My writing topic for the day? People-pleasing. More specifically, how to change people-pleasing behavior.

Easy peasy. I couldn’t wait to dive into my outline and start writing.

Then, a text. A friend checking to see if I had plans. They needed some help with a project. It would take nearly the entire day. Nothing critical. Nothing urgent. Just helping her make a job easier.


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Torn Between Yes and No

My instinct, of course, was to say yes. Even though that would mean bailing on a training session I’ve already paid for, rescheduling the ankle therapy that I desperately needed. And most importantly, blowing off the writing that I committed to. 

I sighed deeply, with a sinking stomach, and texted back that unfortunately, I could not help out today. 

And hours later, it still bothered me.


Because I’m a people-pleaser.

I struggle with overcoming my need to drop what I’m doing for everyone else. I feel bad when I can’t help someone. And I hate the thought of letting others down. 

Thanks, Life, for giving me more flavor for my post. But also, thanks, Life, for the reminder that for some of us, learning to say no without guilt takes intention and practice.

The thing is, I sincerely wanted to help. I thought about it all day long.

Why did I feel so bad for saying no? And how can I get better at saying no when I need to? Without guilt? Without feeling bad?

Do You Struggle to Say No?

Do you struggle to say no in almost all situations? Then you, my friend, just might be a people-pleaser.

Maybe you’re the kind of person that just naturally gives a lot. And that’s awesome. The world can always use more givers.

Wanting to help others does not make you a people-pleaser. But taking on feelings of responsibility and guilt when you can’t help? Well, that does make you one.

If you’re a helper and a giver by nature,  you need to remember that you can’t always do it all. Sometimes, no is necessary. 

Examples of Pleasing Behavior

You’re a people-pleaser if you do things to keep others happy or keep the peace, even if it’s something you don’t really want to do. 

You find that you change how you act around certain people just to make them feel more comfortable.

You’re a people-pleaser if you behave and speak in ways that you think will make others like you more or accept you.

Maybe you like to cut up and have a silly sense of humor, but you hold it back around people who are more serious.

Or you have a laid back parenting style and being around more structured moms makes you feel like you need to alter your parenting behavior when you’re around them. (I’ve been there!)

You find yourself saying yes to nearly everything:

No, you don’t want tacos for lunch and it doesn’t work for your eating plan, yet you go along with the group anyway.

And no, you aren’t really up for pet-sitting your co-worker’s dogs.

But there you are, keeping Spot and Dot over the weekend and that is limiting your free time because they can’t be left alone for too long and need frequent walks.

If this sounds familiar, you need to know that it’s not serving you to run around trying to make everyone else happy at your own expense.

People-pleasing is not kindness. Let me repeat that. People-pleasing is not kindness.

And being someone that you think others expect you to be is getting you nowhere.

Other People-Pleasing Habits and Behavior

  • You say yes to things you really don’t want to commit to, and then feel resentful about it. 
  • You take on too much and then find yourself spread thin and overwhelmed.
  • You feel responsible for how someone feels – especially if they are unhappy or angry.
  • You apologize a lot even when things aren’t your fault.
  • You want people to like you and it bothers you when they don’t.
  • You struggle to find and use your authentic voice.
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The Problem with Worrying About Making Others Happy

You’re giving up part of who you are when you change or alter your thoughts, words, opinions, behavior.

It takes away from your path, your success, the things you want to accomplish and how you want to spend your time.

Putting others first to make them happy, when done too often, can take away from your happiness.

There is a difference between selfish behavior and putting your needs first..

You aren’t valuing yourself and your desires when you put them on the back burner and put everyone else’s above yours.

You take on other people’s problems and emotions which is very bad for your mental health.

Learn to Change Your Behavior 

Breaking this habit of trying to make others happy is hard. (Ask me how I know.)

But it’s important to make changes so that you can stop trying so hard to please others and instead learn to be yourself.

Here are 5 Things to Remember:

Recognize that you are not responsible for other’s feelings. You don’t own how they feel. They do. 

Set boundaries. It’s okay to set limits on what you will accept regarding how people treat you and what they ask of you. The boundaries you set for yourself are personal and can also be flexible. Setting boundaries basically means identifying the rights you set for yourself and choosing to adhere to them.

Keep this mind that the word “no” is a complete sentence.


See? There it is. Just like that.

When you tell someone no, you don’t have to explain. You don’t have to make excuses. You don’t have to soften it or make it better. 

Remember you can be kind and say no at the same time. If you’ve been in the habit of making decisions based on pleasing others for a long time, you might be fed up.

Maybe you feel resentment. Feel your feelings, but don’t respond in anger or frustration.

Take some time to formulate how you want to respond if you need to, and respond with calm and kindness.

Understand that when you start to change your behavior, some people may not like it. They have become used to you accommodating them and their needs. So be prepared for some pressure or push back when you begin to assert yourself.

If they get irritated or angry, remember that you can’t control what others think of you and it really isn’t your business anyway.

Quotes About People-Pleasing

Here’s a quick list of quotes that can help remind you to manage your people-pleasing tendencies.

If you go about trying to please everyone, there’s going to be endless struggles.

Sonny Bill Williams

Seeking approval and people-pleasing forces you to alter your actions and speech to no longer reflect what you actually think or feel.

Mark Manson

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Steve Jobs

“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” 

Ed Sheeran

“When you say “yes” to others, make sure you aren’t saying “no” to yourself.”  

Paulo Coehlo

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