How To Stop People-Pleasing And Start Living Your Life
You’re not on this planet to please everyone; you’re here to live.
Wanting to please people isn’t a bad thing. Wanting to please everyone, at the sake of your own happiness, is a whole different story.
For a long time, I struggled with a syndrome I call “not wanting to rock the boat.” I avoided conflict like it was my job; I never wanted to hurt someone’s feelings.
So I nodded during conversations I didn’t agree with. These included a few sexist remarks at work and from friends of friends that clearly needed a reality check.
I allowed my boyfriends to berate me instead of considering if their allegations were well-founded. I caved to their wishes instead of considering what was best for me first.
I said yes to doing things I really hated. I’d coyly stand near the food table at parties where I only knew the host, secretly wishing they at least had a dog for me to pet.
I changed how I acted, based on who was around. If a friend was more conservative, I acted the same. If I was with a laid-back friend, I became laxer. If both were in the room, I’d be a neutral zombie.
And where did all of that lead me to? No boundaries and a need for approval from everyone I met.
Yep, I said it. My people-pleasing actually ended up causing more harm in the long run. Sure, maybe I made people comfortable at the moment, but that actually did me more damage. And it may have done my relationships more harm in the long-run too.
People-pleasing isn’t the only way to be nice with people; there are ways to speak your opinions and criticisms in a kind, caring way. It’s called being charming, of which, people-pleasing is not.
People-pleasing is acting nice while also being detrimental to your mental health.
In a way, people-pleasing is one or all of these things: dysfunctional, dishonest, and manipulative.
Luckily, it’s completely viable to change your ways. Heck, it’s actually necessary and healthy to change your people-pleasing ways.
You’re not living your unique existence on this planet to please everyone. You’re living to enjoy this journey. You can’t do that if you’re putting others above yourself.
So here are a few ways to stop people-pleasing and start living your life:
Start becoming aware of your ways
If you’re like me, you’ve been people-pleasing for so long that you might not even realize you’re doing it. In that case, you need to cultivate a little something known as awareness.
Start to realize when you say “yes” even though all you really want to say is “no”. Take note when you feel like you’re putting on a show for people. Realize what scenarios cause you to become quiet and not speak up. Become aware of what situations make you feel drained.
Define what your boundaries look like
I feel like “boundaries” should be the word of 2019 and for a good reason.
People are starting to realize how important it is for them to preserve their energy and mental sanity. We do that by setting boundaries.
You create your boundaries by defining what your morals and values look like. Prioritize the things happening in your life and knock off anything that you’re giving too much energy to.
Make sure you’re putting yourself first when creating boundaries. You can’t use excuses like “well, they’re family” and “but I have to, they work with me” if you’re trying to create authentic boundaries.
Learn to say no, even when it’s uncomfortable
You can’t say yes to everything. If you don’t believe me, watch Yes Man! with Jim Carrey and see how well that worked out for him.
You need to get comfortable with saying no. That only comes with practice.
You can start little. Saying “let me think about it” and then later letting your co-worker know you can’t make it to their house-warming party is a bit easier to get used to.
Then, work up to saying no to the things you really don’t want to do. You may think people will be upset with you, but you’d be surprised how wrong you could be.
Create stricter limits with people
I know you love your friends and family, but we only have so much energy to give. If you know you have a busy day and need some time to wind down after, let your loved ones know they can call you from 8–10 pm.
If you want an entire day off to yourself, let people know you’re not available on Saturdays. Sundays work fine, though.
If you allow people to take up your energy whenever they please, you’re allowing your energy to be at the mercy of others.
Don’t do that. Set limits with people.
Practice saying “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.”
Go back to the first tip I gave and start becoming aware of how much you say sorry. It’s wild how much some of us unconsciously throw around “I’m sorry” when it’s completely unnecessary.
I used to say sorry when I asked to try more than a couple of flavors at an ice cream store. I’d say sorry when a friend helped drive me to the airport even though they offered. I apologized for expressing my feelings in my relationships.
Instead, what I needed to say was thank you.
“Thank you for helping me try all bomb.com ice cream flavors!”
“Thank you for driving me to the airport; I really appreciate you!”
“Thank you for listening to how I feel and allowing space to talk about things.”
Ah, that sounds much better.
Know that other’s emotional states are not yours to worry over
As people-pleasers, we tend to think we can mind read. Instead of letting people come to us with how they feel, we assume the role of a detective and try to uncover their true feelings as to “fix” things.
But other people’s emotional state is not yours to worry over. If someone is hurt or upset, it’s their responsibility to let you know.
Focus on your own well-being and be a great friend/daughter/partner to the people in your life. That’s all you need to do.
Allot time for yourself that no one can take-up
Shift the focus on pleasing others to pleasing yourself (not meant to be sexual, unless you want it to be. In which case, you do you. Literally).
Allot time throughout your week that is yours and only yours. Don’t allow people to impede on this time.
You show up as your best self for others when you are being your best self. Investing time into activities you love and taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do for anyone in your life.
In the wise words of Mr. Carrey himself:
“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.”
- Jim Carrey
Stop seeking to please everyone and start existing in this world exactly how you want to.
Sign up for my newsletter to get articles and advice on improving your relationships with others and yourself sent straight to your inbox.