Declare Your Independence: 7 Tips to Get Freedom from People-Pleasing


Tell me if this sounds familiar:

You are swamped with work when a colleague comes and asks for your help. You say yes. Or, you go out with a friend and decide to see a movie. You would like to see a thriller but she loves romantic comedies. You say yes even though you think they are very cheesy and don’t really like them. Your cousin is moving and asked for your help. You had plans already so you tell him you can’t do it. But, then you felt so guilty about refusing that you called him back and told him you will find the time.

If you can see yourself in these situations, then you may be a people pleaser.

Let’s get things straight. It’s normal and healthy to let other people influence us. If we didn’t, we might never watch what we eat or get enough exercise. If you refuse to care what anyone else thinks, you might not be able to make your relationships work. On the other hand, if you care too much about what they think, you may be a people-pleaser.

People-pleasers have a hard time saying “no* because they need outside validation. Their security and self-confidence rely on the approval of others.

Do you worry what others will think if you say “no?”  Does it bother you that someone might think that you are lazy, uncaring, or selfish? You may be afraid of getting rejected because they won’t like you if you don’t do what they want, whether it’s friends, family, co-workers or that new man you started dating.

You may not realize that people-pleasing can cause serious problems for you. You can damage your budding relationship with a new man by solely trying to please him rather than trying to get what you want.

Not only does it give you a lot of pressure and stress, but you can make yourself sick. When you overcommit, you probably get less sleep and become more anxious and upset. You may feel resentful, exhausted, and overwhelmed. You can’t possibly do it all.

Asking for what you want and saying “no” to what you don’t want can be very beneficial for you.  If you don’t take care of yourself, nobody else will. You need time to rest and rejuvenate so that you can spend your time doing what you value.

How will you make your own decisions and feel solidly behind them when you let others influence you to the point that you doubt yourself?

If their opinion of you is more important than your own, what happens if they don’t like you? It simply isn’t possible for everyone to like you. Do you really want to be unhappy because someone else’s opinion matters so much?

The good news is that you can stop being a people-pleaser, become more assertive, and say “no,” whether others like it or not. Here are some ways to get started:

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #1: Recognize Your Choices

You may feel like you have to say yes when someone asks for what they want. You always have the choice to say “maybe” or “no.” Remember that you have other choices too and try to figure out what would make you happy.

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #2: Know Your Priorities

When you are aware of your values and priorities, you can more easily see how they conflict with the other person’s desires. “If I spend Saturday helping Mom, I can’t get my project done. Maybe I can just offer to help her for an hour.”

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #3: Don’t Rush Decisions

Whenever possible, find a way to take time to think over your decision. There is nothing wrong with delaying your answer. You can say you need to check your appointment book, or you need time to figure out what else is going on that week. Find out the details about what they want you to do so you can know exactly what you are agreeing to do.

Ask yourself: “How stressful will this be? Do I have time? What will I give up? Will I resent spending my time this way?”

If they insist on an immediate answer, you can just say “no” because you can’t commit so quickly.

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #4: Be Respectful

The best way to say “no” to someone is to acknowledge their point of view so that they feel heard and understood. “I know you have a lot to do to get ready to move, but unfortunately, I have a big project at work that week and I won’t be able to help.”

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #5: Take Baby Steps

Start small. Begin with people whose rejection will not scare you as much. Ask your waitress to put your dressing on the side. You can gradually move up to bigger and bigger challenges.

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #6: Self-soothe.

Reassure yourself about the choices you are making, even if they are a little scary and unfamiliar. Remind yourself of your values, goals, and priorities, and boundaries. You might say “I am a little nervous about this, but it’s good for me to do it.”  “I made the decision that’s right for me.” or “I’m sorry he got upset, but if he really cares about me, he’ll respect my boundaries.”

Freedom from People-Pleasing Tip #7: Celebrate Success

People-pleasers often focus on what went wrong rather than the progress they are making. Become more aware of times when you handle a situation more assertively than you did in the past.

Bottom Line: 

You’ll never please everyone, so why not please yourself?

You can’t make other people happy. The only thoughts and feelings you can change are your own. You will be happier if you seek your own approval rather than that of others.


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