Tame Your People-Pleasing Tendencies While Still Being True To You

Achieving Goals, Burnout, Confidence, Leadership Coaching, Mindset & Mindfulness
01/16/23 - Cait Swamy
woman smiling with balloon

There is a toxic behavior that is invading our culture known as people-pleasing. I’ve coached countless people-pleasers over the years. In fact, I myself am a recovering people-pleaser. It’s a tendency I’ve worked hard on rewiring within myself, and so I enjoy helping others do the same. Through my experience, I’ve found most people-pleasers genuinely love to help others. Service, empathy, compassion and connection are often what my clients who fall into people-pleasing would identify as their core values. These are all virtues that we seek in other humans. These values don’t go away by taming your inner people-pleaser. In fact, by taming your inner people-pleaser you’ll have more time and energy to make empowered choices about how you honor your core values. 

People-pleasing implies that there is no reciprocity for the people-pleaser. They give and give and give and often this leads to damaging impacts to their emotional and mental well-being. If you find yourself giving to the point of exhaustion or resentment, you are not living into your core values. The biggest thing for people-pleasers to reconcile is that when they can authentically live into their values, everyone involved gains something from the exchange, boundaries are honored, and there are no hidden agendas. You can tame your people-pleasing tendencies while still being true to yourself. 

The first step in taming your people-pleasing tendencies is to recognize that we all have an inner critic that sabotages us and keeps us from showing up in the way we want to. There are several signs that your inner critic is sabotaging you:

  • You’re exhausted and deprioritize self-care. 
  • You struggle with boundaries and saying no.
  • You feel guilty taking time for yourself if someone else needs you.
  • You believe you have to earn other people’s love and affection by helping, fixing, solving, and pleasing.
  • You neglect your own priorities to help others. 
  • You are one or more people’s go-to person, but there is no reciprocity. 
  • In your vulnerable moments, you might feel like nobody is there for you the way you are for them.
  • Your friends and family assume you “always have it all together.” You might even notice that some of your friends forget to ask how you are.
  • You struggle to ask for help, but you often dive in to “fix” or solve other people’s problems, even when it’s technically not your responsibility.
  • You believe it’s selfish to talk about yourself or your problems. 

If you identified with some or all of the items listed above, you likely have a people-pleasing inner critic. While it might feel impossible to change this dynamic, it ultimately will lead to burnout and become an unsustainable way to live. 

So what do you do to tame your people-pleasing inner critic while still being true to yourself? Here are a few tips: 

Start by noticing what brings out your inner critic and realize you have a choice. Awareness is the first step toward change.

Identify your priorities and the type of people you want to surround yourself with. By starting here, you can easily discern that something is a no when it doesn’t align with your life’s goals. 

Set healthy boundaries. Know your limits. Boundaries are the ultimate expression of self- love. Once you know your boundaries, communicate those needs to the people you love. Don’t be surprised when connections fade. The people who stick with you will applaud you and appreciate your ability to live an authentic life.

I’m a firm believer in the power of affirmations. Posting an affirmation somewhere that it is visible, like on your phone background or your mirror, can help reinforce your belief. Some people-pleasing mantras to experiment with include “No is a complete sentence” or “I am choosing to protect my peace” or “I don’t owe anyone an explanation.” Keep these affirmations visible and repeat them daily to reinforce your new belief.

Say No:
Come up with a list of all the different ways you can say no. Read them often and start to notice and listen to the people in your life who use them often. They might sound like “No, thank you” “I’d love to,m but I can’t” or “I’m so happy for you, I unfortunately can’t be there.” 

Ask for Time:
This means delaying the yes. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I have to check my calendar and get back to you.” The important thing about this is it gives you more time to evaluate your decision and see if it aligns with your goals. 

Regardless of how empathetic you are, you can be there for everyone. Once you can accept you can’t win everyone over and release that expectation the closer you can get to self-acceptance. 

Get Comfortable with Discomfort:
I’m not going to sugarcoat this, taming your inner people pleaser is not easy. At first it might trigger feelings of rejection, abandonment, or feeling imperfect. The truth is these emotions are part of the journey. The more you can sit with those emotions and embrace the discomfort, the less that can take power of you and your actions. 

Progress over perfection:
Start small. This could mean experimenting saying no with a close friend or role playing scenarios with a family member. Recognize that little by little by little by little is a lot. Incremental change will bring progress. 

Celebrate the wins:
As you make these incremental changes, recognize that taming your people-pleaser is HARD work. You’re doing the hard work and sitting with the discomfort that comes with setting boundaries and honoring your non-negotiables. Take time to celebrate your successes along the way. 

Save a “Recovering from People-pleasing” List:
Start a list in your phone of all the ways you’re learning how to stop being a people-pleaser. Each time you need a boost of confidence, refer to it.

Seek Support:
All of us can benefit from the support of a trusted neutral party. Working with an ALV coach can be a helpful next step in helping you Tame your people pleasing tendencies while still being true to you

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