Have you ever found yourself saying yes to plans or asks, only to regret it later? Being agreeable with others even when you feel differently? Extending offers to help others even when you’re too busy? Apologizing for things when they aren’t your fault? If so, this might be a sign you’re a people pleaser. While being kind, generous, loving, and empathetic to others is an incredible quality, this shouldn’t happen at the cost of your own happiness, time, or valuable resources.
“Taking time for yourself helps you hear and feel your own thoughts and desires,” explains Mariela De La Mora, life and business coach. “Also, taking time for yourself helps you refill your cup and when you do that, it starts to rewire you to enjoy taking care of yourself versus getting joy from making others happy.”
People pleasing can take its toll on the body and mind in many ways. It’s also not incredibly easy to spot.
“People pleasers tend to give too much credence to too many different people and they wind up being conflicted,” shares De La Mora. “I’d say another thing is that they do things for others with unspoken resentment, so if they were to talk about the things they’re doing in their lives, they’re not necessarily always happy about it, even if they say that they are.”
If you try to be everything for everyone else, you don’t leave enough time to build up your own ambitions, opinions, and fiery drive that makes you unique. This isn’t always easy. For those of us that like to say “yes,” the thought of saying “no” can be daunting and uncomfortable.
It is possible to gain back control, however. Keep reading for De La Mora’s guide on breaking out of people pleasing once and for all.
Remind Yourself of Your Goals
Regularly set time aside to check in with your greater goals—the “why you get up in the morning” drivers. This might make it easier to say “no” to the things that don’t align with your priorities.
Take a Pause
Did your friend just ask you to an event that you don’t want to go to? Did a colleague ask you to cover their work but you don’t have the time? De La Mora suggests taking a beat before answering.
“Regularly pausing is important because people pleasers tend to just be on autopilot and it isn’t always because they’re being asked or influenced,” explains De La Mora. “Sometimes it’s just their way of being and they will volunteer themselves, so pausing and checking in with yourself first and asking yourself, ‘What do I want? What do I think?’ And just let that gut reaction come forward.”
Starting small can be important because your people-pleasing tendencies may actually be rooted in layers that need to be unpacked.
“Ask yourself, ‘What am I afraid of or trying to prevent from happening?'” encourages De La Mora. “Often I think when we sit with what we’re trying to prevent from happening, it removes the fear from it. Ask yourself, ‘Is this a real fear? And could I be okay with that, even if that did happen?’ and I’d say thirdly, is asking the question, ‘What would I do if I couldn’t?'”
Stop Apologizing (If It’s Not Your Fault)
Don’t feel bad about prioritizing yourself and your needs. Apologizing to others isn’t what people-pleasing is actually about—it’s about you.
“People pleasing is not always outside circumstances or other people, it starts with themselves,” explains De La Mora. “You don’t even have to set a boundary with anybody else. You can just start with setting a boundary with yourself.”
Define Your Boundaries
Think about what resonates most with your authentic self. Some helpful questions to ask yourself: “How will this plan, task, or helping another person make you feel? Do you have the time without sacrificing your own needs?”
And when you do start setting your boundaries, remember that feeling discomfort is normal and part of the process.
“Discomfort is going to come with setting a boundary if you’re a people pleaser,” explains De La Mora. “Expecting it and letting it be okay ahead of time [will help].”
Boundaries are a vital component of this personal transformation, according to the life and business coach.
“Boundaries are self love. They are your way of honoring yourself and loving yourself,” she says. “In doing so, we model what love should look like and we also are able to better show up for the things and the people who matter most.”