5 practices to help you stop being a people-pleaser

Are you a Silent Suzy or a Passive Pamela? This is how to set boundaries and stop being a people-pleaser, writes Niamh Ennis


We all want to be liked. Admit it. We want those around us to like who we are, what we have to say and how we show up for them. We want their approval. 

It’s not that unusual but so many of us are reluctant to admit it. I think mostly because we worry about being called people-pleasers or that some might think we are desperate. So desperate to be needed or loved that we will forsake our own needs for those of others.

That sounds pretty desperate alright doesn’t it, but I challenge you to ask yourself honestly does this sound like you? 

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I believe there are people-pleasers in all of us. 

But the real question should be “how much are you willing to give of yourself in order to please others?”

Are you the Silent Suzy who rarely expresses her own opinion for fear of upsetting or offending anyone else? Do you find yourself keeping your own thoughts and feelings to yourself and nodding along in agreement despite an internal desire to yell ‘oh good god no!’ Are you guilty of compromising your feelings if it means people will like you?

Or is there a Passive Pamela in you that ends up going with the flow to places you don’t want to be, with people you’d rather not engage with all to avoid offending anyone? Do you find yourself minimising your own feelings and needs in favour of other peoples’?

Does Malleable Maeve ring a few too many bells? Are you the one that everyone always turns to when they need something done because you’re just so flexible and always willing to help? Do you do things out of a feeling of obligation when deep down you are screaming “no, not me, ask someone else, anyone else!”

If you are any of the three I’ve described above you will already know that you’re a people-pleaser. But let me just reassure you. This is not always a bad thing. It’s good to be someone that people can rely on, that doesn’t cause arguments and that isn’t provocative. What we need to monitor is the frequency with which we become these people and, ultimately, the cost to ourselves.

When we repeatedly deny our own feelings and needs we disconnect from ourselves until we reach the point that we no longer know what we feel or think because we have become so used to ignoring it.

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Every time we say yes instead of no, when we say nothing instead of speaking up, or we choose to go with the flow instead of going where feels right, we are denying a part of ourselves and every time builds on the last. Then slowly, over a period of time, we lose ourselves. Until we don’t actually know who we are anymore or what we want from our lives. 

Have you asked yourself recently ‘who am I really?’ or ‘who do I want to become?’ The chances are you haven’t, for fear of what you might hear back, but if you have and felt you weren’t able to answer it then that’s why. When we repeatedly deny our own feelings and needs we disconnect from ourselves until we reach the point that we no longer know what we feel or think because we have become so used to ignoring it. 

So what can we do to stop from doing this? What can we do that will bring us back closer to who we really are?

  1. Stop. Literally decide right now that you are no longer available for this. Keep repeating this “I am no longer available for anything that doesn’t feel right for me”.
  1. Write down all the times you can remember where you said yes instead of no. Record how they made you feel and what you really wanted to do or say. It’s a good way also to track your progress and to remind yourself of what habits you are changing.
  1. Ask for more time. When someone asks you to do something have your response ready ‘let me check that before I commit. I’ll come back to you'. This will give you time to ask yourself are you being true to yourself and others in your life with your intended answer. 
  1. Never over-explain or over apologise – ‘that sounds like a fun evening, unfortunately I’m not able to make it, but do enjoy yourselves'. No is always a full sentence. Read that again if you need to.
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  1. Remember this – people who are the most difficult to please are more often than not, the least worth pleasing. You deserve to be valued. Start with valuing yourself. If it feels wrong just don’t do it. 

There are people-pleasing tendencies in all of us. As children we learn very quickly how to please those around us in order to get what we want, namely love, food and security. For most of us, the lucky ones amongst us, we had access to these anyhow we just didn’t know it. But as we get older our need to be accepted and to belong increases and with that comes the misguided belief that we can only achieve this by hiding parts of ourselves.

So choose to start stepping out of your own shadow. Find the courage inside of yourself to choose what feels right for you and not for anyone else. Listen to what it is you know you need. Believe that you deserve full access to your heart's desires and acknowledge that this one beautiful life is yours to have if you choose it. 

Let go of your people-pleasing ways and learn to replace them by putting your needs first. 

You’ll be better for it and, ultimately, so will they.

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change & Transformation specialist and founder of the RESET system.

Niamh works with women who are navigating change in their lives. She is hosting her next online workshop ‘The RESET Workshop' on June 30th. Click here to register or visit www.niamhennis.com

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Read more: How I learned to stop being a people-pleaser (and how you can too)

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