The Pitfalls of People Pleasing: How to Overcome it and Reclaim Your Sense of Self

Apr 28, 2023

People pleasing is a common behaviour where individuals prioritise meeting the expectations of others over their own needs and desires. While it may seem like a positive trait to always put others first, people pleasing can have negative consequences that can impact mental health and well-being. People pleasers often struggle with setting boundaries, saying no, and may feel overwhelmed or resentful when they don't have time or energy for themselves. In this blog post, we'll explore the pitfalls of people pleasing, why it's a common behaviour, and how to overcome it to reclaim your sense of self. By the end of this article, you'll have a better understanding of how to prioritise your own needs and desires, set boundaries, and communicate your needs effectively to others without sacrificing your own well-being. 

The Root Causes of People Pleasing  

The root causes of people pleasing are complex and can vary from person to person. However, some common underlying contributors include a strong desire for acceptance and fear of rejection, low self-esteem, and a need for control. 

For many people, the need for acceptance and fear of rejection can drive them to prioritise others' needs and desires over their own. They may worry that if they don't please others, they will be rejected or viewed as unlikeable. This can lead to a constant need for validation and an inability to say no, even when doing so would be in their best interest. 

Low self-esteem is another factor that can contribute to people pleasing. When someone does not feel good about themselves or their worth, they may seek validation from others by going above and beyond to please them. This can result in a never-ending cycle of trying to please others to feel good about themselves. 

On the other hand, some people pleasing behaviours can stem from a need for control. By constantly putting others' needs and wants first, they may feel as though they are able to control the situation and prevent any potential conflict or negative outcomes. However, this often leads to a loss of personal autonomy and an inability to assert one's own needs and boundaries. 

To illustrate these points, consider the story of Sara, who struggled with people pleasing for many years. Sara was a chronic over-achiever, constantly seeking validation and praise from her friends, family, and colleagues. She would often take on more work than she could handle, saying yes to every request that came her way, even if it meant sacrificing her own personal time and well-being. Sara's behaviour was driven by a deep-seated fear of rejection and a need for control. She believed that if she could please everyone around her, she would be liked and respected, and that by doing so, she could control the outcomes of her relationships and avoid any potential conflict. However, over time, Sara began to feel overwhelmed, resentful, and disconnected from her own needs and desires. It wasn't until she sought help and began to address the root causes of her people pleasing behaviour that she was able to reclaim her sense of self and find a more balanced approach to her relationships. 


The Negative Impact of People Pleasing 

The negative impact of people pleasing can be significant and far-reaching, affecting not only your mental and emotional wellbeing but also your physical health, career, and relationships. 

One common consequence of people pleasing is difficulty in making decisions. When you are constantly focused on pleasing others, you may find yourself ignoring your own needs and desires, which can make it challenging to make choices that align with your values and priorities. For example, you may feel pressured to accept a job offer that you know isn't the right fit for you because you don't want to disappoint the person who recommended you for the position. 

People pleasing can also lead to feelings of exhaustion and burnout. When you are constantly prioritising the needs of others over your own, it can leave you feeling drained and overwhelmed. This can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and fatigue. For instance, you may agree to take on additional responsibilities at work because you don't want to let your colleagues down, but end up feeling stretched too thin and unable to keep up with your workload. 

In addition, people pleasing can leave you feeling unfulfilled in your personal and professional life. When you are focused on making others happy, it can be difficult to pursue your own goals and ambitions. For example, you may put off starting your own business because you are afraid of disappointing your family or friends who want you to pursue a more conventional career path. 

One example of the negative impact of people pleasing is the story of Sarah, a 30-year-old marketing executive. Sarah had always been a people pleaser, and she found herself constantly saying yes to her colleagues' requests, even if it meant working late into the night or on weekends. Over time, Sarah began to feel burnt out and resentful, as she realised that she was sacrificing her own needs and goals for the sake of others. She started to experience physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach problems, and her work suffered as a result. Eventually, Sarah sought therapy to work through her people-pleasing tendencies and learn how to set healthy boundaries. 

Overall, the negative impact of people pleasing can be significant and far-reaching, affecting all aspects of your life. It's important to recognise the signs of people pleasing and take steps to overcome it, such as setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and prioritising your own needs and desires. 

How to Overcome People Pleasing  

Set clear boundaries: One of the most effective ways to overcome people pleasing is to establish clear boundaries with others. This means identifying what you are and aren't comfortable with, and communicating these limits to others. For example, if a friend always asks you to do favours for them, you might say, "I'm happy to help you out, but I can only do so on Tuesdays and Thursdays." Setting boundaries can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and resentful. 

Learn to say "no": Learning to say "no" is an important part of setting boundaries. Saying "no" can be difficult, especially if you're used to always saying "yes" to others. However, it's important to remember that you don't have to say "yes" to everything. You can politely decline invitations or requests that don't align with your values, needs, or priorities. 

Prioritise self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential for your overall well-being, and it's an important step in overcoming people pleasing. Make time for activities that you enjoy, such as hobbies or exercise, and prioritise your physical and emotional health. This might include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga. 

Build self-esteem: People pleasing often stems from a lack of self-esteem or a fear of rejection. Building self-esteem can help you feel more confident and secure in yourself, which can in turn reduce your tendency to people please. To build self-esteem, try setting realistic goals for yourself, focusing on your strengths, and practicing self-compassion. 

Seek support: Finally, if you're struggling to overcome your tendency to people please, it can be helpful to seek support from an expert. Our practitioners can help you identify the root causes of your people pleasing, develop coping strategies, and work on building your self-esteem. 

Implementing these strategies may take time and effort, but the benefits of overcoming people pleasing can be significant. By setting boundaries, learning to say "no", prioritising self-care, building self-esteem, and seeking support, individuals can reclaim their sense of self and live a more fulfilling and authentic life. 

The Benefits of Overcoming People Pleasing  

Overcoming the tendency to people please can have a profound impact on your life. By setting boundaries, learning to say no, prioritising self-care, and building self-esteem, you can reclaim your sense of self and live a more fulfilling life. The benefits of doing so are numerous. 

One of the most significant benefits of overcoming people pleasing is increased self-confidence. When you are able to set boundaries and prioritise your own needs, you send a powerful message to yourself and others that you are worthy of respect and consideration. This, in turn, can lead to more fulfilling relationships with others, as you are no longer sacrificing your own well-being to please others. 

Another benefit of overcoming people pleasing is a greater sense of personal agency. When you are able to take control of your own life and make decisions that are in alignment with your own values and desires, you feel a sense of empowerment that can be truly transformative. 

Finally, overcoming people pleasing can also lead to a greater sense of fulfillment in life. When you are able to prioritise your own needs and pursue your own goals, you are more likely to experience a sense of purpose and meaning in your life. 

In conclusion, people pleasing can be a challenging pattern of behaviour to overcome, but it is possible. By taking practical steps such as setting boundaries, learning to say no, prioritising self-care, and building self-esteem, you can reclaim your sense of self and live a more fulfilling life. I encourage you to take action today and start making changes that will help you break free from the cycle of people pleasing. 

If you would like more support in overcoming people pleasing, please consider reaching out to us at Re-MIND Institute for a chat about how our programs might best benefit you. Remember, you deserve to live a life that is true to your own needs and desires, and with a short term investment of time, energy and money, you can make that a reality.