Do you routinely do your best to make others feel happy? While this isn’t always a bad thing - it’s good to want to help others out and spread cheer - too much time spent trying to please people can negatively affect you.
Are you simply trying to be helpful or are you too much of a people pleaser?
There are some common signs that people pleasers exhibit:
1. You lie about your personal preferences in order to ‘fit in’ with what others want.
If you find yourself not voicing your opinion or ignoring your personal preferences when someone else decides what’s going to happen, you’re trying too hard to please them.
For example, your friend group is planning a vacation. One of your friends decides the group is going to the mountains. You want to spend your one and only vacation week at the beach, but you don’t raise any objections to the mountains. Instead of causing any conflict, you keep your preference to yourself to please your friend. The rest of the group might really prefer the beach, but they’re all people pleasers too.
2. You have a hard time saying no to anything.
If someone asks you for your help or asks you to do something, do you say “no” if you really don’t want to help? Do you say “no” if their request conflicts with your schedule? If not, it’s time to examine what lies behind your reticence to tell them you haven’t got the time (or inclination!) right now.
Ignoring your own desires, responsibilities, and limitations is not only difficult to manage - it really wears you down. When you don’t honour your boundaries, you’re likely to end up with more promises and responsibilities to others than you can handle.
3. You act like the people surrounding you.
People pleasers often mirror the behaviour of other people. For example, pretend you’re at a dinner party. One of the other guests might tell a really inappropriate joke–instead of speaking up or walking away, you might laugh right along with the others, even if you really disagree with the attempt at humor. Rather than risking upsetting the less-than-funny guest, you decide to be pleasing and laugh instead.
While this behavior can seem innocent at first, acting like others in a group in order to please them can snowball into dangerous territory. If someone believes that you totally agree with them, they'll eventually assume that you’ll go along with the other ideas and suggestions they make.
4. You don’t have many of your own opinions to share.
Serial people pleasers have a hard time responding to questions that require them to express their actual opinions on a topic. If a friend asks you for your opinion on a controversial current event, you may have a hard time articulating your personal thoughts on the matter.
People pleasers often don’t form opinions because they normally don’t need to express them–instead, they agree with the opinions formed by their friend group, spouse, coworkers, or any other group they’re trying to please.
5. You have a hard time sticking to your personal beliefs and values, which often leads to guilty feelings later.
This is a huge trait of people pleasers, who will often agree to do something or take part in an activity that goes against their personal beliefs and values. Afterward, they’ll feel immense regret or guilt.
Rather than telling the person you have personal objections to whatever they’re asking you to do, you go along with the activity and then handle the guilty feelings later. Besides going against your personal beliefs and values, the feelings of guilt can feel even more crushing after the fact. Not sticking up for what you believe to be right can lead to a lack of self-esteem and lack of confidence. It’s then a downward slide into feeling like you don’t know who you are anymore.
How can you stop being a people pleaser?
Find a counsellor or life coach to help you uncover why you seek to please others and guide you towards a stronger sense of self, so that you can set proper boundaries.
Why did you become a people pleaser?
Often, it’s because you want to feel safe and fear making others angry. Somewhere along your journey in life, you picked up the belief that if you don’t fit in with what others want, you won’t be safe. Yet there’s a difference between feeling safe and being safe.
There’s a saying about there being ‘safety in numbers’ meaning the bigger the group, the easier it is to survive. Which is fine, unless they’re all running towards the cliff edge. It may ‘feel safe' to run along with them, but when you reach the finish line, you won’t actually ‘be safe’ because you’ll simply topple over the edge with the rest of them. Not a good move.
Who taught you to be a people pleaser?
Journalling is a great way to delve into childhood and school memories to examine how the people surrounding you interacted with others. Young children model the behaviour, beliefs and values of the people around them, whether they be parents, caregivers, siblings, friends, or the wider social network. After all, it’s how children learn to navigate and survive in the world. Whose beliefs have you taken on?
Once unpacked, the next step is to hold the new insights up to the light and examine whether they are indeed true or helpful. Probably they won’t be. But you can’t change something if you don’t know it’s there, and that’s the point of your journal. It’s the starting point for clarifying what your thoughts and beliefs are in order to know what you need to work on.
Have a list of suitable ways to say ‘No’ and learn them off by heart.
Practice responses and use them instead of saying ‘Yes’ when you really mean ‘No way.’ Try these and add a few of your own and practice saying them over and over to your reflection in the mirror. If saying these makes you feel nervous and you’re worried that your voice will squeak, simply lower the tone of your voice and you’ll sound less Minnie Mouse and more Confident Catwoman.
· Thanks but I’ll have to pass. I’ve got too much to do already. Which is a softer way of saying, ‘Do I look like I’ve got time to take on your crap?’
· I can’t for the foreseeable future, but perhaps you could try… This is a great deflection technique to get them to look elsewhere for help or at least think of how else they can get the task done.
· I would love to help, but I can’t squeeze in anything else at the moment. With this you’re showing you appreciate they have a need, but you’ve got enough shit of your own to deal with, thank you.
· Unfortunately, I can’t help with that. This phrase can be tweaked in various ways as part of the ‘scratched record’ routine for those that don’t want to take no for an answer, such as…
Sorry, would love to help but I’ve got to rush, I’ve got loads to do.
Oh no, you poor thing, unfortunately you’ve asked me at an awkward moment.
I simply can’t help you out right now.
Like I said, I can’t help you. I’m overloaded as it is.
Anyway, you get the picture, there are lots of ways to say no!
It’s important to stick to ‘No’ and not budge or give any leeway.
One response to avoid is “I’ll have a think about it and let you know later.”
Because you can bet your bottom dollar, they’ll be contacting you soon to ask for help again. It’s best to be firm from the outset, because otherwise you simply delay having to deal with their request.
You don’t owe them an explanation.
‘No’ is a complete sentence and whatever it is they want you to do, you’re not interested. Don’t explain yourself or attempt to give a convoluted answer or roundabout reason why you’re not available. You owe no one an explanation.
You’re not their PA or maid.
If you have someone in your life that repeatedly asks you to carry out tasks on their behalf, help them out with this and that, then you need to be clear within yourself that you’re not their personal assistant or their maid. Some people are exceptionally clever at seeking others to run errands for them. A genuine friend wouldn’t want you to run yourself ragged doing their chores.
"When you say yes to others, make sure you aren’t saying no to yourself." – Paulo Coehlo
Be prepared to lose people.
When you have a pattern of people pleasing that you’re trying to break, particularly with friends, there are those that have been so used to you being on hand to help them, they’ll react when their go-to source of help goes off grid. Most likely, they’ll act sniffy with you. They’ll try many manipulative ways to reel you back in and try to make you feel like a bad person for not being at their beck and call.
Be prepared to lose those people and understand that truly, if they don’t appreciate that you need to spend your time and energy on yourself, it’s no enormous loss when they fall off your radar.
Yet, you may feel like your feelings are undulating all over the place and you feel vulnerable. The reason is that we’re all wired to be social creatures because eons ago, being part of a group used to be necessary to keep us safe. Being kicked out of the tribe could lead to many dangerous scenarios. So, it makes sense when we’re given the cold shoulder that it brings up a fear of not being liked or safe.
Perhaps it’s time to stand that idea on its head and realize that it’s safer and more enjoyable to surround yourself with people that will support you instead of using you.
It's time to consider whether your friend in need is really a friend indeed!
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