Stop Being a People Pleaser

If you're a "people pleaser", then people are always taking advantage of you. You're also probably not getting what you want out of life. Stop thinking about what would make others happy and focus on what you need. It's time to shift the focus from others to yourself. After all, it can be difficult to improve your own life when you're too busy accommodating others.


Short-Term Solutions

  1. Learn how to say "no". Don't make up excuses—give your reasons for not wanting something.
    • For example, your husband wants his entire family to come to Christmas dinner, and you just can't face it. Say, "I'm sorry darling, I find the pressure of entertaining such a large number of people intolerable."
    • Your best friend wants you to go with him to a party that will be full of people that you can't stand? Say, "No thanks, Bob. It's just not my scene." You don't have to say "Seriously, Bob? Your friends are all jerks and I gag a little when I see them." A simple "no, thanks" will generally suffice.
    • Start small by finding something small to say "no" to, and say it firmly. Say it politely, but mean it! You'll be surprised—the world will not collapse around your ears! People rarely take offense, and those that do aren't worth pleasing.
  2. Ask for what you want. If everybody's going to the movies, and most people in the group want to see a particular movie, but you'd rather watch something else, speak up! It doesn't mean you get to watch the movie you want, necessarily, but who knows—maybe there are others in that group that would prefer to see your choice, and were people-pleasing too!
    • There's nothing wrong with voicing your opinion, and it doesn't have to mean you're making a demand. Simply reminding people that you're an individual with your own preferences is a big step forward.
    • Even asking someone to help you do something will help. Ultimately, you must remember that no one can read your mind. If you feel that you do so much for others, but they don't do anything for you, maybe it's because you don't express your needs or desires. It's not fair to make people pry an answer from you. If they ask you what you want, or if there's a decision being made, put in your opinion, and let that be that.
  3. Do something for yourself. Do one thing you have been wanting to do, but feel afraid someone else will not like. Heck on 'em. Do it anyway!
    • Dye your hair, get that new look, have a treat that you enjoy, go on holiday, or go see that movie you like but nobody else wants to see!
    • Whatever you do, do it for yourself, and practice not worrying what anyone else thinks. Don't get caught up in doing things "their way" just because no one else wants you to do them "your way."
    • Remember that there ought to be things that you truly want to do for yourself, regardless of what anyone else thinks, not in spite of it. Other people's opinions are a factor in our lives, but they should not be the determining factor.
  4. Compromise. While it's not good to be a pushover, it's no better to be a manipulative bully or a reckless rebel. Don't become totally selfish. In fact, many people pleasers have low self-esteem. So do those who are selfish. It is best to develop good self-care skills which include healthy assertiveness skills.
    • You can listen to others, but ultimately, what you do is your choice. Keep a balance!
    • Sometimes the needs of other people should come first. Whenever there's a conflict of desires, try to come up with a solution that will meet both desires halfway, or better yet, a "win-win" situation where both sides get even more than they bargained for.

Long-Term Solutions

  1. Examine your fears. Are they realistic? Are they truly terrible? You might be afraid that no one will like you, that someone will leave you, or that you will be left all alone if you don't say the right thing. That is a prison you have trapped yourself in, and it's time to unlock the doors and walk out!
    • The people around you may be used to your compliance, but if they're not willing to accept that you have your own needs, are they really worth having in your life?
  2. Evaluate your boundaries. Compare those to the limits you set on others. To what extent are you willing to restrict your openness to being used by others?
    • What is acceptable behavior for you and what is unacceptable? Being able to analyze this factor allows you to measure what can be done for others and what shouldn't be done for others in a much more objective manner.
    • Is that the same for you and for others?
    • Do you tolerate the intolerable? Normalize the abnormal? Accept the unacceptable? Do you know what it feels like to be treated with dignity and respect?
    • Learn how to identify and label unacceptable treatment from others and how to set limits on their behavior when they violate your boundaries.
  3. Consider the source. Many people pleasers were raised in environments wherein their needs and feelings were pushed aside, not considered, or even belittled. Being able to identify and understand the source allows us to better understand ourselves, and to better eliminate our being a "people pleaser".
    • Were you always expected to anticipate and mold yourself to everyone else's needs? Were you expected to shoulder the family's need at a young age?
    • Did you learn that the only way to receive a positive response was to do what others wanted you to do? That if you did not do what they want, they would disapprove of you and berate you?
    • If so, here's a newsflash—not all the world wants a pushover. By focusing on pleasing others, you open yourself up to manipulation and abuse. You will never reach your potential as an individual if you are constantly imprisoned by others' expectations. Eventually, when people have had enough of your services, they will not recognize you for your true worth: but for the number of errands you can do for them.
  4. Stop basing your self-worth on how much you do for other people. It's noble that you want to help others, but it's something you should do because you want to, not because you feel you have to. The willingness to help others should come after you know how to help yourself.
    • The greatest acts of kindness are those done by choice, not out of fear or guilt. If you're doing things for others because you would feel afraid or guilty if you didn't, is the action really genuine? Would you want others to help you under those terms? And, if you're helping others to such an extent that you are neglecting yourself, is that really wise?


  • Some telltale signs that you're too entwined in the lives of others include: you are either passive or aggressive, with little or no give and take in between; you never seem to be having any fun; you are constantly controlling or being controlled; you are often in a hurry, usually for no reason.
  • Never think that the world around you will collapse if you fail to please a person. There are always new friends to find, and if the "friend" you were trying to please leaves you because you did not please him or her, he or she is not your friend and it's good that he or she left. However, keep doors open just in case your friend realizes the mistake he or she made.
  • Be yourself. How do you expect people to like you if they don't see who you really are. There is one way and that is by showing them the person you are when you are alone, the person you know and love. This makes you true, original and interesting. Be your own brand, you don't have to fit anyone's stereotype, maybe you are what they are looking for. Take the chances, to get something you never had you have to do something you have never done.
  • Don't worry about what other people think of you. You shouldn't have to do what they want or look how they want you to. It is your life and others need to know it and accept it.
  • In some cases, being a "people pleaser" might be a code for being codependent. If you're interested, consider reading Codependent No More, a seminal work on the subject, or find a Coda meeting, or other resource. Be aware that this is a self-help driven topic and not everyone agrees with the concept of co-dependency as posited by the authors in this area.
  • Be persistent. If this is a lifelong habit, it will not be easy to overcome. Maintain enough self-awareness so that you realize when you are being a "pleaser" and put the brakes on it every time (to begin with). Eventually, it will become a habit that you can moderate when the situation calls for you to be more flexible. The rest of the time—have it your way.
  • Keep your mouth closed when you realize that the other person is not pleased with you.


  • Trying to please people all the time leaves you open to constantly being taken advantage of.
  • Don't blame others for your decision to change. Don't say "I had to do this because of you"! Remember that you are deciding to change for yourself.
  • Note that expressing your own desires requires first your awareness of what they are, which requires conscious and consistent practice. For instance, your partner says "Let's have hamburgers for dinner" and you may really think "Whatever is fine by me" while, it is only "fine" because you never make that choice. Take the few extra seconds to consider it. Or, where do you go when you are alone? Tell him or her that's where you would like to go this time. Do not be concerned about what is a good opportunity to practice and what is not.
  • Some people may take time to adjust to the new you. Don't apologize for being you, but be gentle with them!
  • Some things you may want to do may not be workplace-safe. If you really need your job, think twice before mouthing off or getting a pink mohawk and five piercings—especially if you have to be at the investment bank in the morning.
  • Some people may seem to reject the new, more assertive, less roll-over you. Although you may have been afraid to change at first, understand that other people may be as well, and may not understand that their rejection is not so much aimed at you as much as it is aimed at themselves. Just as you might have thought to reject your desires, so might others reject theirs and yours in turn only because they think that is what is good for the both of you! Be patient with such people. Just as you were capable of understanding that change is nothing to fear, others will come to realize this in time. You can do much to inspire people and calm their own fears by resisting your own.
  • Sometimes you need to compromise. Try to please people sometimes.

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