The Dangers of Being a ‘People-Pleaser’ and 7 Expert Ways to Overcome It

Do you always say ‘yes’ to everything because saying ‘no’ makes you feel bad? Would you rather try to stay silent than speak up? Are you always trying to make peace? You, my friend, are a people-pleaser.

A people-pleaser is a person who tries hard to make people around them happy. They’re kind and agreeable, and will go above and beyond to meet other’s expectations. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, on the surface, being a people-pleaser sounds like it can only be a positive attribute, but when you dig a little deeper there are some dangers and it could lead to burnout. Here are the biggest dangers of being a people-pleaser and seven expert ways to outgrow it

How can I tell if I’m a people-pleaser?

People-pleasing is a surprisingly common habit where a person finds it hard to say no to others. They often have an emotional need to please others, usually at the expense of their own needs.

A people-pleaser will go above and beyond to meet other’s expectations and often feel that their own needs are selfish. They can become preoccupied about what others think and feel, which means they are neglectful of their own needs. They’ll often pretend to be agreeable, suppressing their own emotions and often saying 'yes' when they really mean 'no'. They will constantly shuffle their own priorities to accommodate other’s needs, even if they resent having to do so.

This often puts them in a situation where they are exhausted, emotionally drained and on the brink of burnout from trying to take care of others. Put simply, a people-pleaser prioritises others needs over their own needs, every single time. 

What are the dangers of being a people-pleaser?

There are many hidden dangers of being a people-pleaser because most people will assume that it’s a positive trait. After all, being kind and accommodating is considered to be the makings of a good person. But at the heart of it, it’s a habit that can affect the people-pleaser, along with the people that they are pleasing.  

1. People take advantage of you 

One of the biggest dangers of being a people-pleaser is that people can take advantage of you. Often this can happen without them or you, even realising. People can assume you will take care of things, pick up the slack or not mind if they treat you poorly. 

2. Stuck in bad relationships

A people-pleaser can find themselves stuck in bad relationships where the dynamic is based around them constantly giving, but never getting anything in return. 

3. You’re constantly seeking approval from others

Being a people-pleaser often means that you’re striving for approval, acceptance and even love from other people. This means your entire sense of self-worth can be weighed on someone else’s opinion of you (which is never a good thing). Validating your self-esteem or sense of self from other’s opinions is a dangerous road to travel on because you’re not viewing yourself from the right lens. 

4. You suppress a lot of emotion 

People-pleasers often keep a lot of their true feelings hidden away because they continually go with the flow to ensure others are happy. This means you likely suppress a lot of emotion, which can be dangerous to your own mental health. The emotions you can start to feel range from suppressed frustration, anger, hatred, bitterness, stress grief and the list goes on. Keeping these feelings inside can lead to chronic mental illness. 

5. No one knows the real you 

Going against your true responses in life means that you are essentially hiding some of your true self away from others. This means you’re not really being authentic and your relationships can suffer, often hindering you from having deeper, more valuable connections. You can also start to feel lonely, unseen and disconnected from others. 

How to stop being a people-pleaser

1. Say ‘no’ more often 

Saying ‘no’ is a habit that probably doesn’t come easily to a people-pleaser, however, it can be a great way to start outgrowing your need to please. Remind yourself that ‘no’ is a complete sentence and you don’t have to come up with an array of excuses as to why. If saying ‘no’ is hard, start using phrases like “let me get back to you” so you can give yourself some time to think about how to respond. 

2. Stop apologising

If saying ‘no’ starts coming with an apology, try to stop doing that as well! You don’t need to apologise for prioritising your own feelings (most other people do it and never say sorry for it).

3. Focus on building your sense of self-worth 

People-pleasers often validate their self-esteem by getting approval from others, however, letting go of that habit means you need to start building your self-worth on your own. Take charge of your own happiness and look at ways you can increase your confidence and start speaking your truth.

4. Pay attention to your own feelings

Rather than dismissing your own needs, make a point to stop and consider your own feelings. A great way to do this is to use the tactic of telling people you will get back to them, rather than giving them a ‘yes’ straight away. This will give you time to decide what you truly want and honour those feelings instead of suppressing them. 

5. Start setting boundaries 

If you’re finding yourself constantly feeling used by people, start setting some clear boundaries. Understand what is considered as fair and appropriate behaviour from others and have discussions with those close to you about what is now acceptable. Rather than waiting until things feel uncomfortable, voice your own needs, wants and expectations. 

6. Make time for number one - AKA, YOU!

If you don’t look after your own needs, chances are no one else will. Set aside time each day and week to make time for number one - yourself. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, make time for it and prioritise it over other’s needs. 

7. Talk to someone 

If you are struggling to break the habit of people pleasing, try to talk to someone about your concerns. It can be a close family member or friend, ideally someone that isn’t taking advantage of your people pleasing ways. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone close to you, reach out to a professional. A psychologist can help you understand your habit and arm you with tactics to learn to break it. 

Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.

Can't tell whether you have burnout or you're just tired? A psychologist differentiates between the two here.

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