You’re a people pleaser, and you know it.  But isn’t being there for your friends a wonderful thing? Shouldn’t wanting to please the people you love most be considered an admirable and honorable thing?  And helping others in need is a service of the heart, right?

When, then, do these incredible acts of generosity crossover from healthy, life-affirming deeds to unhealthy and life-squelching endeavors?  The answer is simple – when they become stressors.  
You may recognize yourself in the following pleaser traits: 

  • Saying yes to things you really don’t want to do.
  • Neglecting to speak up when you find yourself in uncomfortable and/or compromising situations.
  • Avoiding disagreements due to a deep fear of conflict.
  • Putting others needs before your own to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion and discouragement.
  • Ignoring the necessity of self-care.
  • Feeling an extreme sense of guilt on the rare occasion you say no.

Repeat After me: NO IS MY FRIENDS
Life Coach, Claire Hodgson, of Burn the Corset and Authentic Marketing, gives five tips to help you learn to stop being a people pleaser.  They are:

  1. Accept the fact that not everyone will like you, and that’s okay.  This will require you to learn to love yourself and increase your self-esteem.  
  2. Learn to say no in a way that feels comfortable – but without excuses.  Find a simple and truthful answer, then stick with it.  In this case, less is more.  You don’t want to open the doors for negotiation. “I’m sorry, that won’t work with my schedule. Thank you for understanding.”  “Unfortunately, I am over committed right now and can’t take on any more responsibility.” 
  3. Understand in advance that you will probably feel a sense of guilt the first few times you say no.  But keep in mind, this is a false guilt.  You’ve done nothing wrong.  (And remember how much worse you would feel having said yes to another thing you didn’t want to do.)
  4. Start setting boundaries Look back at the patterns in your people pleasing history and learn from them.  Set boundaries to prevent you from falling back into those patterns, such as committing to being true to your values, avoiding negative energy, and getting a good night’s sleep.
  5. Let go of the people who purposely take advantage of your pleaser tendencies If possible, let them fall away from your life.  If that’s not possible, create a healthy distance and prepare yourself by reviewing and confirming your boundaries to yourself any time you know you will be coming in contact with them.

    Now let’s be candid.  Though the five steps given are solid and effective, they’re going to take practice and transformation is going to be a slow process.  As a people pleaser, you’re bound to experience success at the proverbial pace of two steps forward and one step back and that’s okay, but you don’t want to stay there!!  For that reason, I would add another tip:

  6. Enlist a trusted friend or two to encourage you on your journey.  Make it clear you will be depending on them for encouragement and to celebrate your successes. Let them know also when you slip back into your old behaviors, you will need their gentle patience and acceptance as you reestablish your footing.

Keep in mind, too, there are healthy approaches to helping people – if it’s something you truly want to do and for which you have ample time or if you’ve negotiated with someone and have settled on a compromise with which you feel pleased. Those are healthy and life-affirming.

So, be Aware, be Present, and be Intentional in how you live your life.  Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no and go forward into healthier relationships and a healthier you.  

~Nancy S Kay


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