How to Break the People-Pleasing Cycle



Do you go out of your way to please other people so they will like you? Is it difficult for you to say no or express your opinion when it’s different from what others think or want? Do you often try to be a person others want you to be to fit in?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have what is called a people-pleasing pattern. This type of behavior can cause stress, anxiety, depression, and imbalanced relationships. People pleasers may not be consciously aware of their behavior; there’s a part of their psyche that wants to please others in order to avoid reactions that cause them to feel afraid. Such individuals have a problem setting boundaries. They want other people’s approval and, even more importantly, they want to avoid other people’s disapproval. For example, if someone asks a people pleaser for something, he or she often has a hard time not giving it, even if it goes against his or her own needs or wants.



A person who has a people-pleasing pattern will often take action without considering his or her own well-being. They might have difficulty getting what they want out of life and may feel resentful because people seem to always be taking advantage of them. People pleasing can be addictive and can cause a person to compromise his or her values and principles. They become addicted to the need for approval and to feeling good by making others happy as they pay attention to others’ needs ahead of their own.

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The way to change this imbalanced behavioral pattern is to stop thinking about what would make others happy and instead focus on your own needs. This isn’t to say that you should become totally selfish and never offer assistance to others. However, the greatest acts of kindness are those done by choice, not from a place of fear or guilt. If you’re doing things for others because you would feel bad 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’re neglecting yourself, is that really wise?

It’s important to recognize if you’re making decisions based solely out of fear of how others will react and learn how to make your own needs both a priority and known in a healthy way. Consider seeing a professional therapist to help you get you started building healthy self-esteem and move toward a life where you’re not dependent on others for approval or self-worth. Here are a few tips to help you step out of the pattern of people pleasing.

Learn How to Say No 

Start small by finding something small to say “no” to, and say it firmly and politely, yet mean it. You’ll be surprised—the world will not collapse around you. People rarely take offense, and those who do aren’t worth pleasing anyway.

Ask for What You Want

Remember that no one can read your mind. If you feel that you do a lot for others, but they don’t do anything for you, it may be because you’re not clearly expressing your needs or desires. You should not assume others know what you’re feeling or what it is you want. It’s also not another person’s responsibility to meet your needs if you have not clearly spoken about what those needs are. Be honest and express what you want, or if there’s a decision being made, openly share your perspective.

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Change How You Value Yourself

It’s noble that you want to help others. However, helping others should be something you 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.

Do Something for Yourself

Do one positive or creative thing that you want to do, but have not yet acted on because you feel concerned about others’ opinions. For example, you could get a massage, hike with a loved one, meet a good friend for lunch, or take a vacation. When you do something just for you, you will return to your life refreshed and more in touch with what you need and want. Connecting more deeply with yourself will help you make healthier decisions that will benefit you and everyone around you.


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