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There’s nothing wrong with playing nice and getting along. But people pleasers rely on others’ approval to feel good about themselves. Saying “no” makes them feel guilty or worry that others’ will think they’re selfish, unreasonable, or inconsiderate. And so, in order to feel worthy and accepted, they said yes. And yes. And yes.
But constantly striving for others’ approval while ignoring your needs and well-being takes a toll. Though people pleasers may convince themselves that making others’ happy makes them happy, the self-administered pressure to manage others’ emotionscan be exhausting, anxiety-inducing, and even lead to depression.
Here are five ways to disrupt your people-pleasing. Is that okay with you guys? Because if it’s not, I can change them. Just let me know. Really.
1. Recognize the difference between people-pleasing versus simply being kind and generous.
Are you helping because it makes you feel good? Or because you feel less bad?
If helping out reinforces your values and makes you feel good, go for it.
For example, say you’re asked to head a committee at your kid’s school. If saying yes would underscore your value of contributing to the school community and make you feel happy and satisfied, even if it’s a bit stressful, go for it.
But if saying yes only allows you to avoid guilt, and makes you feel overburdened and resentful, you may be doing it for the wrong reasons. If you say yes simply to feel less bad, less anxious, less guilty, less sorry, it’s probably driven by people-pleasing.
This doesn’t mean you should stop being helpful and thoughtful and caring— it just means you should recognize whether you’re doing something because you actually want to, or because you’ll “feel bad” if you don’t. Recognizing the difference doesn’t make you selfish; it makes you honest.
2. Let your values be the driver of decisions
– not just whether you were asked or not. If the filter that decides whether or not to help out is, “Did someone ask me to do it?”consider changing out that filter. Instead, ask “Is this in line with my values and interests?”
Indeed, a 2013 study by happiness researcher Sonja Lyubormirsky recommended choosing activities related to one’s values and interests in order to maximize happiness. This can absolutely include serving important people in your life, organizations, and causes. Just make sure it doesn’t consist only of activities determined by others.
3. Practice being assertive
Healthy assertiveness can feel like brass-knuckled aggression to the people pleasers among us because the passive end of the spectrum is so cozy and familiar. But there is a long way between passive and truly aggressive. The aggressive among us just go for what they want, regardless of whether or not bystanders are harmed or what bridges are burned.
An assertive person, by contrast, commits to being polite and respectful. If you’re a people pleaser, you never have to leave behind being nice. You simply have to let go of trying to force others’ to be happy by doing whatever is asked of you.
So try increasing your assertiveness bit-by-bit. It will feel wrong to stand up for your needs and rights at first, but try it out.
Warm up by expressing an opinion when someone asks where you want to eat or what movie you want to see. Move on to politely disagreeing with Uncle Albert’s conspiracy theories, but listening respectfully and asking questions about his point of view. Then try saying “no” to a ridiculous request without bending over backwards to explain why. Keep calm and carry on, and eventually it will feel like second nature to meet others’ in the middle.
In sum, passiveness doesn’t respect you; aggression doesn’t respect others. Assertiveness lies in between, walking away from a discussion with respect for others— and yourself—intact.
3. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries doesn’t make you a bad person. You can’t please all people all the time. Unless you’re a box of Thin Mints. Then maybe.
These days, everything is extreme, from politics to weather to ironing. Spend even a couple of minutes on the internet and you’ll find an extreme split between views of the world: from being empathetic and caring to all humanity, or screw everyone and tell them what they can go do to themselves.
People pleasers fall into the former category, but worry if they say “no” or otherwise stop trying to make everyone happy, they’ll automatically be dumped in a second. In other words, the self-image of people pleasers hinges on every request. If they say yes, they breathe a sigh of relief—they’re still nice, good people. If they say no, they feel guilty, as if they hurt someone or did something bad. But it takes a lot more than saying “no” to watching your neighbor’s three disrespectful kids, while he watches football, to breaking your moral character.
4. Stop over-apologizing
People pleasers are always sorry. One of my clients joked she should introduce herself with “Hi, my name is Joanna, and I am sorry.”
People pleasers are always sorry.
If you’re a people pleaser, you mean only the best. Over-apologizing feels like it smooths things over and keeps others happy. But it can actually be a wee bit dishonest. Hear me out on this one: apologizing when you did nothing wrong makes it appear as if you were in the wrong. It’s an admission of guilt for a crime you didn’t commit. What’s more, it can make it look like others’ outrageous requests or poorly-thought-out actions were reasonable and justified. Save true contrition for the times you actually screw up (and we all do).
5. To sum it all up, be a people-respecter, not a people pleaser
Never hesitate to do the right thing. When your mother-in-law asks, go shovel her driveway. When your colleague asks, make a donation to get the office cleaning lady a nice Christmas gift. That’s just being respectful. But of all the people you respect, be sure to include yourself.
by: the Savvy Psychologist : 5 Ways to Stop Being a People Pleaser :: Quick and Dirty Tips ™
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Edited for readability