The pitfalls of people pleasing
February 01, 2024

The pitfalls of people pleasing

Break free from people-pleasing & prioritize self-care.

IYKYK: The art of making others happy is a noble (and often, rewarding!) pursuit. But when it comes at the expense of your well-being, it's a slippery slope.

Are you a perpetual ‘yes’ person, always putting others' needs before your own, fearing disapproval, and finding it hard to decline requests? If so, you probably identify as a people pleaser. And trust us, we get it. 

In a world that praises selflessness and sympathy, the line between genuine compassion and people-pleasing blurs. In turn, it leaves many of us caught in a web of prioritizing others—particularly when our own energy tank is low. 

With that in mind, we’re diving into the subtle signs of a people-pleasing mentality. Plus, we’re unveiling how these tendencies can impact your well-being. More importantly, we'll unravel practical strategies to break free from the people-pleasing cycle. And rest assured, there’s no need to sacrifice your compassionate nature.

Signs you’re a people pleaser

  1. Difficulty declining requests: You find it challenging to say no or set boundaries, even when it stretches them thin.
  2. Fear of disapproval: A constant need for approval (and fear of disappointing others) drives many of your behaviors.
  3. Neglecting personal needs: You’re frequently putting others' needs consistently before your own, neglecting self-care.
  4. Over-apologizing: You apologize excessively, even for things beyond your control.
  5. Avoidance of conflict: You go to great lengths to avoid conflict, even if it means suppressing their true feelings or needs.
  6. Feeling overwhelmed: Overwhelm is a daily or weekly sensation, due to taking on too many commitments or responsibilities.

How can people pleasing be damaging to your health?

In more ways than one, people-pleasing has adverse side effects. For example, chronic stress. The constant effort to please others can lead to chronic stress, impacting mental and physical health. In fact, it can manifest in an irregular (or absent) menstrual cycle! Additionally, it compromises mental health. Neglecting personal needs/suppressing emotions often contributes to anxiety, depression, and diminished self-worth.

Of course, people-pleasing can lead to strained relationships. As your own needs take a back seat, you’re more likely to feel resentful, lash out, and sweep your feelings under the rug (and these aren’t constructive behaviors in relationships). Last but not least, continually prioritizing others over yourself may result in a loss of identity—and a weakened sense of self.

How to change your people-pleasing behaviors

So, how can you start to pivot away from people-pleasing? Consider the following six steps our guide to reclaiming your own needs.

  1. Set boundaries. Learn to say 'no' when necessary. Set clear boundaries (and communicate them!) to protect your time and energy. This isn’t being selfish, it’s being self-protective.
  2. Prioritize self-care. Schedule time for self-care activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Taking care of yourself enables you to better care for others. Said differently: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
  3. Communicate openly. Practice open communication, expressing your needs, feelings, and opinions in a respectful and assertive manner. As time goes on, this will get easier.
  4. Challenge approval-seeking behavior. Reflect on the root causes of seeking approval and work on building internal validation rather than relying solely on external approval. Journaling can help with this!
  5. Learn conflict resolution skills. Develop skills to navigate conflicts constructively rather than avoiding them. Healthy conflict resolution is essential for maintaining authentic relationships.
  6. Cultivate self-awareness. Regular self-reflection helps you become more aware of your motivations and behaviors, paving the way for positive change.

These steps alone can pave the way for better self-care, honoring your needs, and supporting your health.