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How to Stop Being a People Pleaser: 5 Tips to Say No

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Summary: Being a people pleaser can lead you to stress and lack of confidence, and ruin your relationships. Here are a few ways to stop and reasons why.

We all know there’s a fine line between being generous and being a people pleaser. And maybe, a few of us have even struggled with it.

When we try so hard to accommodate everyone’s feelings, we tend to forget about our own boundaries. The truth is, we can’t please everyone and sometimes trying to do so, might break relationships, rather than make them flourish.

That’s the very heart of a podcast episode of Honest Conversations (exclusive for Mindvalley Members) with Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, co-founder of Mindvalley, and transformational coach Hailey Magee.

Taking insights from their heartfelt discussion, here’s a dive into what it means to run on this pattern of caring excessively for the needs of others:

You may slowly find out that you can create a life where you put yourself first, without being selfish. And that will bring you the connections you truly dream about. It all starts with yourself.

Hailey and Kristina
Hailey Magee and Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani, during a podcast episode of Honest Conversations

What Is a People Pleaser?

People pleasing is when someone puts other people’s dreams, needs, and aspirations ahead of their own. It’s a compulsive behavior to care for people even when it means letting go of yourself in order to do so.

Hailey describes the people-pleasing syndrome as chronically sacrificing yourself for the ones around you. You may often feel like you are a second character in your own story and you’re not living for yourself anymore. And maybe you’ve never learned how to do so.

Main Signs That You Are a People Pleaser

Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into a never-ending cycle of caring for others without realizing you’re doing so. Here are a few signs that may indicate the tendency to people-please:

  • Saying “no” is really difficult for you
  • The need for constant approval
  • Low self-esteem and self-respect
  • You tend to agree in order to be liked
  • Setting boundaries makes you feel guilty
  • You don’t usually take time for yourself
  • Other’s opinion of you makes you feel anxious
  • Constantly apologizing even if you know it’s not your fault
  • Feeling afraid to be seen as selfish
  • Not sharing your feelings with others

Of course, from time to time, you might catch yourself trying to please people and that’s also part of human nature. However, the real goal is to liberate yourself from patterns that are holding you back from living authentically and in connection with yourself and others.

Reasons Why You Might Be a People Pleaser

People pleasing can stem from various causes that impacted your life in one way or another. Here go a few of the more common reasons:

  • Environment. Being raised in an environment where your emotional needs for being seen, valued and listened to aren’t met creates an unconscious pattern of being a people pleaser, explains Hailey. 
  • Role in relationships. Marisa Peer, world-renowned Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) trainer and trainer of Mindvalley’s Uncompromised Life Quest highlights one of the roles people play in relationships: the carer. So if you think that there’s no one around to fulfill your needs, you become the person who takes care of everybody else in order to be loved.
  • Feeling unsafe. Hailey points out that oftentimes when you tend to please everyone around you, the reason behind this is not feeling safe and secure within a relationship. So you keep yourself quiet and small to feel safe. You might unconsciously believe that your relationships will end if you set boundaries and put yourself first.

Letting go of belief systems that no longer serve you may be somehow difficult, but it’s 100% possible. And sometimes it’s helpful to understand the long-term consequences of constantly draining your energy for others.

people pleaser

Why You Can’t Please Everyone

Realistically, we really simply can’t please everyone. Yet, a 2022 survey by YouGov found that 49% of Americans identify themselves as people-pleasers — women more than men.

The constant need to put others’ needs before your own can leave you feeling drained and depleted. And here comes the danger of being a people pleaser. This state of mind can seriously affect your emotional and mental health. 

The real goal isn’t to be liked by everyone; rather, it’s about you liking yourself no matter how many people you have around you or how much praise you can get from others. You may be surprised that in a state of peace and acceptance of who you are in every moment, you will attract genuine connections and more desirable things than you can imagine.

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser: Tips From Mindvalley Experts

As Hailey puts it, “Breaking a pattern is all about looking within.” And once you admit that you’ve been running your relationships on pleasing other people and forgetting about yourself, here are some tips from Mindvalley experts to liberate yourself and go deeper within:

1. Start setting (small) boundaries

Hailey encourages you to slowly practice setting boundaries and saying no. You can take the first steps by starting with small things that you don’t want to do. 

Take, for example, choosing a restaurant that you truly want to go to. Or deciding where you want to go on the next hangout you’re invited to. 

Focus on the simple things that you neglect because you think they don’t matter in building self-love and self-respect. And then just practice until you feel more comfortable.

Leaning into the discomfort of setting boundaries is no easy task but it will dramatically change how much energy you save for yourself. And as Hailey says, it’s true that “one of the most challenging things of boundary setting is that we can control if we set a boundary but we cannot control how other people will take it.”

You may think of that and find it terrifying. However, this is why you slowly build your resilience toward saying those big no’s that you feel deeply.

people pleasing

2. Take up (your) space

As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons for being a people pleaser is feeling unsafe so you compress yourself. Sometimes you may be afraid of taking up your space in a relationship and owning your voice.

But Hailey suggests asking yourself, “What would your life look like long-term if you didn’t own who you truly are?” How do you feel in that life? What are the consequences?

Of course, it’s easier said than done. However, the same rule applies: slowly but surely. You may not feel like turning your life upside down in a heartbeat. And that’s okay. You may, however, think of what you can control right now. And focus on what’s in your control every step of the way.

3. Meet your dragons

What Kristina encourages you to do is meeting your dragons — in other words, facing your shadows. A lot of times people tend to be people pleasers because they’re actually afraid of what they may find if they look inside themselves.

But you may be surprised; you might even like it. Or you could realize that it’s really not as bad as you thought it would be. Just imagine for one moment that you’d start putting yourself first. What part of you would come up? 

Kristina highlights that you can run away from your emotions. But the unacknowledged feelings will just pile up somewhere inside you and explode at some point. The only way out is through, as the saying goes. 

So don’t be afraid to dive deeper into your process of shadow work. You’ll notice that behind people-pleasing behaviors hide some hurt parts of yourself that want your love and attention.

4. Switch off autopilot

Having moments of awareness will improve any areas of your life, not just help you deal with people pleasing. So Kristina recommends practicing moments of awareness with curiosity and no judgment.

Just observe how you feel when you catch yourself putting other people’s needs before your own or agreeing to do something although you actually feel like the answer is a no. What would you truly say at that moment?

“Awareness allows you to switch off autopilot and add space to your living experience,” explains Kristina. By just creating awareness, you make room for a different response to situations where you’re functioning off old patterns. 

being a people pleaser

5. Embrace your unf*ckwithable mindset

Founder of Mindvalley, Vishen defines the concept of being unf*ckwithable as truly being at peace and in touch with yourself. Additionally, nothing anyone says or does bothers you and no negativity can touch you.

Vishen suggests that one way to develop your unf*ckwithable mindset is to set your self-fueled goals (which are goals that act as anchors in your life.) Self-fueled goals give you unlimited power and motivation to continue creating the life of your dreams.

And bottom line of creating a strong mindset where no one can mess with you is focusing on nurturing the love you have for yourself. Self-love is an effective remedy for giving yourself the love you may require from others.

Discover the Next Level You

Meeting yourself first is a great way to start the life you’ve always dreamed about. And letting go of people, situations, and behaviors that no longer serve you is the way to go.

If you need some guidance on your journey, here’s a book that can help you step into your greatness a little easier. Becoming Flawesome: The Key to Living an Imperfectly Authentic Life, written by Kristina Mänd-Lakhiani is a guide to loving all of your imperfection and embodying your authenticity.

When you truly connect to your own truth and make space for your essence to arise from within, you can live as the real you and let go of perfectionism and people-pleasing.

You will meet your great life by connecting to yourself first. Don’t be afraid to take the first step. 

Welcome in.

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Written by

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.
Picture of Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor

Alexandra Tudor is a former content writer for Mindvalley and a psychology enthusiast. From clinical experience working with both children and adults, she's now in the process of becoming a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in the IFS method and family constellation therapy.

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