It is not hard to find personality tests online (some of them abridged versions of the scientifically well-regarded Meyers-Briggs personality test and others “just for fun” quizzes) to determine whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, and it is also easy to find quizzes showing how high you score on the “big five” personality traits, namely conscientiousness, neuroticism (having strong emotional responses to stress), agreeableness, extraversion, and openness to experience. Being a people pleaser is a harder personality trait to measure, and letting your people pleasing tendencies get the better of you can negatively affect your happiness and your interpersonal relationships.
First, the good news. People pleasing tendencies are rooted, to some extent, in empathy and altruism. If you are a people pleasure, you understand that there is more to life than simply the pursuit of your own pleasure. People pleasers run into trouble, however, when they base their happiness on how people respond to them. They depend on other people too much for external validation instead of depending on their own self-esteem and looking objectively at what is fair in interpersonal relationships. People pleasers are usually insecure, and it is easy for selfish people to take advantage of them. For example, people pleasers often take on a disproportionate share of the work in exchange for their co-workers’ approval. Their co-workers give them little in return, sometimes not even saying thank you, which leaves the person feeling even more insecure and lonely. It can lead to a vicious cycle where people pleasers work harder and harder to gain acceptance, but others see them as weak. Being a people pleaser in your family relationships is an even greater source of stress.
Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser
Fortunately, it is possible to break the cycle of people pleasing behavior. It requires a bit of effort if your people pleasing habits are deeply ingrained. If you ask your friends how to stop being a people pleaser, they will tell you that you have to learn to say “no” without feeling guilty and not automatically accept every request that people ask of you, such that you become overburdened with obligations. If you are actually a people pleaser, you know that it is very intimidating to say “no”. These are some things to do to find a way to refuse requests without feeling guilty, to become less of a people pleaser, thus improving your self-esteem and your relationships with the people in your life.
1 Decide Which Obligations Are Most Important
It is not possible to do every single thing that everyone in your life wants you to do. Separate the needs from the wants. If you look realistically at your responsibilities, you will see that there are lots of important things you need to do before even considering additional requests. When you say that your schedule is full, you are being honest.
When choosing between two obligations, choose the one that will have the most long-term benefit for the most people. For example, if you have to choose between covering your co-worker’s shift and babysitting your cousin’s kids on your day off, taking the extra shift might be the best option as you will make extra money and leave a positive impact at work.
2 Understand That the World Does Not Revolve Around You
People will try to make you feel guilty and say that only you can help them, but this is just a guilt trip. To continue the above example, your cousin will be able to find someone else to babysit her kids; you are not the only adult she knows. Worst case scenario, her neighbors might grumble about the babysitting obligations, she might have to pay a babysitter, or she might be a little late to work waiting for the babysitter to arrive, but it is not the end of the world.
3 Practice Self-Care
Do not be afraid to make time to do things that make you healthy and happy. You can practice self-care by making time to go to the gym, for example, even if it means saying no to some requests from people in your life. Another way to practice self-care is, after you have ended a phone call by saying “no” and the guilty thoughts are starting to creep in, reminding yourself of how much you actually have helped people recently. Maybe you did not give your neighbor a ride to the grocery store today when she asked, but you did give her a ride last week. Maybe you did not attend an after-work happy hour because you decided to go to the gym instead, but you have lost five pounds since you started working out. In other words, count your accomplishments, not the things you fail to do.