Stop being a people pleaser. Pretty please?


“Hey, I need a favour.”

 “Any chance you’re around on Saturday?”  

“I’m really stuck tomorrow night, could you help me out?”

“I’m busy, just take care of that will you?”


Do you put others’ happiness and needs in front of your own? Do you have trouble saying no, even if saying yes doesn’t suit you? Do you spend more time helping others than you do helping yourself? Well then, it’s very possible that you are a people pleaser. 

Obviously, as a mother, you are used to putting the needs of your child ahead of your own. But that’s where it should end. If you are breaking your back for people at work, rushing around for friends, bending over backwards for family, then it’s time to accept that you are a people pleaser and you need to get out, before you burn out.

It sounds easy, but if you are hard-wired to please others, stopping can be a hard habit to break.  People-pleasing can be a sign of low self-esteem, perfectionism or insecurity. It is not just your personality, it’s part of who you are. But guess what? You are in control of who you are, you are in control of your story and you can be in control of how you spend your time. The first step is to start saying no. Sounds pretty straight forward, but if you’re a people pleaser you’ll know that that particular word is pretty hard to master. “What if the person I refuse doesn’t like me anymore? What if they get angry? What if they are hurt, upset, inconvenienced by my refusal?” As a people pleaser, you are ultra-sensitive to how others perceive and react to you.  But that’s okay, like any bad habit, there are small steps you can take, to help you overcome the big hurdle. Here are some ways to start.


A way around no

You don’t need to say no straight out. You can phrase it in a gentler way. Try saying “I’ll get back to you”. That way you can take a moment to decide if you have time and formulate a negative response if you don’t. “I’ll get back to you, I just need to check my schedule.” “I might have a meeting at that time, let me get back to you.” Using a phrase like this will get you out of the habit of automatically answering yes to every request, while also giving you time and distance to help you say no.  


Offer an alternative 

“You know what, it doesn’t suit me to help you move on Thursday, but I can help for an hour on Saturday morning.” You don’t have to stop helping your friends, but you can arrange to do it on your terms. By offering an alternative you are still giving them the option of help, but you aren’t putting yourself or your priorities on hold.


Use “I don’t” not “I can’t”

The phrase ‘I can’t’ gives people the opportunity to push the question “I can’t make the party” “Oh why not? We can go later? Bring your other friend.” "I can’t" is a doorway for people to negotiate and challenge your excuses. By saying “I don’t want to go” or “I don’t have the time to help” you are asserting your right to refuse and shutting down the opposition.


Make a plan

When you have a plan of what you are doing during the week, you’ll know what you do and don’t have time for. A list of activities, obligations and chores means that you can plainly see if, how and when you can help.  Adding ‘me time’ or activities that are important to your mental health, will legitimise those activities and give them a place of importance in your own mind. So that they won’t get pushed aside, as soon as someone asks you for help. Having this kind of schedule will help you to refuse requests, or offer an alternative time for them because you know how much spare time you actually have.


Get rid of toxic people

There’s usually one person who can be relied upon to ask you to go that extra mile, again and again, to continuously take advantage of your inability to say no and to challenge your excuses when you try to get out of helping them. This person is not your friend. Friendship goes both ways and if all the support and help is coming from your side, then you need to question whether you need this person in your life at all.


Don’t say, or be, sorry

Your time is valuable. You don’t have to be sorry for not giving it away. If you don’t stand up for yourself no one else will. So don’t feel guilty about refusing to help and erase the word sorry from your vocabulary. If someone is making you feel guilty for not doing something that you don’t want to do, question why they are acting this way and whether you need them in your life.


Learn to please yourself, not others 

People pleasers often rely on validation from others to feel worthy. They don’t just want people to like them, they need them to. You need to realise that your opinion of yourself is the only one that really counts. Self-validation is a process that can take a while to learn, but start off by encouraging yourself, acknowledging your own achievements and treating yourself with kindness.


Being a people pleaser means that you are probably kind-hearted, generous and empathetic. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong with running yourself ragged trying to keep everyone else happy. You have children, you have a job, you have a home to run, in short, you have enough on your plate. It is time to take a step back and take stock of how and where you spend your time, you need to put yourself and your family first and if that means saying no, then you need to get used to using the word. Remember practice makes perfect, so say no today.