Do you often find yourself pretending to agree with everyone? Apologizing often? Do you find it hard to say no? Do you feel responsible for how other people feel? If the answer to these questions is YES, then you’re probably a people pleaser.
While it’s completely normal to be conscious of how your behaviour affects others, denying your own needs for the sake of others isn’t. This can lead to people taking advantage of you, feeling burnt out, miserable and may trigger emotional eating. People-pleasing can be a serious problem, and it’s a hard habit to break.
Often this behaviour is hard to unlearn because it’s reinforced from such a young age. When we make others happy, we receive approval and conditional love from them. This pattern of behaviour teaches us to seek validation from others by making them happy even if it’s at the price of neglecting our own needs. But when we deny our own needs just to people-please, we sacrifice self-care, self-respect and self-love. It is so important to set boundaries as a form of self-care.
Especially for individuals who struggle with emotional eating, being a people pleaser denies yourself the healthy boundaries and self-care that you need and deserve. To heal emotional eating, you need to learn to meet your emotional needs with proper self-care – instead of with food. So, are you ready to stop being a people pleaser?
Here are 3 simple steps to stop the cycle of people pleasing:
1. Check in with your gut
Check in to see how YOU feel. Listen to your gut feelings instead of focusing on what you think the other person will say. Before saying “yes” to that next commitment, ask yourself the following: Do I want to do this? Will this benefit me in a way that I’m looking for? Do I have the time for this? Will this add to my stress? Listen to your own voice and trust your gut to decide if you should say “yes” or “no”.
For many of us, the word “sorry” has become something we reactively say, regardless of whether we’ve done anything wrong. Often, we are using it as a way to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Before automatically apologizing, ask yourself: Did I actually do something wrong? Did I really want to communicate that I think I did something wrong?
Check in with your true feelings before automatically apologizing, taking the blame, or agreeing to do something you don’t really want to commit to.
2. Plan your response
If someone asks you for something, stall and tell them that you’ll think about it instead of automatically saying yes. This allows you time to check in with your gut feelings. If your gut is telling you that this is a commitment you’re unable to make, then the next step is to plan your response. Write out what you would ideally like to say to the person and start practicing saying it out loud. The more you practice your response out loud, the more confident you will feel and sound. If you’re afraid of expressing your feelings to others, this is a great way to practice and build up your confidence!
3. Practice with Others
Breaking any cycle takes time and requires practice. Start slow and with safe people – pick one person that seems less scary to express to. When the opportunity arises, practice voicing your honest opinion, saying no when you need to, and prioritizing your needs before trying to please others. While this may seem overwhelming to you, take small baby steps and start off with one person until you build more confidence. Remember to persevere and celebrate your progress!
If you still find you’re struggling with unlearning your people-pleasing behaviour, remember that you’re not responsible for other people’s feelings. You actually don’t have the power to make others happy – but you are responsible for yourself. For YOUR happiness and YOUR well-being. So, take care of yourself first! And if you need further guidance, speak to a qualified therapist who can help you take small steps toward change. When you learn to break the cycle of people pleasing, you will be able to prioritize self-care, set healthy boundaries and take control of your emotional well-being.