How to Stop People-Pleasing

24.01.2021 |

Episode #6 of the course Self-confidence for women by Jenny Tudor


Welcome back! In our last lesson, we learned about how to stop procrastinating. In this lesson, we’re going to learn about Beth and people-pleasing.

For some of us—we need everyone around us to like us and to be content. We’ll look out for everyone else and do everything for them, at the sacrifice of our own needs and wants.

So I want to talk about Beth.

Beth is settling down to watch her favorite boxset. She gets a message; it’s her boss. Would she mind leading a meeting for him tomorrow and taking on a last-minute report, could she look at this asap?

Her neighbor knocks on the door. Oh, Beth! Would you mind looking after my cat at the weekend? It’s an emergency, and I don’t know who else to ask at short notice.

She gets a WhatsApp from a friend. Beth, can you look for accommodation for Rachel’s hen party next month. I’ve just not had the time, and you’re so good at finding places!

Beth says “yes” to all these requests for her assistance and her time. Beth is a very typical example of a people pleaser. But, did Beth really want to say “yes” to all these requests of her time?

People pleasers worry if they are their authentic selves, they will not be loved or accepted. When we people please, we spend our lives morphing into smaller, more “acceptable” versions of who we are—sacrificing our authenticity along the way.

I want us to be clear here: that the only people we should need to please are ourselves. And, we also need to be clear here that you can’t do it all, and you can’t be it all. Exhaustion, frustration, and low self-esteem are the consequences of people-pleasing.

Let’s look at what people-pleasing really is. And how it manifests in behaviors and emotions. We’ve all been Beth, or we are a Beth. We’ve all said “yes” to something we should have said “no” to, but we wanted to appear friendly or nice.

Dr. Harriet Braiker was the leading psychologist on people-pleasing tendencies. She wrote a brilliant book on people-pleasing called “The Disease to Please”.

She believed that people-pleasers are not just lovely people who try to make everyone happy. Those who suffer from the Disease to Please are people saying “yes” when they really want to say “no” but they can’t.

They feel the uncontrollable need for the approval of others like an addictive pull.

So you heard that. It’s an addiction.

Some people might use alcohol, drugs, food, or shopping as a way to avoid their emotions. People pleasers are avoiding disapproval. Or more importantly—the discomfort from the disapproval of others.

If it feels familiar to you, here are some tips around how we can stop people-pleasing.

Speak your truth: If you keep saying yes to people asking you to do things. Rather than dealing with other people’s confrontational reaction when you say “no”. Then your mental health will suffer because we are shutting down our own voice and not saying what we think, what we feel.

If Beth said to her neighbor, “I’m sorry I can’t look after your cat this weekend because I plan to stay with a friend.” Then she might feel bad at first. But she wouldn’t end up feeling resentful, anxious, or fed up that she’s had to change her plans.

Reassess your expectations of others: If you’re going around people-pleasing left, right, and center, exhausting yourself. Because you’re doing it all, and, if you expect others to think about your needs, sadly they probably won’t. Why? Because if you don’t articulate your needs, then people won’t know what these needs are.

We need to tell people how we feel. Rather than setting high expectations that they should already know what we need. Or, falsely believing that our friends and loved ones are mind readers.

The stuck record technique: The stuck record technique is basically repeating what you want, calmly and respectfully without being defensive and giving any justifications. It consists of being persistent and sticking to your point, repeating what you want—until the other person knows that you won’t change your mind.

This could look like Beth saying to her neighbor:

• I’m sorry I can’t look after your cat, but I’ve already made plans.

• I’m sorry that you cannot find anyone else, but I can’t cancel plans.

• I’m sorry I can’t help this time. I have plans.

When we get bogged down feeling like we need to justify ourselves or explain why we can’t do something. Then we often end up being pushed into doing what others want. By sticking to your point, you’re setting up your boundaries with others.

We are terrible at knowing how to deal with difficult emotions: our own and other people’s feelings. The most weighty consequence is that we ignore, we downplay, and we avoid our own needs.

It manifests itself in a variety of negative ways in our life. Whether we have increased stress or increased anxiety, we feel out of control with our emotions. So we really do need to get a good, firm hold on our people-pleasing tendencies.

True confidence is a result of feeling happy and fulfilled both in your home life and professionally. It’s about discovering your values, wants, and needs and working towards these.

Your task: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a five-tier model of human needs. These are physiological needs, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. Are you meeting all of these needs for yourself? If not, where can you start to make a change?

In our next lesson, we’ll look at how we can change our mindset.


Recommended book

The Disease to Please by Dr. Harriet Braiker


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