I was listening to a podcast the other day when the host of the episode said,
“We have to get used to disappointing people.”
I paused the episode and sat with that line for a minute. It was so simple, yet so profound. How exactly does someone become comfortable with disappointing others?
What it means to be a people-pleaser (and how to stop)
Lately, you might have been taking on every request asked of you. At work, it seems assignments and special requests are beginning to pile up with no end in sight. And at home, you may be agreeing to plans with friends you don’t have the energy to see, just to maintain their feelings.
Carrying the burden of constant guilt and other people-pleasing behaviors can make you feel like you have no control of your life and significantly damage your mental health.
If you are someone who struggles with cognitive dissonance, a mental discomfort between your own values and the actions you want to take, consider reading on to learn how you can build healthier habits.
Am I a people pleaser?
Take a moment to analyze your past decision-making behaviors. It is understandable to confuse being a kind person with being a people-pleaser. Here is a list of people-pleasing attributes to take note of.
- you have difficulty saying no
- you are averse to conflict
- you are agreeable
- you make uncomfortable decisions to make others happy
- you take unnecessary blame
- you identify with an anxious or avoidant attachment style
Wanting to make others happy isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Unfortunately, this behavior often leads to neglecting one’s own needs and feelings, leading to burnout and an overwhelming sense of frustration in others.
Here are some mindful strategies you can employ to curb these people-pleasing tendencies.
Remember that you can say no.
Though it may feel untrue, you do actually have a choice in how you respond to others. Realizing this is the first step towards building healthier habits.
Ask yourself if this decision is right for you.
Before making a commitment, focus on what is suitable for you at this very moment. Will this ask put you out? Is it something you are even capable of doing? Being honest with yourself may help you make the decisions that will keep you happy.
Come up with an alternative that does work for you.
If a friend asks you to do something you cannot do, don’t make promises that will end up making you feel trapped. Consider coming up with something that you can do.
Practice saying no, even in small instances.
Start by saying no to requests that won’t make you feel as guilty. Something as small as saying no to pizza for dinner or to last-minute plans can help you nurture the ability to say no with conviction.
Delay the yes
“Learn to say no by starting to delay the yes,” is an idea that social psychologist Kinga Mnich developed. Phrases like, “Let me get back to you,” “I need to check my schedule,” enable you to consider your own needs while also working with the person.
Do not be defensive of your choices.
You are allowed to have a feeling or opinion about things, and you don’t have to justify why. If you give a lot of justification for your reason to say no, people can manipulate you out of your choices, or try to invalidate how you feel.
Like in the previous tip, understand that your feelings and choices are your own. There is a kind way to say no, and you do not need to say sorry for saying no.
Remember, you can’t make everyone happy.
I once heard a quote, “You can be the most perfect package and still show up at the wrong door.” Not everyone is going to like you, your style, your approach, your work, etc. Try not to set a standard for yourself that everyone must like you or that you have to go above and beyond to get people’s respect.
Bringing it all back
To recap, people-pleasing behavior can leave you feeling like you have little to no control of your life. Eventually, taking care of everyone’s needs but your own may leave you feeling stressed and burned out.
At the end of the day, understand that it is impossible to make everyone happy. Those who genuinely love you will be understanding when you take time off to love yourself.
To find out the root of your people-pleasing behaviors, consider talking to a professional who can help you analyze your decision-making patterns to build the necessary tools for saying no.
Looking for more from Dahlia Mayerson, LMSW? Check out her post on Fighting Fair. The most diverse collective of New York-based therapists are sharing their insights and offer advice covering a wide range of topics here in the Thought Lab