Seven Strategies to Overcome People-Pleasing
Wednesday, December 12 2012 Emily Roberts MA, LPC
If you are like me, you want to make sure those around you are happy. We strive to keep peaceful relationships in our lives and often assist others in need. Hey, we care about them right? The problem is if you always feel compelled to help or overextend yourself, it can come at the expense of your own happiness. That's what usually happens to a people pleaser.
I found that the more energy I extended to others, when I didn’t put enough towards myself, created a lot of negativity in my life. When I would overextend myself with work or attempted to try and help out friends, instead of doing the things I needed to do for myself, over time it was exhausting. I literally got sick from people pleasing! My lack of sleep, focusing on others priorities and attempting to balance them with my own, was stressful and no longer serving those around me. When I wasn’t happy, how could I make others happy?
Is a People Pleaser Someone's Doormat?
Some would say a people pleaser is a doormat, someone who says yes when they really mean no, or doesn’t have the courage to speak their mind. Others suggest that people pleasing is a strong desire to take action even at the expense of your own happiness or priorities.
Over time, this creates resentment, high expectations for others, and low self-esteem. In fact, many would also say that this unassertive behavior is a symptom and a catalyst for developing low self-esteem. You are entitled to your time and you need to rest and recharge to be there for others. Look at saying "no" or "I don’t think this would be a good time" as an opportunity to spend your time doing what you value in life.
Strategies to Overcome People Pleasing Now
Stop. Literally stop right now and think about the times you have said yes when you really wanted to say no. Did you have a good time? Were you stressed out about getting it all done? Did you have some resentment or frustration towards the person or situation you were in, after the fact? When we look back and see the times that we are compelled to reach out, we develop an awareness of our triggers; particular people, types of events, or situations that pull at your ability to want to please others.
Take your time. If someone asks for a favor, it’s perfectly normal to say that you’ll need to think about it or check your schedule. This gives you the opportunity to consider if you can commit to helping or attending. “How stressful is this going to be? Do I have the time to do this? What am I giving up? Do I really want to do this, or is it out of fear or pressure that I am thinking about saying yes?
Be Fair. To both yourself and the other person. Ask yourself, will I really be giving them everything I’ve got if I chose to do this? Am I being fair to myself and others in my life if I say yes? If the answer is no, then it's time to make a change.
Don’t over-apologize. If you can't make a commitment or have to say no, a simple "I am sorry" is fine. However, over-apologizing and asking others to forgive you or not to be angry or mad, is a sign of low self-confidence. It lets others know you care way too much about their feelings, instead of your own. Almost inviting them to take advantage of you in the future. They see that you hate to disappoint.
Start Small. Instead of committing to making 8 dozen cookies for a bake sale, ask if you can be responsible for something that doesn’t take up as much time - like bringing plates or napkins. Limit your availability to help, set a time limit, or ask for assistance on small things. Rather than committing to a whole day or even a few hours, let others know that you are available for specific hours. If you have to be late or feel like you are going to be rushing (and it will stress you out more), add in time for that too and let others know you may not be on time. This makes it easier for everyone.
Forget the Fear. Many have the fear that others wont like them anymore if they say no. Forget about this. If others get mad because you say no occasionally, they are not people you should be surrounding yourself with anyways. People who love and care about you will understand that you can't always do it all, or even attempt to.
Ask for help. Recognizing when it's too much to handle or if you need assistance is a sign of someone who is confident and assertive. You know your limits and you value your time. People enjoy helping and look up to people who can admit that they can't do it all. It means you're human!
You can't be everything to everyone. The most important relationship you have is with yourself. Making sure that you are putting your needs first will help out everyone in the long run. When you are happy, it brings more happiness to others. When you put your needs first, your self-respect and self-esteem soar. So consider how you can be more true to yourself and your best to those around you.
Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.