How to Stop People Pleasing in 6 Simple Steps

Woman with head in hands
Woman with head in hands

People pleasing. The worst.

You know, I bet we burn more calories wondering what other people are thinking about us, or doing things for other people so that they will like us, than we do actually exercising. And to make matters worse, it totally burns us out. We can only keep putting others' priorities and goals before our own before one day we just don't have the energy anymore. I've been there. Haven't you?

So let's quit.

Being a good friend/partner/mother/daughter/niece/coworker can always be a priority of ours -- being a nice human is fun. But being a doormat is really, really not. So here are ways to make sure that you are doing things for other people because it is important to you -- not because you feel obligated. Here is how to stop people pleasing for good.

1. Assume It's Not About You

We know how it goes. You're beat bopping through the office, super pumped about your recent progress review, and it happens. You make eye contact with your co-worker...and it just doesn't feel right.

Is she pissed? What was that look? Does she think I'm stupid because of that meeting? Wait, maybe she's jealous of my upcoming promotion. But like, what the hell did I ever do to her? Why would I deserve this kind of treatment? IT'S AN OUTRAGE I TELL YOU!

Ok, calm down there tiger. Perhaps your co-worker is having a rough day. We hear she got dumped last night, stubbed her toe on the curb, drooled toothpaste all over her brand new blouse this morning, and her monthly bill came a few days early.


So, it's actually not about you at all. That look was the result of her pondering over how she's going to tell her family she's coming to the family wedding sans one date. Poor babe. She is not a happy camper -- and certainly doesn't have the energy to worry about what kind of looks she is or isn't giving.

If we constantly assume that every look, every comment, or every vibe has to do with us, we will be consumed with people pleasing thoughts all day every day. So, instead, we have to assume it's not about us.

Unless someone directly comes up to us and says 'HEY YOU ARE A TOOL BAG!'...then we're just going to assume other humans are dealing with their own stuff, and we are free to keep being awesome. It will save us lots of energy and lots of negative icky feelings.

P.S. -- not only does this open up some space in your mind, but it also forces people to grow a pair if you actually DID do something to tick them off. If they want you to know how they feel, they're going to have to speak up. Passive aggression goes out the window, allowing us to clear the air. Much better!

2. Set Goals for Your Own Wants and Needs

And I mean SPECIFIC wants and needs. Gimme some deadlines, some note taking, and some real concrete steps to get to these goals that you have decided to set for yourself.

Sign up for the GRE. Apply for school. Go interview. Send the resumes. Make the calls. Just go for it! We want to see some initiative! Some independence! Because when you do this, you take up some space in your mind that USED to be allocated towards others' wants and needs. But not anymore! Mwahaha.

Alter the question in your mind to "what do I want?" instead of "what do they want?" - because trust me, you'll have a much better shot at happiness. The difference between being a really nice person and a pushover, is direction. You're going to be way too focused on accomplishing goals that you set for yourself to even consider burning yourself out for someone else's goals.

And, just an FYI, this doesn't mean you are going to turn into a selfish troll. Promise. I don't play like that. The key is, you can smile and wave and blow kisses to any person who crosses your path in life. Sending others positive vibes and happy thoughts in turn makes us feel better about life. So do it! Be sweet! Send the gift of positivity to others while you work towards something for yourself.

3. Play It Out

Ok, so let's say you get stuck in your cycle of people pleasing. Someone REALLY wants you to do something for them, but you really, really do not want to. At all. And even though you recognize they are probably taking advantage of you, you simply feel sooooo bad turning it down. Or, you catch yourself doing something that is so not you, just for somebody else's approval. Eesh. So play it out.

What's the worst thing that could happen? Really?

1. You say no, and they talk bad about you.
Well, most likely everyone in their corner will find that rather petty. I doubt they even listen. People who bitch about other people not doing them favors probably don't get much air time. And if they do, isn't it nice to be known around town as the girl who stands up for herself?

2. You say no, and they ask someone else to do it for them.
Well this is AWESOME. They have found a new buddy to rely on! You are off the hook and have more time to focus on your own direction. Don't worry, it will feel uncomfortable at first, but you'll get used to being your own priority.

3. You say no, and they get mad at you.
Yikes. If you have someone who is going to throw a temper tantrum, you might want to find a new buddy to hang with. Plus, they can't get angry with you if they don't have an audience. So just collect your things, and leave. Breaking up with friends isn't fun, but they probably need to work that out on their own anyway.

4. You say no, and they feel disappointed in you.
Simply explain to them that you don't have enough time, and that you can't live life to please others. If anything, they should feel proud that you are sticking up for yourself. Friends want what is best for other friends.

5. You stop the behavior, and they stop liking you.
Well, in all fairness, they never really liked you to start. Not the real you, at least. They liked some version of you that was clearly exhausting to portray. So, in reality, if they stop liking you, that means you are free to be a version of yourself that takes way less effort. And my advice is to use that excess energy to go find new friends who really appreciate you for the quirky little weirdo you happen to be.

Point is, if you find yourself in a sticky people-pleasing scenario, play it out. And you'll see, it's much better to stick up for yourself than to simply exist to do favors for others. Play it out, and shake it off.

4. Set the Boundary

Do it! You know you want to! Just say no! Stop the behavior! Stand up for your authentic self! It feels good, right? I mean you already played it out and identified that the world will not turn into the seventh circle of hell if you push back. So go for it! Life will continue on - except you will have some extra time to focus towards your new goals. So set the boundary, decline the offer, quit acting like anyone else other than yourself, and keep moving forward.

5. Trim the Fat

After you have changed your behavior and have begun setting clear boundaries, you'll probably notice that your social circle may change all on its own. Enablers will have to go find somebody else to enable, because you aren't playing anymore. And if they still hang around, hoping that one day you'll come back to wait on them hand and foot - perhaps you need to take charge. Surrounding yourself with constant takers doesn't do much for your relationship. And it absolutely doesn't do anything for your self-esteem.

Friends do things for each other because they want to, not because they feel obligated to. So trim the fat and let go of some of your casual friends who don't bring out the best in you. The reality is, constantly bending over backwards for others at the expense of ourselves is NOT the same thing as being a good friend. So pay close attention to who you keep in your life - because these are the people who help mold us into the strong women we are.

6. Manifest Your Future

Make a vision board. Day dream. Manifest. Bring positive vibes to your future that don't have to do with ANYBODY else. What do YOU want? What kind of job do you want? Pet do you want? House do you want? Impact do you want? LIFE do you want? Think about it! If we constantly attach our dreams to other humans, we will never get what we want, because it's out of our hands. Other people cannot be in charge of our happiness. And we are not in charge of other people's happiness. Only WE are in charge of OUR happiness. So spend your time manifesting wonderful, amazing, bright things for yourself, and you'll have more energy to be the friend you've always wanted to be to others.

You go girl.

Want to stop people pleasing?

Good! I want that for you, too. If you need a little extra help, don't hesitate to come say hi to me. I do life coaching with some amazing female coaches, and we would love to have you join our community. For more tips and advice - you can check out the original article here and other free resources here! Love ya like x-o.