Wanting to make people happy and constantly wanting to do things for others isn’t a bad thing. However, too much and too often of a good thing can become a bad thing. People pleasers do just that. They put others before themselves. They want to feel needed, so they forsake their needs and do for others. This makes them feel like they are helping others and contributing to their own lives, often to the exclusion of their own desires and happiness. They have difficulty internally validating themselves; they seek the approval and thus seek external validation from other people. At the core, they lack confidence and the ability to take care of themselves . They fear saying ‘no’, thinking that others will view them in a negative light, lazy, uncaring, or selfish.

But if you asked them what would make them happy, many people pleasers wouldn’t know what to say; they have been saying yes for so long to others that they now are disconnected from themselves. And, if you had been saying yes to everyone and not honoring your desires or needs, wouldn’t you feel the same way? Not saying no has dire consequences. People that do this too often risk greater health consequences by overextending themselves and doing things they don’t have the time or the energy to do – in essence, depleting their resources to exhaustion. They do this because they want to appear the hero, the one who cares more than others, and so that others do not view them negatively.

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser (and own your voice!)

1.) Awareness. Simply acknowledging you are a people pleaser and want to stop being this way is the first step. Awareness creates a new direction and a change in mindset.

2.) Set boundaries. Begin to ask yourself, ‘is this what I really want to be doing, or do I feel obligated?’ Ask yourself – ‘Do I really have time for this? Do I want to help this person out? Do I feel pressured to say yes? How would I feel if I said yes when I really wanted to say no?’ Setting boundaries at first can be challenging, but after saying no a few times, it does get easier! So – rule of thumb?? Start small. The first time is always the hardest, but learning to say no with conviction and having an investment in yourself to make changes is vital to changing. But once you get over the first ‘bump’ and feeling uncomfortable, it does get easier with practice.

3.) Learn to feel uncomfortable. When we start to say ‘no,’ we feel really uncomfortable. Remember – this will change and, over time, saying no more often, will get easier.

4.) Self-care. Ask yourself: if you could be taking care of yourself or if you had more time to yourself (your goal!) what would you be doing instead? How could you start to honor yourself and take care of yourself? What are some of your interests?

5.) Take a time out. When you are asked to do something – anything – simply say, ‘I will get back to you.’ This will give you the needed time and space to really think about whether or not this is something you want to do. Often a people pleaser has the knee jerk response of saying ‘yes’, so learning to stall and not give a definitive answer will help you incorporate changes.

6.) Expect some unhappy people. When you start saying no, people will still ask you the same question again, hoping that you will change your mind. Don’t let them persuade or bully you into doing something that you no longer want to do. Remember, in the past, you always said yes. Making changes in the middle of the game disrupts and changes your relationship. Expect this, accept it, sit with it, and move on.

7.) Forgo the doormat personality. Becoming assertive with your needs is key to making changes. Learning to use your voice and saying, ‘I understand you need help at this time, but unfortunately I am unable to help you at this time’ is necessary. You don’t need to give a lengthy explanation because, just by doing that, people can manipulate you into doing what they asked of you first. Over-explaining gives you too much time to possibly change your mind because you feel bad or guilty for saying no in the first place.

Are you a people pleaser? Is it difficult for you to say no to others, and yes to yourself? Maybe you should start thinking about making some small changes in your life that will help you move away from being a people pleaser, and focus more on yourself… yay!

This blog originally appeared on SoulSpring.org

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