Why do I look for the approval of others or try to fit in where I don’t belong? Why do I avoid saying no to people, even when I want to? Why do I always seek validation? If these thoughts sound familiar to you, it’s time to stop being a people pleaser.
Pleasing everyone around you does not sound bad at all, until this eagerness to always put others before yourself prevents you from prioritising your needs.
A 2017 People Pleasers survey conducted by confidence coach Dan Munro concludes there are two types of people pleasers, the approval seekers and the disapproval avoiders. Munro states, “While approval seekers crave for attention, those who avoid disapproval hide in the shadows.”
When you act to please others, you actively involve yourself in doing what they want you to do. It might be at your workplace, within your friend circle, or in relationships, where you end up spending most of your time trying to please others. While you may assume that pleasing someone would make you likeable, the harsh reality is you end up feeling disempowered and invalidated. Like author Paulo Coelho once said, “When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you aren’t saying ‘no’ to yourself.”
People-pleasing behaviour is not only a sign of low self-esteem, but is also time and energy consuming. Here are a few effective practices to help you set boundaries for yourself and overcome the habit of people-pleasing.
It’s okay to disagree
A lot of times, we tend to agree with whatever is being said, in an attempt to gratify others. But in the process of trying to please others, we stand the risk of losing our voice in the crowd. When you condition your response to suit the opinion of others, you unwittingly compromise on your confidence and sense of dignity. Professor Annette Clancy of Dublin University compares the attitude of people pleasers to a doormat, and writes, “Being a people pleaser robs individuals of their self-esteem and reinforces the idea that being ‘nice’ means being helpful. Sometimes it’s better to say ‘no’ and stop being the oﬃce doormat.” In her article How To stop being a people pleaser she further stresses, “While we might think that by pleasing others, we are the ‘go-to person’, after a point of time, others take us for granted and it is likely that we are treated like the office doormat.”
The first step to stop being a people pleaser is to know that your opinion matters. Whether someone likes it or not, your thoughts and views are as important as anyone else’s. Remind yourself that it’s okay to disagree. If they can’t respect your opinion, ask yourself if they really deserve your time and attention.
Think before committing
When someone asks for a favour, the most obvious response of a people pleaser would be, “Yes, why not?”. But before committing, you also need to consider your position. If you agree to help before evaluating your own needs first, you could end up in an awkward situation. To avoid such a predicament, think before committing instead of agreeing to something instantly. Professor Tobias Teichert of Columbia University Medical Center says, “Postponing the onset of the decision process by as little as 50 to 100 milliseconds enables the brain to focus attention on the most relevant information and block out irrelevant distractors.” Hence, the next time you are approached for a favour, give it a thought. By doing so, you will allow yourself to check your availability, schedule, and priorities before obliging.
Be the best judge of yourself
Taking decisions based on the expectations of others is not the best thing to do. When you spend time thinking about what others might feel about your ideas, you will never reach anywhere. Imagine, if all the explorers, scientists, and thinkers paid heed to their critics, we would still be living in the stone age. So, be your own judge and critic. Impress yourself instead of those around you. Don’t let the opinion of others define who you are.
There comes a point in life when you know who you are and what you want to be. That’s the moment when you are born again. If this moment hasn’t come to you yet, keep seeking. Find your calling or purpose in life and set big goals to achieve them. Once your focus shifts to what you want from life, everything else fades away. You begin to invest time and energy in your goals rather than in pleasing people.
Learn to take criticism in good spirit
In many cases, it’s the fear of criticism that gives birth to people-pleasing behaviour. It happens when you long to stay in the good books of others to keep criticism at bay. But doing so can severely damage your self-confidence and make you dependent and less reliable. Criticism is a part of life and no one is immune to it. Wherever there’s success, there will be criticism. Instead of letting criticism become your fear, embrace it, and use it to grow and thrive.