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Let's Talk About People-Pleasing

I am going to be honest and let you in on a secret about me, I AM A RECOVERING PEOPLE-PLEASER. Being a people-pleaser was a trait that I was completely unaware of until I started my therapy process in college. Growing up, I struggled with the ability to say no to things that didn’t serve any purpose for me. In my mind, saying no wasn’t an option because that would mean missing out on opportunities that I would regret missing. Saying no would also mean that I would disappoint people, and that to me was the worst thing that could possibly happen. It wasn’t until I was about 20 and in the middle of my personal therapy process that I started understanding how much being a people-pleaser was actually holding me back.

I was also unaware of the importance of how saying no, gave me the permission to say yes to things that were truly meant for me.

Now as a therapist, I am aware that there are many people who struggle with this and need help working on breaking free from the chain of being a people-pleaser. So what is a people-pleaser? In layman's terms, people-pleasing is putting the emotional, mental and physical needs of others before your own. Which when it is laid out like that, doesn’t seem like a bad thing at all. However, this is an anxiety based trait that can weaken our ability to make the best decisions for ourselves and live a fulfilling life.

A common struggle of being a people-pleaser is having an unhealthy balance of giving everything that you have without advocating for yourself to receive anything.

Oftentimes those who consider themselves a people-pleaser would admit that they struggle with knowing that they are worthy of being taken care of and are not meant to just take care of those around them. You may be reading this and thinking, wait am I a people-pleaser? Well to help bring some clarity, here are common signs to look for:

  • You struggle with saying no, or if you say no there is a feeling of guilt and/or a long unnecessary explanation behind your no

  • You readily agree with and to things, even if they don’t align with your values to keep peace and connection

  • You almost always put down what your doing to help those around you

  • You will take blame or apologize for something that isn’t your fault to avoid conflict and confrontation

When we know a little more about what a people pleaser is, we can then take some steps on freeing ourselves from the unhealthy tie of false responsibility. So here are 3 things to try in overcoming the people-pleaser in you.

  • take small steps in making a big change

    • Taking small steps can look like, taking time before responding to a text or saying something like, ‘let me get back to you on that,’ instead of answering right away and having the pressure to say yes to not disappoint

  • work on setting boundaries

    • Setting boundaries will help create a feeling of protecting your space externally and just as importantly internally. This can look like, setting limits on how much you offer your services, or setting expectations for what you are capable of and sticking to your capacity.

  • find and focus on things that you enjoy

    • This was one of the harder things for me, as I convinced myself that taking care of others was the only thing I enjoyed. It is important to find things that truly fuel you and make you a better and healthier version of you. We can only be the best version of ourselves when we take the time to take care of and invest in our heart and soul.

It is important to remember that being someone who loves to take care of people is never a bad thing, but it can be unhealthy when we neglect ourselves in the process.

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Anastasia Brokas: LMFT

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