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It is easy to get trapped in the cycle of being a people pleaser. In fact, accommodating others is so ingrained in many of us that we don’t know how to stop being a people pleaser. Changing is not just difficult, it is terrifying.
Perhaps you have become the emotional caretaker of everyone around you, and you have no idea how to even begin to detach.
Saying “no” and setting boundaries seems selfish. Assertiveness feels rude, harsh, or even unchristian. In fact, you feel guilty for taking up space and having an opinion that is different than those around you.
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If you grew up in the church, you may have even been told that a good Christian helps everyone. And with a good attitude.
Unfortunately, that mantra broke down for me. I became very sick. There were too many plates spinning at once. I didn’t know how to stop being a people pleaser. I was trying to please my husband, kids, family, friends, school, and church. I even tried to please the dog.
Now I am a recovering people pleaser. It is still hard to not fall into this trap every once in a while. Here are a few things I do to keep myself honest.
In this post, I am going to talk about the definition of people pleasing, why we do it, and how to stop being a people pleaser.
What Is People Pleasing, and Why Do We Do It?
So what is a people pleaser anyways? The definition of a people pleaser is someone with a strong desire to get approval, even if it means conforming to other people’s opinions and expectations.
Subconsciously, you want to be loved more than stand up for what you think or feel is right. There is an enormous amount of fear about making your own opinions known because you can’t stand rejection or punishment. I am so guilty of doing this.
Psychology Today gives two reasons for people pleasing:
- Fear of Rejection is the underlying feeling that “If I don’t do everything I can to make this person happy they might leave or stop caring for me.” Fear of Rejection can come from early relationships in which love was conditional or in which you were rejected/abandoned by an important person in your life. A parent left or was emotionally unavailable or inconsistently available.
- Fear of Failure is the underlying feeling that “If I make a mistake, I will disappoint people and/or be punished.” Fear of failure can arise from early experiences with severe punishment for even small mistakes. People who had highly critical parents may develop a people pleasing pattern.
According to this article, this kind of thinking can start early in life. We learn it is safer to go along with our parents’ demands and not make waves. There is a price to pay for speaking up.
Perhaps you were conditioned to please everyone just to keep the peace in the house and stay safe.
If you are a Christian who grew up in the church, you may have been taught to obey no matter what. You were not allowed to think, feel, or speak up as an individual because it was a form of rebellion to question authority.
RELATED: The Ugly Truth About Shame and Guilt
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Christianity and People Pleasing
Scripture and Christianity can sometimes become intertwined with people pleasing. We are taught to obey authority without any question or to always help others even at the expense of our well-being.
Internally, we become conflicted because we know we should say something. Instead, we shrink down in fear of others because we can’t say the word “no” to them.
First, as a powerless child and then later as an adult because we are told from a young age to submit to authority. (Children do need to obey their parents, but there needs to be an avenue for questions and to respectfully disagree as kids get older.)
Funny thing, Jesus didn’t always submit to authority.
He told the truth. Sometimes it was in love, other times it was in utter contempt.
I find it humorous he hacked off the Scribes and Pharisees constantly. He called them blind guides, fools, vipers, and hypocrites. In fact, He even overturned the money changers’ tables in the temple. Wow. Now that was bold.
As Christians, we have to be wise about how we train our kids when to speak up and when to pipe down. There is a time for both. You can learn how to stop being a people pleaser but still be nice with your behavior.
As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:7, there is ” time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.” New Living Translation
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Take the People Pleaser Quiz
If you want to know how to stop being a people pleaser then take this quiz to help you decide whether you have a people pleaser personality. If you do most of these things, it might be a good idea to adjust a few behaviors:
1. Are you angry or resentful for being pushed into something you don’t want to do?
2. Would you rather be “nice” than say how you really feel?
3. Do you find needy people are attracted to you?
4. Do you go to extremes to keep the peace?
5. Are you prone to saying “yes” without thinking first?
6. Do you neglect your needs over the needs of others?
7. Do you appear wishy-washy because you are afraid to state your true feelings?
8. Are you angry at yourself when you don’t speak up?
9. Do you feel embarrassed after you do speak up, wishing you never said anything?
10. Are you scared people won’t like you if you say how you really feel?
11. Are you angry when others dominate or punish you for speaking up?
12. Do you keep your feelings hidden for a long time and then explode?
13. Do you find people flattering you just so you will say “yes”?
14. Are you constantly apologizing?
15. Do you feel guilty for saying “no”?
Did you say “yes” to any of the questions in the people pleaser quiz? Then keep reading so you can learn how to stop being a people pleaser.
How to Stop Being a People Pleaser
Here are a few suggestions to help if you are fed up of pleasing others:
1. Acknowledge people pleasing has harmful side-effects over time.
The danger of being a people pleaser is that if you do not stand up for what is right or let your feelings be known then it will eat you inside. In fact, stuffing things internally can lead to lots of health issues.
If you want to know how to stop being a people pleaser, then start by acknowledging you are hurting yourself.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” (Edmund Burke).
2. Realize being a people-pleaser is not sustainable long term.
It is not only bad for your health to take on everyone else’s responsibilities, emotions, and expectations, but it also robs the other person from being accountable and responsible for his own behavior. This can really get overwhelming as a parent.
Let your kids make mistakes. That means not running lunch or homework up to school when they forget.
3. Stop hiding. Let the real you come out.
When you hide your thoughts and feelings from others, no one really knows who you are. You keep people at a safe distance, never letting them into your life. Slowly start sharing your feelings, and don’t be ashamed of it.
Tell your family members how you feel about things. Encourage open dialogue. This is how to stop being a people pleaser.
4. Set boundaries with others.
Decide what you can and can’t do. Don’t be pressured into doing things that do not bring you life. Model this for your kids. It is great to help others, but not at the expense of your own health. Examine friendships that do not allow you to be yourself.
5. Take time out
Get alone and recharge. Teach your kids how to recharge too. More importantly, learn how to maintain healthy relationship patterns with those around you so they don’t drain you. Find ways to restore the balance in your life if it is out of whack. This is definitely how to stop being a people-pleaser.
6. Be okay with anger.
There are going to be some people who are angry with you. Mentally decide you can live without their approval before it happens. When it does happen, keep telling yourself you are okay.
Your kids are not always going to like you. If they do like you all the time, you are their buddy.
7. Desire God’s approval over man’s approval.
Make sure you are pleasing God first and teach your kids to do the same. Pray about your commitments before you say “yes” to any of them. Surround yourself with godly people who encourage you, not put you down. Find out who you are in Christ, and base your worth on what He says. This is a great tip on how to stop being a people-pleaser.
How Do You Break Free From People Pleasing?
If you continue in the unhealthy cycle of people pleasing, you will see less outer conflict. However, your inner conflict will grow significantly over time.
In fact, you may wrestle with anger, guilt, unforgiveness, and contempt for others or yourself because you let your true self slowly die within the confines of your heart.
Consequently, when you neglect who you are as a person, you start wearing a mask to hide your shame. You may even start wondering if people would love you if they knew the true you.
Do you want to know how to break free from being a people pleaser? Make a conscious effort to be truthful with who you are as a person, and don’t be ashamed about how you feel. You are just as loved and important as anyone else.
Luke 6:26 says, “There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them” (The Message).
Do you have suggestions on how to stop being a people pleaser?
Do You Have Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!
Are you experiencing family problems or even estranged? Are you feeling shame, anger, or rejection? Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.
This book not only talks about my seven-year estrangement from my Christian family, but it also gives solid tips to help you with your family problems. Break free from your pain. Allow God to heal you no matter what has happened in your family of origin. There is hope when your family falls apart.
Creating Family Memories Book
Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids. It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite bookstore.
Join Christian Family Living Facebook Group
Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Family Living. This is a place for Christian women to share their experiences and get helpful tools to navigate the Christian life. We love to laugh, cry, and encourage each other to live out our faith one day at a time.