7 Ways to Stop Being a People Pleaser

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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 act any other way. 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.

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 was trying to please my husband, kids, family, friends, school, and church. I even tried to please the dog.

In this post, I am going to talk about why we fall into the trap of people-pleasing, and how to stop it.

Related: How to Stop Living in Fear

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What Is People Pleasing, and Why Do We Do It?

So what is a people pleaser anyways? 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

I believe this is not only off, but it can be destructive.

Related: How to Forgive Those Who Hurt You and Let Go of the Past

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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.

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

Related: How to Not Lose Faith: 7 People Who Were One Hot Mess

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People Pleaser Quiz

Here is a quiz to help you decide whether you are people pleaser or not. And if you are training your child to be a people pleaser. If you or your child do most of these things, it might be good 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”?

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How Do You Stop Being a People Pleaser?

Here are a few suggestions to help you stop being a people pleaser:

1. Acknowledge people-pleasing has harmful side-effects over time.

You may be endangering those around you if you do not stand up for what is right or let your feelings be known. In fact, stuffing things internally can lead to lots of health issues.

“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. (I gave my kids 1 save a semester to display grace.)

Related: How to Raise a Smart Child Who is Wise

 

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 kids how you feel about things. Encourage open dialogue.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Don’t Let Your Inner Self Die

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.

Don’t let people-pleasing go this far. Stop it now.

It is something you can start changing today. 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).

Are you a people pleaser? Do you want to stop?

 

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Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart

 

Get Creating Family Memories for FREE in exchange for your email. If you get this book, it will help you build a good relationship with your kids so that when the hard times come (teen years), you will be able to weather the storm.

Scroll down or look to the side to sign up. You can also get it at your favorite bookstore.

 

Facebook Group

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the group Christian Parenting and Family. This is a place for moms with preschool-age kids or older to talk about their struggles with parenting, family life, education, or marriage. You will find biblically-based advice from other moms who want to raise godly kids.

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Julie Plagens

25 Comments

  1. Sheri Traxler on May 28, 2019 at 11:15 am

    Oh. My. Word. This is so good and really hits the “authority” and “good Christian” angle that I’ve struggled to articulate. I will be bookmarking and rereading this a few times . Thank you.

    • Julie Plagens on May 29, 2019 at 5:38 am

      Sheri, thanks for your comments. I hope this really helps you! Many blessings.

  2. DONNA MILLER on May 10, 2019 at 6:32 am

    Julie, this is a really insightful post. I see myself everywhere in it. God has been helping me establish healthy boundaries the last few years and it has been better. I also had to get to where I was ok with other people’s anger. TY for this post! I have been thinking about writing a post about family issues and if I do, I could feature a link to purchase your book on amazon.

  3. Yaa Attobrah on April 13, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    What an insightful and thought provoking piece on people pleasing. We may all have some lessons to learn in this area. Thank you for sharing your heart on this issue. Bless you@

    • Julie Plagens on April 21, 2019 at 7:44 pm

      Yaa, this is one of my worst faults. I think I wrote it to myself. I keep going back and rereading it to remind me what I need to do and not do! Thanks for your comment.

  4. Katie on April 13, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    Great thoughts! I struggle with people-pleasing and have found myself in dark times because I am so overwhelmed. Thank you for sharing ways to set boundaries and being okay with saying no.

    • Julie Plagens on April 21, 2019 at 7:45 pm

      Katie, it is hard. Right? I can get overwhelmed fast. I want to do everything and help everyone at my own expense. I am doing better now though. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Tinashe on April 7, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    Thank you for such a great article Julie! Interesting fact you shared is the root of people pleasing is fear. And God doesn’t want us to have any fear.

    • Julie Plagens on April 21, 2019 at 7:46 pm

      Tinashe, I still am shocked that the root cause of people pleasing is fear. But is makes sense. You’re right, God doesn’t want to live in fear. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Cayla on April 5, 2019 at 10:07 am

    This is such a helpful, soul-searching post. I’m definitely a people-pleasure and it adds stress to my life for sure. I plan to refer back to your post frequently. Thanks for sharing!

    • Julie Plagens on April 21, 2019 at 7:47 pm

      Cayla, I have to refer back to my post too! I am so glad this was meaningful. I think nice people fall into this trap very fast. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Bre Paulson on April 4, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    I struggle with people pleasing myself but have learned to say no more lately. It’s done wonders for my mental health!

    • Julie Plagens on April 21, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      Bre, people pleasing is such a slippery slope. Who knew it would affect mental health? I am so glad you have been able to say no more often.

  8. Ginger on April 4, 2019 at 7:17 am

    Interesting article, gives me something to think about further.

    • Julie Plagens on April 4, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Ginger, people pleasing is definitely hard to wrap your mind around. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Alexandra on April 4, 2019 at 1:33 am

    I definitely appreciated reading this post, and I am sure many other people will too – it’s definitely a reminder that some of us need to hear. Thank you for sharing!

    • Julie Plagens on April 4, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      Alexandra, I am glad you appreciated the post about people pleasing.

  10. Erin Misenar on April 3, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Relationships sure are complicated. Thanks for the insight.

    • Julie Plagens on April 4, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      Erin, yes they can get complicated. Wish it wasn’t so hard to navigate.

  11. susie liberatore on April 3, 2019 at 7:17 am

    Being a people person has perks and negatives to it for sure. I try to find something right in the middle.

    • Julie Plagens on April 4, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Susie, I know, right? People pleasing seems to be the plague of being a people person.

  12. candy on April 3, 2019 at 7:10 am

    I was just talking about this topic yesterday with a young friend of mine. Going to send this over to her for her to read. She just doesn’t like upsetting people or wanting people to be mad at her. She gets walked over all the time.

    • Julie Plagens on April 4, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      Candy, I hope she will get a lot out of this. It took a long time to write this because I was basically talking to myself. Ugh.

  13. Becky Beresford on April 2, 2019 at 9:00 am

    This was fantastic!! I’m a people pleaser to the core so this really spoke to me. It’s a journey to come out of that state of mind and heart, but Jesus is showing me how His opinion is the only one that really matters. Thanks for this!! 🙂

    • Julie Plagens on April 4, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      Becky, thank you for your thoughtful comment. It is easy to get being a good Christian with people pleasing. I know God will help you see the difference. He is showing me. I definitely want to please Him first too.

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