The Best Ways to Stop Being a People-Pleaser

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The hardest lesson in life for me is wrapping my head around the fact that not everyone is going to like me.

I’m a people-pleaser by nature. To think that I did something, or worse, I AM something that is not pleasing to people is really unsettling. There are moments when I think I have it all together. Moments when my self-talk is all about empowerment. I tell myself it does not matter if people do not like me. Who are these people anyway and what part do they have in my life? In these moments I feel good.

Then I realize that these moments happen when I am feeling like I have pleased all the people. Inevitably, as I continue to live life someone will come to the surface vocalizing their dislike for something I did, something I said, or something I am.

Enter anxiety.

My initial thought is “what did I do?” I find myself always wondering what it is about me that is wrong. Anxiety lives in the crevices of self-doubt. It feeds on insecurities like a mouse feeds on cheese.

Self-doubt is brutal. Thinking that we are not good enough just as we are is damaging to all that we can become. Shannon L. Alder once said that we should not waste our time trying to explain ourselves to people who are committed to misunderstanding us.

How true this is.

Sometimes we fixate on other people’s opinions. Even people we don’t know, like or respect. Isn’t that crazy? Why do we spend so much time fighting for the approval of people who are never going to approve?

Stop wasting your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you - Shannon L. Alder

It is important that we understand why acceptance and being liked is so important to us. This is difficult because it requires us to look at things about ourselves that we are not super happy with. Rest assured though, you are not alone. I am right there with you. I battle the need to be liked constantly.

I have dissected this beast of people-pleasing that I carry around with me relentlessly. I want to share with you some reasons that we have a need to be liked, as well as some strategies to change our thinking.

Why Are We People-Pleasers?

1. History

Whether we want to believe it or not, our history stemming all the way back to our childhood has shaped our wants and needs. If you grew up in any one of these environments, you most likely have a propensity toward people-pleasing.

  • a home where there was substance abuse by one or both parents
  • emotionally or physically abusive home
  • a home where a sibling had special needs
  • messages that you are only worth if you do things for others
  • A home where you did not feel seen or heard

Of course, the list goes on. But the takeaway is that we are given messages very early on in life about what we should value. We are given these messages before we have the ability to understand or critique them.

2. Fear

Yep, that’s right. The age-old common denominator of anxiety. Fear. Think about it. If we are uncomfortable with someone not liking us, it is because we fear what that might mean. Here are some examples. Keep in mind, even these fears have a historical significance. We can spend time dissecting why we fear these things at a later time.

  • Fear of criticism
  • Fear of rejection
  • Feeling of guilt
  • Fear of disappointing others

If you have one or more of these fears and do not know how to reign it in, you are likely going to be trapped in people-pleaser prison.

3. Poor Self-Esteem

When we don’t love ourselves enough, we don’t know how to discern our value from other’s value of us. We are constantly trying to prove to ourselves that we are okay by whether or not other people think we are okay.

This is a slippery slope and can lead us into toxic relationships, bad habits, and addiction.

'Not everyone needs to know the real you. Let them criticize who they think you are.'


How to Flip the Script

So now we know of some historical factors and mindsets that may lead to our need to people-please. Now what?

1. Go Back in Time

In order to erase any faulty messages you have received over the years, you have to take a trip down memory lane. Go back to your childhood home.

  • What was it like?
  • Did you feel safe?
  • What messages did you receive about what success looks like?
  • Were your opinions valued?
  • Did you feel loved?

These are important questions to ask because they give us information about why so much value is placed on whether other people like you.

2. Face the Fears

Facing your fears goes hand in hand with looking at historical messages. The fears most likely stemmed from a pattern of behavior or consistent messaging that was received over time.

  • If you fear criticism, is it because you were criticized a lot growing up?
  • If you fear rejection, is it because you were told that you were not good enough?
  • If you fear disappointing others, is it because you were always told you could do better than your best effort?

3. Challenge Your Self-Talk

The messages that we send to ourselves (self-talk) can be some of the most damaging messages we hear. The good news is that we are the ones sending them. It’s not like some rando is spouting negative words in our ear that we cannot escape from.

You are the cause and the cure to your own dysfunction.

This is good news because it means you can fix what is broken. It will take effort, time, and trial and error, but it can be done. When it happens, and you end up in a place of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-confidence, you will not care nearly as much whether or not someone likes you.

Challenge the Validity of the Argument

So you’ve done everything, but still feel very unsettled that someone on this earth is walking around not liking you. This is where it becomes important to ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Who is this person to you?
  2. Is there any truth to their criticism?
  3. How does this person affect your life?

These three questions will help you see things realistically. If this person is not someone who knows you well, their criticism is not accurate, and they have no barring on your life, then what they say is inconsequential. Let it go.

I know, easier said than done. But it is so worth it. You are so worth it.

To learn the ten signs that you might be a people please, take the CLICK HERE to take the quiz. I also recommend reading the article in Psychology Today.  As always, to help with anxiety, check out my resource page


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