Stop People Pleasing

 “I can’t tell you the key to success, but I can tell you the key to failure is  trying to please everyone” – Ed Sheeran

Over breakfast this morning I said to my husband,  “I am going to blog about ’People Pleasing’ today.”  Andy replied “Are you sure you know enough about that?”  He was being funny.   These days, I am not known for being a ‘people pleaser’ amongst close friends and family.

I don’t do things that I don’t want to, sometimes to others annoyance and I don’t have an issue speaking out when I feel someone is taking advantage. But I definitely used to be a PP, and even now I am guilty of it at work sometimes.  I have a strong aversion to confrontation and have made some regrettable decisions saying yes, simply to avoid conflict.

What is people pleasing and how do we know if we fit the model? ‘People pleasing’ is not to be confused with being kind to those around you or being friendly or warm.


People pleasers usually have issues with their own self esteem and sense of worth and are so caught up in the need to be liked that they put others interests before their own, often to the detriment of their own health. Their need for approval is stronger than their own self interest.

Imagine walking home with a bag of heavy shopping and you see a friend and offer to carry their shopping as well as your own.  The friend is happy for you to carry her shopping, and although you are initially happy and proud that you have done such a good deed, the resentment will begin to ferment long before you get to your front door.  Why has your “friend” let you do this? If they think so little of you to allow this to happen, perhaps there is good reason for you to think so little of yourself.

People pleasing can take lots of different forms, and of course it is true that there is pleasure to be gained from feelings of being needed. Ultimately though, when these feelings become a constant necessity  to boost ones own self esteem, disfuctional behaviours can take over.


Consider the person in your office who is super sweet and helpful and will do anything for anybody.  He/She will always stay late, and doesn’t mind helping out with  the workload of others. They don’t want to let anyone down, will be constantly apologising, even though they have done nothing wrong  and if help is offered, will simply smile and say that they are fine.  No doubt at night they  worry about their ever increasing workload, but wouldn’t dream of ever saying no. Having so little care for themselves, they are caught in a circle of self destruction.

As a counsellor, I recall a client who was a classsic PP. She ran herself in the ground trying desperately to keep everyone around her happy. When we eventually got to why she was doing that, she realised it was because she saw this as her role, her usefulness if you like. The thought of not being useful was terrifying.  If she didn’t have that role to play, then what/who was she?

“People who are the most difficult to please are often the least worth pleasing” – Unknown

I don’t like work confrontation. Confrontation can me feel sick and the prospect of it brings my anxiety to the surface.  But I try and remember that I can’t possibly please everyone and some confrontation is inevitable when working with the numbers of staff on my teams.


So, how can we stop ourselves being People Pleasers?    Practising saying ‘no’ is often the best place to start. Every day start to try to say ‘no’ to at least one person and record your feelings, if possible, in a journal.

Consider what is the worst thing that can happen if you say no. Run that scenario in your head.

Before you say yes, just think for a moment why you are saying yes and be clear what you are saying yes to,  as opposed to just saying yes automatically. Even if it’s only for 15 minutes, take time to think before agreeing.

“If you try to please all, you please none.” – Aesop

Remind yourself that each new request is a choice, not an inevitable, and get used to weighing up the pros and cons of each decision before automatically responding. It is also perfectly acceptable, having said yes, to change your mind occasionally.

Delay your reaction.  If you have received an angry email, for example, wait 24 hours before responding. There is no need to rush into an apologetic reply and the time out will give the emailer a chance to cool down and you time to consider your response.

Don’t feel you have to give a reason for saying no. Getting yourself tangled up in excuses about why you should not be doing something is unnecessary. A simple no will suffice.

Regarding confrontations at work, I now have a mental tick list. I ask for the whole story again rather than jumping straight to a solution. Letting the person know I’m hearing them and their issue can diffuse anger. I always try and offer a choice of solution and will compromise if I can. But I no longer say yes automatically to avoid any conflict.

Remember that saying yes to everything does not make the perfect friend, boss, wife, husband, friend etc.

“What other people think of you is none of your business” – Unknown

Trying to spend your life making sure everyone likes you will be exhausting, detrimental to your health and ultimately unsuccessful. Resentment will fester under the surface and those feelings will, and can cause serious health problems.

Instead, consider taking care of yourself first and making decisions that make you personally happy. The journey to building your self-esteem does not require others to like you,  but it does require you to like and be kind to yourself. ❤️


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