Overcoming People Pleasing

What is people pleasing? And is it really as bad as people on TikTok paint it to be? Let’s find out with Flure!

Definition of people pleasing

People pleasing is a continuous act of putting others' interests and needs ahead of your own. As opposed to generally accepted and encouraged care about others, people pleasing crosses the line and makes the person neglect themselves and allow others to cross their boundaries. Sometimes people pleasing is a sign of mental health struggles, such as depression, anxiety, and codependency to name a few. So don’t be fooled by its seemingly positive connotation.

Nice vs people pleasing

If you’re confused and don’t understand when someone is nice and when they’re a people pleaser, think about their motivation. Your boyfriend doing nice things for you will be inspired to do it because he likes you, wants to feel good about himself or to return a favor. In general, they are coming from a positive and secure place.
People pleasers, on the contrary, are driven by fear of rejection and other negative emotions. They are afraid that people will not like them unless they keep them happy 24/7.

Signs of people pleasing

People pleasers come in different shapes and forms, but they definitely share personality traits that can help you spot a people pleaser in the crowd:
  1. They are very empathetic and caring.
  2. They are always concerned about what other people might feel or think.
  3. They want everyone to like them, so they’re ready to do anything to win their approval.
  4. It’s virtually impossible for them to say No, even when it greatly inconveniences them because they’re afraid of others seeing them as selfish.
  5. If they manage to say No, they end up feeling very guilty and anxious and overthinking it for days.
  6. They might agree with someone’s argument, even if they think or feel differently.
  7. A lot of people pleasers have low self-esteem.
  8. They apologize for anything and everything, even if it’s not their fault or an apology is not really necessary. In fact, they’ll gladly take the blame regardless of whether it has anything to do with them or not.
  9. They prioritize doing something for others rather than for themselves.
  10. They’re likely to stay silent when their feelings are hurt.

What causes people pleasing

How does it happen that someone turns into a people pleaser? Well, there are several reasons why people may develop this tendency:
  • Insecurity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Past trauma
  • Perfectionism
  • All of the above
Someone with low confidence and a lot of insecurities is likely to turn into a people pleaser as a way of coping with their fears. They also crave external validation, and doing everything for everyone is a way of achieving that. For people with such tendencies, the idea of someone disapproving or disliking them is horrible, so they’re avoiding it at all costs.
Some pathological people pleasers are also perfectionists. Being a people pleaser for them is a form of control, in a way, of what others think, feel, or do. They think (often subconsciously, without even realizing it) that if they can keep everyone happy, then everything will be right in the world.
Sadly, many people develop this syndrome as a trauma response. If they’ve had difficult experiences before, they might resort to people pleasing as a coping mechanism. Someone who’s suffered from abuse, manipulation, or gaslighting is likely to think that keeping their partner happy will ensure they don’t become abusive.

The affects of people pleasing

All chronic people pleasers are destined to have negative consequences to their lives. You can’t care about everyone else and put them first, without it negatively affecting you. Here are examples of what people pleasing can lead to.
  • Stress. Needless to say, constant worrying and trying to please everyone around is bound to result in stress.
  • Anxiety. The more you center your life around what others think, do, and want, the more anxious you become. And it’s perfectly understandable – you can’t possibly keep everyone happy at all times, it’s just unrealistic.
  • Inauthenticity. Morphing into other peoples’ lives can lead to the loss of one’s authentic self.
  • Anger. A big part of being a people pleaser is committing to doing things you really don’t want to be doing. At some point, even the most patient person starts to feel anger and frustration.
  • Burnout. Being a people pleaser is a 24/7 job, and it’s a job that has no tangible goals or destinations. This is a perfect breeding ground for burnout.
  • Resentment. If you’re always doing something for people around you, especially when it’s uncalled for, you probably won’t be getting as many thanks and much appreciation as you’d expect. Sooner or later, this makes you resent those “ungrateful” lovers, friends, and colleagues.
Yikes! That’s a lot of emotions and feelings we’d rather avoid, right?

How to stop people pleasing

Speaking of avoidance, you can change if you’re a people pleaser. There are many paths to healing from this behavior, so don’t lose hope, even if you struggle at first.

Take baby steps

It’s fairly unrealistic to expect to change completely overnight. Just like you shouldn’t think that one workout will make you an athlete, you should allow yourself time to fix your people pleasing tendencies. If you struggle with saying No to your partner, you can send them texts first, and slowly build up the courage to say it face-to-face.
Your circle of friends, lovers, and colleagues is probably used to your ways, so the change in your behavior will probably cause some turmoil. Be patient but persistent. You can try to openly explain what you think the problem is and why you’re willing to change the pattern. It will help them understand your perspective and support you. And, heck, some dishonorable people who’ve been using you might be (finally) shamed and back off.


Boundaries will help you and others around you navigate your healing period. Be prepared for people overstepping your boundaries, intentionally or not, and don’t be shy to reaffirm your boundaries, and repeat them as many times as required for the person to finally hear you.

Put yourself first

Easier said than done, especially if you’re an experienced people pleaser. But nobody will do it for you! You are your most important and precious person, so try to put yourself first again and again until you succeed.

Show kindness when you mean it

Stop being nice and kind to everyone in all situations. You really don’t have to tolerate anyone’s nasty behavior, and you don’t necessarily have to be nice at all. Being neutral is perfectly fine.

Make plans and set goals

It would really help you to learn to say No and not let other people take over your life if you have plans and goals for yourself. Dream big, plan career moves, try new hobbies, set fitness goals, whatever it is that you feel passionate about and what can add structure and guidance to your days.

Ask for a time off before saying Yes

If you try but fail to say No, there’s another tactic for you. Whenever someone wants you to do something for them, ask for a time off. Use this time off to think about the time and effort a task will take, and build up the courage to say No. By the way, if you don’t say Yes immediately, very often people find someone else to do the job or do it themselves.

Stop apologizing

It seems like women are more affected by the disease of excessive apologizing, but anyone can suffer from saying “Sorry” too much. You not doing something for others is not a bad thing, it’s perfectly normal. And the person that’s asking you for a favor will likely have no issues saying No to you, and they’ll also not feel bad about it.