Well-liked, agreeable, understanding…these are all positive traits that we should all strive for- right? Well, if you were a kid who grew up being known as “a pleasure to have in class,” then these traits might not actually be all that they’re cut out for. While these traits are important and virtuous, without a clear set of boundaries, they can put you at risk of being a “People Pleaser”. Being known as a “People Pleaser” comes with the inability to say no, tolerating hurtful behaviour, and giving more than you are getting. If any of these resonate with you, do not worry, I used to be in your shoes too! But with the right mindset, support, and the ability to set boundaries, I found that change is possible.
Get comfortable with saying no. It’s okay to disappoint! As long as you communicate in a respectful manner, it is totally fine to say no once in a while. You should not be forcing yourself to go out when you have other things to do or simply just don’t want to go out that night. As much as it is important to be considerate of other people, it’s important to be considerate of yourself too and to not villainize yourself for saying something as simple as “no.” You don’t need to over-explain or be overly apologetic. Explanations and apologies are certainly something people deserve but there needs to be moderation otherwise you could be taken advantage of. As a recovering “People Pleaser” myself, sometimes it’s hard to see when people are taking advantage of your inability to say no. Listen to your body and social battery. If you push yourself too hard it can lead to burnout. Be mindful of your capacity.
Tolerating hurtful behaviour is a dilemma that a lot of “People Pleasers” go through. We are taught to forgive and forget, let things slide, be empathetic and give people the benefit of the doubt. In some situations, these might be appropriate responses to have. However, you must be careful to not enable hurtful behaviour. If someone is being hurtful towards you, tell them! Sometimes people don’t realize they are hurting you, especially if you people please and don’t speak up for yourself. If you have told them and they still don’t change then maybe that relationship does not serve you anymore. It’s better to lose a hurtful friend, partner, or relative than to tolerate hurtful behaviour.
While relationships (platonic, familial, or romantic) should certainly not be viewed as transactional, it is important to consider that both parties are treated as equals. As the saying goes, “one hand washes another.” If you find that you are always carrying the burden of being the listener, always having to pay, having to compromise your needs/desires/morals, then perhaps your relationship with that person should be reevaluated. It is not fair for one person to take on the bulk of expectations in a relationship that should be shared between the two of you. Not only does this harm you and deprive you of a healthy relationship, but it also deprives the other person from growing and practicing empathy and responsibility. In situations like this, you must learn how to advocate for yourself. Practice setting boundaries and using assertive phrases.
Although some of these may seem obvious to some, it is not that obvious when you are in the position of being a “People Pleaser.” Many of these tips and considerations I have implemented in my own life. It has helped me to not feel so guilty all of the time and it has allowed me to invest in more meaningful relationships. This change did not occur overnight. It took a lot of practice, mistakes, and building up my own self confidence and self assurance. I am still a well-liked, agreeable, and understanding person. However, those qualities are no longer the only things that define me.