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How Do We Break Free from People-Pleasing?

People pleasing is something that’s difficult for many of us to avoid doing. We find joy in making other people happy and being there to support them when times are difficult. But when does being a good person cross over into being a people pleaser? I believe this happens when putting others first comes at a detriment to ourselves. Choosing other people’s joy over our own. Hurting ourselves to avoid hurting others. People pleasers eventually lose themselves as they’re functioning to other’s desires and not their own. Living a life that’s untrue to yourself can cause unhappiness, sadness and despair. Being the truest you, the best you, happens when you define yourself. What makes you happy. What career excites you. Who you want to love. What you’re passionate about. Who your friends are. It’s found in the small questions too. What you want to eat for dinner, how you want to dress, how you spend your time. If you find yourself falling more and more into the category of people pleasing, all hope is not lost! There are many ways we can begin breaking free of the confining box people pleasing can be. 

  1. Bring Awareness to this Need

Ask yourself what you’re hoping to gain by engaging in these actions. Maybe you’re hoping someone will love you more. Or maybe it’s that you’ll get a promotion if you keep working those extra hours, letting your boss use you. Whatever it may be, acknowledging what it is that you are doing and what you’re hoping to gain is the first step. 

  1. Practice Saying No

This may sound silly or easy, but for individuals who are people pleasers this can be one of the hardest things to do. When you say no you may feel like you’re letting other people down, disappointing them. And you might be. But when you say no to others, potentially disappointing them, you’re saying yes to yourself. That is what matters most. Because saying no might feel foreign to you, it’s helpful to roleplay this interaction with someone you trust. Practice until it’s something you’re more comfortable saying. The first couple of times may be difficult, but then you’ll be able to see, you actually gain more respect for saying no, rather than less.

  1. Speak Up Kindly

Spend some time thinking about and developing your own perspective. Journal, engage in conversations, read and really spend time reflecting on your own thoughts and perspectives. Listen to others and hear their opinions and viewpoints. Pause and reflect on what others have said before responding. Then give a thoughtful, compassionate response with the aim to engage in a meaningful dialogue. If you feel frustrated, work on your breathing, make sure you’re calm before responding. Lean into areas you feel resistance, it’s there to teach you. Be open to other opinions, see if they fit for you, if they don’t, move on. Don’t apologize for your perspective.  

  1. Set Small, Attainable Goals

If you set your goal to be “stop people pleasing” that’s something that may feel overwhelming to consider all at once. Instead, set small goals along the way. Maybe it’s saying no to someone once this week. Maybe it’s speaking up in a conversation or two. Maybe it’s taking the time to reflect on a conversation and develop your true thoughts and feelings around the topic. Whatever it is, set small, attainable goals.

  1. Challenge your Inner Critic

Our inner critics can be tough. We’re frequently the toughest on ourselves which is important to remember. Acknowledge your inner critic while recognizing they need approval from others which has led to disapproving of yourself. Instead of functioning in accordance to your inner critic, listen to your inner voice. As time goes on, it’ll be the louder, more prominent voice in your mind.

If you’ve found yourself struggling to stay true to yourself, consistently trying to please other people in your life, it may be useful to get support from a licensed counselor in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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