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How Can I Stop Being a People Pleaser

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC 

           The truth is, we all need to try our best to get along with one another. This is how we are able to keep humanity (for the most part) to stay intact. However, some people work extra hard. People pleasers. People pleasers rely on others’ approval to feel good about themselves and struggle to say no to people for fear of feeling guilty or worrying that others might think they’re selfish. In order to feel worthy of acceptance, they say yes, yes, yes, and yes.

           As you could imagine, constantly seeking approval from others and ignoring your own needs can take on toll on your well-being. This inevitable pressure to manage others’ emotions can be exhausting, create anxiety, and even lead to depression. Hendriksen (2021) offers 5 tips for disrupting your people pleasing needs.

  1.     Are you helping because it makes you feel happy and satisfied? Or because you feel guilty? This is an important first step to acknowledge, as there is a fine line between being a people pleaser and simply being kind and generous. If you decide you want to help someone out because it aligns with your morals and values, great! But, if saying yes is simply so you can avoid guilt, you might be doing things for the wrong reasons.  Rather than saying yes to every opportunity asked of you, recognize the reasons why you would say yes. If it is just so you won’t feel that guilt discussed earlier, it might be beneficial to reconsider.
  1.     Let your values drive your decision. When deciding whether to say yes to something, it’s helpful to ask yourself, “Is this in line with my values and interests?” A 2013 study done by Sonja Lyubormirsky found that in order to maximize your happiness, it is important to choose activities that are related to your values and interests. This can be things that include serving others in your life, organizations, causes, and so on.
  1.     Practice saying no. For people who aren’t used to saying “no,” it can feel very aggressive to do so. However, there is a big difference between being passive and truly aggressive. Being aggressive means you go for what you want, regardless of who is hurt or what relationships might be ruined in the process. On the other hand, being assertive means you go for your goals while still being polite and respectful to others.

Practice standing up for your needs little by little. It might feel wrong at first, but the more you practice and try it out, the easier it will become. You can warm up by just stating your idea on where to go for lunch or what movie you want to see. You can then ramp up from there by politely disagreeing with your Uncle’s political banter, but doing so in a way in which you are respectfully listening and asking questions about his point of view. From there, you can begin to say “no” to requests that cause you to bend over backwards. This is setting healthy boundaries.

  1.     Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. Following up from the tip above, you can’t please everyone, all the time. In today’s world, everything is extreme, from politics to the weather. If you spend any time online, you can find extreme splits in points of view for just about anything. With this in mind, you can either be empathic and caring, or can screw everyone and tell them to go to you-know-where.

As you can imagine, people pleasers fall into the first category, and worry that saying “no” means that they will be shunned. Saying yes to people gives them the reassurance that they are good, likeable people. On the contrary, saying no creates guilt, as if they have done something bad. The truth is, it takes a lot more than saying no to watching your coworkers three misbehaving kids to break your moral character.

  1.     Refrain from over-apologizing.

I see this all the time with people! People pleasers are always sorry. The thing is, people pleasers usually have the best of intentions. Over apologizing helps make them feel better, however sometimes it can come across as dishonest in some situations. For example, if you are constantly apologizing when you did nothing wrong, it can make it appear as if you were in the wrong. You are admitting to a crime that you didn’t commit! This can also make people’s outrageous requests of you seem justified. Try to save your “sorrys” for the times when you actually do screw up (which is inevitable, we all do).

If you find yourself struggling with being a people pleaser, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our Chicago therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Hendriksen, E. (2021, May 18). 5 Steps to Stop Being a People Pleaser. Psychology Today.

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