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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dresser

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser

If you learned from my last blog article that you identify as a people pleaser, this article is for you. In this article, I provide you with a step-by-step guide to free yourself from the need to please others.


I also give you strategies to help you navigate the different reactions you may receive as you begin to set healthy boundaries with others.

First, we need to focus on you.



Steps to Stop People Pleasing


Start to Heal the Disease to Please


1. Journal Your Values


To stop being a people pleaser, first focus on yourself. Take time to get to know yourself. Begin to explore and journal your values and beliefs. Journalling gives you a written record that you can refer to later. As you articulate your values, ask yourself:


1. Which of my values are most important to me?


2. How is people pleasing in conflict with my values? If you wish to live with honesty or authenticity, for example, use these as motivations to change.


3. How can I build healthy boundaries and still be a helpful person?


4. How can I express my values peacefully and honestly?


3. Define Your Wants and Needs


As a therapist, I find it helpful to define assertiveness as expressing your wants and needs.

Whether you believe in concepts of oneness or not, at an individual level we all have different needs at different times. But this does not mean that you must always sacrifice your priorities and automatically say yes to others' requests.


Document your daily and weekly wants and needs and determine how much time and other resources you require to meet them. Having a written record helps ensure that you do not begin to mentally erase your own priorities the next time you receive a request.   


2. Reference A Positive Scenario of Helping Others


To begin to change your mindset, take time to journal a positive scenario of helping another person. 


What would it feel like to help someone from a positive desire, without fear of judgement, criticism, or disapproval, and without guilt or resentment?


Journal this or imagine this scenario, or talk it through with a trusted friend. Once you have a positive scenario, it becomes easier to recognize the unhealthy drive to people please that is driven by fear.


Next Steps To Stop Being a People Pleaser


1. When You Receive a Request, Ask Yourself These Questions


In the future, every time someone asks something of you, pause. Before you answer, notice your emotional response. Is there a positive or negative emotional response? That should be your guide. 


When you feel the guilt take control of you, step back and ask yourself the following:


1. Does this need to happen right now?


2. Am I the only one or the best person to fulfill this request?


3. Can this request be shared by one or more people?  


4. Is this request a genuine need, or is someone trying to abdicate their responsibilities?


2. Remember: Every Yes is Also a No


And remember that every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to everything else. A yes is not always the most positive response. Remember that you always have a voice. And you always have choices.


3. Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt


It may not be obvious to others when you want to say no. Remember that until you make them aware, no-one can ever know what you need until you speak up. Give others the benefit of the doubt and start to express your own wants and needs.


4. Get Support to Develop Healthy Boundaries


It may be challenging at first to learn how to discuss and negotiate differing priorities. But those who care will be prepared to both talk and listen. Find a person you trust and express that you have had challenges saying no in the past.


Ask for help in practicing setting boundaries and communicating your wants and needs. Help is not a one-way street. You too can ask for support in meeting your needs.


When you start to communicate your needs, you tap into a new vocabulary beyond "yes" and "no" and a new way of relating to others

5. Communicate and Collaborate


Beyond "yes" and "no" you can develop deeper personal connections and a new vocabulary that is empowering and supportive rather than a subservient "yes" or a defiant "no". 


As you open up communication, you can learn new ways of meeting needs that involve collaboration and healthy compromise on both sides (not just you) rather than through coercion, criticism and guilt games.


6. Communicate Dates for Changes in Priorities


If, through the journalling process, you have realized that you are regularly giving up your own needs to take on others' requests, you need to cut back on the work you are doing for others.


Announce the changes you are going to make. Rather than ask for permission, simply state them. Give specific dates wherever possible.


Do not apologize. You can briefly explain why you are changing your priorities to meet your own needs, but be sure not to over-explain or apologize. Remember that you are equal to all others in your wants and needs. You can feel compassion for others but do not say sorry for vocalizing your needs.


Do not compromise your boundaries. They are yours and only you can decide what is right for you.


Do not apologize for your boundaries. They are yours and only you can decide what is right for you

7. Stop Playing the Guilt Game


There may be some people in your circle who have used you and rely on coercion and control to take advantage of you.


You will know these people as they will refuse to understand or even discuss your wants and needs. Notice who uses language that is intended to make you feel anxious or guilty.


When you hear someone use language of guilt or disrespect, take this as a sign. As Maya Angelou states: "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time."


"When people show you who they are, believe them the first time." Maya Angelou

In these cases, minimize explanations and state what you need rather than ask for permission.

Take action to make the changes you need to set healthy boundaries.


This may mean minimizing contact with certain people. Not forever, but perhaps for some time. You can choose who to let into your life, always.


As I say in my Stop People Pleasing Meditation: when you stop playing the game, there is no game to play. You set the rules for your own life.


Final Thoughts


There is nothing wrong with wanting to help others. And there is nothing wrong with you.  


But to be consistently motivated by negative emotions to help others is unhealthy for you.  And we are not designed to live in a state of guilt or fear.  


The cost of the compulsion to say yes is not just your self-care, it is also your authenticity, your mental health, and your self-respect. Saying yes does not keep the peace, not with yourself, and not with others. Perhaps you have already noticed that some relationships are feeling strained.  


Give others the benefit of the doubt and start to express your wants and needs, starting today. Remember that no person is a mind reader, and those who truly love and respect you will want to understand how to support you.


If others only value you while they can use you, then the relationship is - or was - purely transactional, and you have lost nothing and have gained not only time but also self-worth.


Remember that you are equal to all others in your wants and needs. You always have a voice. And you always have choices. Every yes to one request is a no to everything else.   


It may feel unusual or uncomfortable at first. But the more you practice setting boundaries, the more it will become habit and part of your supportive beliefs. And the disease to please will heal.  


You were born to live the life you choose, and to be loved for who you are. The more you show the true you, the more you will attract people who love you for you.


If you need more support, listen to my Stop People Pleasing Affirmations below.  I also have a Stop People Pleasing Meditation on my Youtube channel.





Thank You For Reading


Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Sarah Dresser and I am a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist.


My mission is to provide low-cost and no-cost therapy and support for all. My work is inspired by models of sustainable communities and concepts from the Gift Economy. After quitting my corporate career, I designed my work to be able to offer over 95% of my work to all with no pay barrier.


Sarah Dresser Clinical Hypnotherapist

My passion is demonstrating the ability of hypnotherapy to heal even lifelong issues. 


There are dozens of techniques and, knowing this, I truly believe that hypnotherapy can benefit everybody.


You can read more about those changes and my own experience of the power of the subconscious mind to heal even a decade-long issue here.


Support My Work


If you have benefitted from my work, please donate to support me here on Paypal or through Donorbox.  Donations help sustain my work so I can continue to provide support for all.


Access My Work For Free


You can access over 200 hypnosis, meditation and affirmation sessions on my YouTube channel here. You can now download all my work as MP3s from the Unlock Your Life MP3 store. And you can also get all MP3s you purchase in your very own private podcast feed. Learn more here about how to get your own Unlock Your Life private podcast feed.


As always, I am here to support you on your journey, Sarah

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