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  • Writer's pictureSarah Dresser

The One Question To Ask Yourself to Know If You Are a People Pleaser

To focus exclusively on self all the time is the very definition of selfish. So you may say to yourself that the desire to help is always healthy and positive. But is it? Every yes we state is also a no to everything else.

It is normal and natural to want to help others. Everyday acts of kindness weave the social fabric that binds us together. As well as practical help, we need each other for emotional support. We are wired to connect.

But you are reading this for a reason.

Every yes we state is also a no to everything else

Perhaps you have noticed signs of inner conflict when someone requests your time and energy. Maybe you have started to resent the demands put on you. And even when you do say no, perhaps it feels difficult to do so, and you are weighed down by guilt for hours afterwards.

On the occasions when you agree and say yes, you might feel torn between the need to please and feelings of frustration or anger. 

If you notice that you resent the demands put upon you or feel frustration arise, I assure you that these feelings are not selfish. They are a sign of another issue. As I always say, all emotions are valid. All emotions serve to show an unmet need or express a message that we have not yet heard.

All emotions serve to show an unmet need or express a message that we have not yet heard

Resentment may stem from a feeling that every "yes" to others is a "no" to your own needs. But before you consider how to balance your own and others' needs, you first need to understand your motives.

How can you know if your desire to please comes from a healthy place or is a symptom of the disease to please? The answer lies in understanding the "why" that motivates you to say yes.

Answer this Question to Know If You Are a People Pleaser

The One Question to Ask Yourself

The one question to ask yourself is: does your instinctive response to say yes come from a positive or negative drive? More specifically, are you driven by an anticipated judgement if you do not fulfill the request?

What Are Your Emotional Drives to Say Yes?

When you feel the need to say yes, do you feel an undercurrent of guilt, low-level fear or anxiety? Or is there a sense of depression that stems from a sense of not truly having a choice?

Perhaps you feel that it is impossible to say no.

Let's explore your reactions and I gently encourage you to do so without judgement of yourself.

What Are the Thoughts Behind The Yes Response?

Take a minute to reflect and think back to the last request you received when you said yes. 

Observe your initial response, whether a thought, an emotion or both.

If you notice the thought first, what is it narrating? Is it convincing you that others' needs are always more important? Is your inner voice telling a story about what will happen if you say no? Is there a knee-jerk reaction to say yes, a response that is not used to the idea of having a choice?

What is your inner voice saying about you? Is it supportive, doubtful, confused or an inner critic? Notice what arises.

The Second Wave of Emotions

Resist the urge to react or judge yourself and continue to observe your responses. Notice if there is a second wave of emotions, such as resentment, anger, frustration or something else.

The Body Speaks Your Truth

Even if your thoughts or emotions are not clear, or perhaps you do not yet have the habit of checking in with yourself, your body may help show you how you feel.

Notice any new sensations in your own body. Do you experience tension in the traditional parts of the body where we carry burdens: around the neck, shoulders or upper back?

Do you feel a tightness in your throat, specifically your vocal cords? This is the centre of your freedom of speech and the location of the throat chakra.

Do you feel an agitation in your legs, arms or hands? Both the ability to speak and the choice to move towards or away from something or someone are all part of our instinctive need for freedom of expression. 

As you explore your feelings, observe your thoughts and engage with your body's responses, allow all three to express to you how you really feel.

Why DO We Say Yes When We Want to Say No?

Why do we say yes when we mean to say no, or why do we say no and still feel guilty?

When compared with a healthy level of compassion and a willingness to help others, being a people pleaser has more to do with self-image. Whether you feel that your drive to say yes is anxious or depressed, behind these emotions usually lies one or more fears: the fear of rejection, criticism or disapproval. 

1. Fear of Criticism

You may have perceived that you received love only with terms and conditions attached. Love was not consistently available during childhood and could be withdrawn at any time. The spoken or unspoken message was that love was based on what you do, not who you are. 

2. Fear of Disapproval

Different from the fear of criticism, disapproval sends a message that there is something fundamentally wrong with you and that you do not belong. You suppressed those aspects of yourself that others disapproved of and continually compensated for not being what others expected of you. Because of this, your true sense of self was not allowed to flourish.

To paraphrase Gabor Maté, the greatest need of all children is attachment to parents or caregivers.¹ Authenticity - being the true you - was not permitted because you had to be a version of you that would gain approval.

3. Fear of Rejection or Exclusion

The fear of exclusion may come from a culture that encouraged a focus on the collective at all costs and silenced the individual, preferring conformity over individual personality. 

The community may have had a leader or a rigid hierarchy. Perhaps certain groups or individuals were labeled as inferior or less important.

Or perhaps your culture was one where disagreement carried heavy shame and, no matter what, it was better never to contradict others or seem disagreeable. 

The Core Limiting Belief Of the People Pleaser

The false truth that drives the compulsion to people please is the belief in hierarchy. This limiting belief states that you are always less important than others.

With unhealthy individual and group dynamics, you may never have been permitted to develop healthy personal boundaries.

You may also consistently push your own self-care down the list of priorities. Others' wants and needs, by default, are always perceived as more important.


But this can change. At any time in your lifetime, you can retrain your brain and beliefs.

With the power of meditation and hypnotherapy, the brain is open to change in a way not typically possible in an everyday waking state.

To begin to change, listen to my Meditation to Stop People Pleasing below, and when you are ready, read my step-by-step guide to learn How to Stop Being a People Pleaser.

Final Thoughts

The first 8 years of our childhood experiences form our self-image and world reference. You may have received direct or indirect messaging about your self-worth. We can never truly know our parents' or caregivers' intentions. You may choose to feel compassion for them now, later or never.

But I hope this article has helped encourage you to extend compassion to yourself. You are important to this world and you are important to yourself.

You are important to this world and you are important for yourself

Now that you better understand the drive behind the need to please, it is time to begin to heal. It is never too late to make a positive change.

If you need extra support, please listen to my Stop People Pleasing Meditation below.

Then take steps to change your beliefs and behaviour by following my guide to learn How to Stop Being a People Pleaser and set healthy boundaries.

Stop People Pleasing Meditation

Thank You For Reading

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Sarah Dresser and I am a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. I am passionate about providing low-cost and no-cost support and therapy for all.

Sarah Dresser Clinical Hypnotherapist

A decade ago I quit the corporate world and began the process of completely redesigning my work and personal life. 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.

I know from both working with my clients and my own first-hand experience that no matter how long you have lived with an issue, your subconscious mind always has the power to help you heal.

With the power of hypnotherapy, the brain goes from read-only to a read-write state, and in this state you can release limiting beliefs and heal at all levels: mind, body, soul and spirit.

Support my work

If you have benefitted from my work, please donate to support me here on PayPal or through Donorbox. Donations do help sustain my work and allow me to continue to give to all.

Access My Hypnotherapy and Meditation Videos at No Cost on My Youtube Channel

You can access over 200 hypnosis, meditation and affirmations sessions on my YouTube channel here at no cost.

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


¹ Maté, Dr, Gabor (2022) The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture, New York, NY, Avery

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