How to Stop Being A People Pleaser in 2023

This unhealthy habit can lead to a loss of self-confidence and regret. You can stop by following these 4 expert tips.

Have you ever accepted a brunch invitation from a friend knowing you really don’t want to go out? What about going on a date and being uncomfortable the whole time while they rambled on about their ex? In both situations, your insides were screaming hell-to-the-no, but you said nothing because you didn’t want to upset the other person.

If you constantly find yourself in situations like this, you might be a people pleaser. You may think you’re doing the world—or others—a favor, but unfortunately, this habit of allowing your words and actions to differ from your spirit’s true intent can hurt you the most. 

As Natalie Lue explains in her new book, The Joy of Saying No, “People pleasing is consciously and unconsciously suppressing and repressing your needs, desires, expectations, feelings, and opinions to put other people first so that you gain attention, affection, approval, love, or validation or avoid conflict, criticism, disappointment, loss, rejection, or abandonment.”

While this may seem like no big deal, the repercussions of being a people pleaser can be profound, including losing your self-confidence and feeling regret, resentment, and more.

Case in point: actress Jennifer Lawrence recently told Marie Claire in a candid interview that being a people pleaser her entire life actually caused her to take a step back from her successful career. “Working made me feel like nobody could be mad at me: ‘Okay, I said yes, we’re doing it. Nobody’s mad,'” she told the magazine. “And then I felt like I reached a point where people were not pleased just by my existence. So that kind of shook me out of thinking that work or your career can bring any kind of peace to your soul.” 

To guarantee a similar situation doesn’t happen to you, here are 4 specific ways you can stop being a people pleaser this year. Actively choosing to make this change in your life can enhance your own well-being and peace of mind, so make this change for you.

Learn the art of saying “no”

woman with word no on her hand

If you’re accustomed to saying yes to anything in the moment, the term “I’ll get back to you” will become your secret weapon this year. It will give you time to think about yourself and your priorities before you commit to anything. Ask yourself: Is what I’m being asked to do pleasing me first and foremost?

The blame game (not to be confused with lying) also works in this situation. If you’re invited to an event that would be a long drive, blame the distance for why you won’t be able to make it. If you’d rather spend time with your kids than go out with your friends, prioritize this when you say no. If face-to-face confrontations give you anxiety, send a text or email explaining why your answer is no, and keep moving.

That said, certain situations in which you keep finding yourself backed up against a wall deserve more explanation. “If someone is reacting negatively because you’re no longer making yourself available, have a longer conversation,” says Grace Brodeur, a coach for high performers, procrastinators, and perfectionists. “It’s essential to make your limits clear. For example, stating the hours you’ll respond to emails and work on projects. If someone doesn’t understand what you’re going through, it’s not your obligation to tell them, but you can provide as much context as you’re comfortable with.”

Understand why you fall into the trap of saying “yes”

woman in bathtub

Sometimes we feel the need to please people in order to avoid friction. Are you saying yes because you genuinely want to, or is it out of guilt, fear, or conflict? If avoiding negative feelings is your reason for saying yes, it’s time to identify why—because these feelings are bound to pop up later if you continue to people-please.

“Examine your own self-esteem,” suggests certified life and wellness coach, Raychelle LeBlanc. “Why do you put other people before yourself? Allow yourself to have this conversation and do the work. If you need help, work with a professional to examine the root.”

To get started, Physiology Today offers a free self-esteem test that you can take to start the process.

Refrain from overextending yourself in unhealthy ways

friends consoling the other sad women

Being a person who does nice things for others is great—as long as it makes you feel good. Of course, there are circumstances in life where this isn’t possible, such as parent obligations, caring for a sick loved one, or busting your behind at work for a promotion. These are what are considered healthy overextending circumstances.

That said, driving your friend to and from her boyfriend’s house because she has no gas money but doesn’t want to miss their date night could be an example of non-healthy overextension. Agreeing to work alone until 9 pm in order to finish a group project while the rest of your team goes home is another example.

Allow yourself to not care when it’s not called for

woman with curly hair smiling

There are circumstances in which you should care, and there are others in which you simply do not need to give an eff! These are the moments that simply don’t deserve your time and attention. Realizing the difference between the two is a skill that can be developed over time.

You can start setting healthy boundaries by examining the roles that certain people and tasks have in your life and prioritizing them in a way that feels healthy for you. For instance, you’ll have less time to heavily invest yourself in a friend’s unnecessary drama if you are busy with goal-oriented activities, like training for a marathon or making partner at your law firm. 

Vanessa Van Edwards, the creator of the Peoples School, recently summed this concept up on Instagram: “You do not have to catch every ball thrown at you. This works for the things people say about you or to you that negatively affect you. Practice examining the ball before deciding whether to catch it. Because, sometimes, it may be worth dropping.”

Karim Orange
Karim Orange, is a beauty, wellness and lifestyle writer, whose work has been featured inpublications such as Organic Spa Magazine, Huff Po, and World Bride just to name a few. Read more