People-pleasing is a pattern of behaviour where you put the needs of others before your own and seek others approval. It can give you a short term gain, like, avoiding a conflict, saving time on arguing, and a general feel good feeling, that you get when you have made someone else happy.
When does this become a problem?
If you start to find that you don’t get your wants and needs met and you feel that your feelings are being ignored, this can create resentments and you could find yourself giving until you make yourself ill or burn out.
The good news is that people-pleasing behaviour can be changed.
Recognise when it's time to stop
When do you find it hard to say ‘No’, or aren't able to express your wants and needs? Are you always pleasing other people, but find that this isn't reciprocated and how does that feel?
Keeping a record will help you to recognise when you do these things, and where there might be patterns. You can then ask yourself where these patterns have appeared in your life previously, and when they began.
Love yourself first
Healthy Relationships with others stem from a healthy relationship with yourself. If you feel yourself constantly looking for approval of others, then this could mean that you are looking for something that you can't find within yourself.
Spend time getting to know yourself, what you like, what you enjoy doing and what makes you happy. Be as kind to yourself as you are to other people. Try new things. Find a way to connect with yourself – the best version of you.
Cultivate self-love, so that you are giving from an overflowing cup
Seek approval from yourself, not always others
When you have a decision to make, ask yourself why you want to ask others’ opinions about it. Do they bring a new perspective or experience? Or are you seeking approval and reassurance from them?
Learn to seek approval from yourself and be your own best friend. You know yourself better than anyone and you also know what is best for you. Listen to your inner voice, let yourself be guided by yourself!
Keep to healthy Boundaries
Serial people-pleasers tend to have poor, or non-existent boundaries.
As you work on your relationship with yourself, you will begin to notice more how you wish to be treated and what is ok and not ok, for you in terms of physical, emotional, and time-related boundaries.
When you begin to communicate your boundaries to others then expect some resistance from some people, especially from people who rely on you more than they should. People generally don’t like change, and they need to know that you are serious about your boundaries. Don’t give in, stick to your guns.
Start off with smaller, easier areas of life to build your confidence and assertiveness and keep at it, it will be worth it in the end.
It won't be easy to change
At the heart of people pleasing, is often a deep feeling of not being enough. This then shows up in other areas of your life.
People-pleasing leads to a disconnection from others, as we constantly worry what they think, and so we don’t open up to anyone and this can mean that you can try to hold on to love, people, money and jobs more than you should, when sometimes it's time to let go.
Playing it safe becomes the norm, anything to avoid conflict of any sort. Challenging the beliefs that we grew up with is hard work, but it’s worth it. If you hold on too tightly to what you have, you have no space to receive more and you deserve more in your life.
Breaking old patterns and creating new ones is much easier with the encouragement of those who understand and support you. If you want professional support, you may want to talk to a therapist or a therapy group can help.