I’ve been a people pleaser since 1986 and treated it as a civic duty over the next 20-something years. Teacher’s pet? Check. Needing everyone to like me? Check. Worried about what others thought of me (only good things PLEEEASE!)? Check. Putting others before myself? Yup, all of the above.
I hope I’m not alone when I admit that unconsciously one of my biggest goals in life has been to please. I’ve always felt a responsibility to put others first and be well-liked, and that doesn’t always mean staying honest with my opinions.
Thankfully, my late 20s came with the realization that I was not only o.v.e.r. this exhausting attribute of mine, but ready to make some changes. And that’s not to say that all of a sudden I was a jerk or not tested by the need to please—because I’m still a nice person and struggle with this all the time—but I definitely now feel comfortable being truthful with myself and others.
Here are some of the practices that have helped with my people-pleasing syndrome. I hope they help you, too!
1. Use the “Would I want to do this right now?” rule.
I’ve heard the saying “Just say no!,” but that doesn’t work for me. Becoming a person known for saying “no” is not my mission; I just want my “yes” to be something I’m truly OK with—no matter whose feelings I’m dealing with.
I think about whatever question is being thrown at me—whether it’s an invite to a bachelorette party or someone needing help moving—and ask myself, “Would I want to do this right now?” If I would, I say yes. If I don’t, it’s a no. Simple as that! I usually find that whatever I don’t want to do in this moment, I’m not going to want to do later.
2. Set priorities.
I picked up one of my favorite habits from this article, which says, “Getting enough sleep is important to me. If it stops me getting eight hours a night, I will say no.” As a person who makes sleep a MAJOR priority, I’m all about this! For years, I’d be sleeping on the floor during vacations because I was “easy-going” a.k.a my friends knew I wouldn’t argue. After realizing my non-negotiables—like getting sleep on a proper bed and in a quiet space—I spoke up. Now, I’m happy to get there early or stay late to clean up, but I will NOT be taking a spot on the hardwood.
3. Save “I’m sorry” for when you really are.
I didn’t even realize this habit of mine until my boyfriend pointed it out, but I’m a chronic I’m sorry-er. Sorry for having a typo in a casual text, sorry for using the last of the shampoo when there was only a drop left, sorry for all of the silliest things. As I’ve focused on letting go of some of my people-pleasing tendencies, I’ve also let go of the unnecessary use of “I’m sorry.” Now, I only use it when I truly feel bad about something—and that does not include taking the last bite from the Ben & Jerry’s Americone Dream pint.