How to get over the people-pleasing characteristic in you

Someone once said, “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm…”

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One of the (almost) toxic human behaviours is being judgmental and gossiping. No matter how evolved society is or how educated the person is, people are always going to gossip, judge, and make unsolicited comments about your life. However, it’s important to not be bogged down by what others think and live life on your terms without seeking validation from others or trying to please them. 

People-pleasing is a universal characteristic and it’s probably not easy to get over it. In an article in the Washington Post, relationship expert Natalie Lue describes typical people-pleasing behaviour as “When we suppress and repress our own needs, desires, expectations, feelings and opinions to put others ahead of ourselves so that we can gain attention, affection, validation, approval, and love”.

A YouGov survey conducted across the USA revealed that nearly 49 per cent of adults would identify as people-pleasers and 47 per cent believed that others in their life would describe them as such. According to most psychologists, people-pleasing behaviour arises out of extremely low self-esteem and insecurity. In a blog by psychotherapist Gavin Sharpe, he said, “We all have a primal fear of abandonment. We want validation. We fear rejection. We need to be seen. When those innate biological and psychological forces drive us to please others habitually, we leave ourselves behind”. 

Chances are we’ve encountered such people in our lives or may be portrayed people-pleasing behaviour—felt guilty to say no, been preoccupied with what people might think, been overly apologetic, or even agreed to do things we didn’t want to—and in the bargain felt lost or didn't know who we are. But there are ways to overcome such tendencies, insecurities, and fears. We’ve listed down a few that might help. 

Establish boundaries 

Establishing boundaries might be the most effective way to overcome your feelings. Drawing boundaries means understanding your priorities and limitations and acting accordingly. It does not mean you don’t care about someone or something. When you draw healthy boundaries, you bring the best version of yourself to whatever you do rather than being half-heartedly or unwillingly involved in something. 

Say self-love affirmations 
People-pleasing behaviour often arises from low self-esteem and the need for external validation. One way to bring about a balance is to start treating your own mind, heart, and body with kindness, respect and love. You can do this by writing down self-love affirmations every day. For example, I am enough or I believe in myself and I’m grateful for everything my mind and body have to offer.  

Learn how to say no 
A common trait among many people-pleasers is the fear of coming across as rude, which often pushes them into agreeing to certain things even if they do not want to. Remember, people are always going to have opinions about you no matter what you do or how much you please them. So, why not learn to say no for the sake of your happiness and state of mind? 

Let go of toxic relationships 

This is closely related to the previous point. If you repeatedly find yourself in situations where you feel guilty or scared to say no, chances are, the problem is the other person. If you have people in your life who intentionally and consistently make you feel bad for prioritising yourself or other things, it’s time to let these friendships and relationships go. 

Stop apologising without reason 
Another way to overcome this people-pleasing trait is by not apologising unnecessarily. If you often apologise for prioritising your mental and physical health, remind yourself you have done nothing wrong. This will help you overcome your fear of the other person’s reactions or what they might say to you if you happen to draw certain boundaries with them.