How to stop being a people pleaser


Kevin Mangelschots

There are people out there whose primary goal is to make your life as good and comfortable as possible, regardless of their thoughts, needs, and feelings.

Yet, this fawning behavior can have severe negative consequences when taken too far.

That’s why we need to learn how to stop being a people pleaser. This is how to do it.

Goal, plan, action text on light box on desk table in home office. Business motivation or inspiration, performance of human concepts ideas.

  1. Realize and admit you have a problem

    You can’t stop being a people pleaser if you don’t realize that you’ve got an issue.

    This step is the hardest one and the one you’ve most likely already achieved, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. So good job! Admitting you are guilty of people-pleasing behavior means the hardest part is already done.

    It’s no easy task to acknowledge to yourself that something in your life is causing you problems and that your life could be better if you had the courage and knowledge to do something about it.

  2. Figure out and formulate what your own needs are and what you want in life

    The quote, “there is what you want in life and what you will do to have it. The rest is a story” written in white letters on a background.

    To change something in your life and to defend those changes to other people, you’ll need to figure out what your needs are first.

    Formulate your demands and desires as clearly as possible to devise a vision for the future and to know exactly what you want in life. If you don’t even know what you want from this existence, then you can’t defend and go after these needs either.

  3. Figure out and formulate what you wish to avoid

    Closely related to the previous point. You need to figure out what it is exactly that you wish to avoid.

    Chances are you are reading this because there are already some things you know you should change and thus, wish to change about yourself to improve your life.

    So chances are that you are already suffering from some things you wish to avoid in the future. This is very important because it can remind you of the bad things that can still happen if you do nothing about your troubles. In turn, it can motivate you to change yourself for the better.

  4. Realize that you can’t, and don’t have to please everyone

    The quote, “just a quick reminder: you can't please everyone” written in black letters on a gray background.

    Learning how to stop people-pleasing is only possible when you realize that you don’t have to satisfy everyone and that it’s an impossible task to accomplish.

    Part of the reason some people have a hard time being assertive is probably because they are too agreeable, and because they feel the want to put other people’s needs first.

    Because of this, the people pleasing everyone probably expect other people to do the same for them, which is often not reciprocated.

    It’s also possible that people-pleasing behavior is due to being afraid of the social repercussions if one stood up for themselves. Or maybe some try fawning over others just because they don’t like conflict at all.

    However, it’s not possible to please everyone. Even if you tried your hardest and put aside your wants, some people still wouldn’t like you for the simple fact that you’re trying to please other people.

    People have to like you for who you truly are. The right people will stay if you are authentic, and the wrong ones will go away.

    Understand that you can’t help everyone, even if you’d like to.

  5. Learn to negotiate on your behalf

    A handshake between two businessmen.

    If you want to stop people-pleasing behavior then you need to learn to negotiate on your behalf.

    That means that you will have to consider your own needs and that you will have to learn to stand up for yourself by saying no to others from time to time.

    Yes, there will be conflict. But you shouldn’t view conflict as something bad. It’s necessary to have respectful conflict with each other to solve problems in the short and long term!

    If you’ve been pleasing other people for a considerable amount of time and wish to stop doing so, then chances are people are not going to respond well if you’re suddenly being more assertive and standing up for yourself.

    Yet this is exactly what you have to do. Others have no right to use you for their benefit. You have to put your own needs first sometimes.

  6. Learn to take care of yourself

    The quote “take care of yourself” written in blue letters on a napkin.

    Treat yourself like you’re someone who matters. You can’t help other people optimally if you’re unhappy.

    This means that you have the moral duty to make yourself someone of worth. To do this, you must first treat yourself like you’re someone of importance, and continue striving to become a better person every day.

    So invest some time into yourself and in your personal development. Investing time in yourself does not make you selfish, it makes you a responsible human. Being the best possible version of yourself will not only improve your life but that of other people in society as well!

  7. Evaluate

    Is your current strategy working? What is going right and more importantly, what is going wrong or can be improved? These are all possible questions that can help you to figure out what’s currently going well, but more significantly, what is going wrong or suboptimal.

    Regularly evaluating yourself and your plan allows you to stay on the right track without getting lost on a side road.

    Try to analyze yourself like an outside person would. This means as objectively as you possibly can.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does being a people pleaser mean?

Image of a man with two clothespins on his cheeks which keeps his mouth in a permanent smiling position.

A people pleaser can be defined as always putting other people’s needs and feelings before one’s own needs, thoughts, and feelings. They go out of their way to satisfy the desires of others.

They please others for a multitude of reasons. It could be that they want to make the other person’s life as good and comfortable as possible. Other possible reasons could be because they are averse to conflict, to get into the good graces of other people, because they are afraid other people won’t like them, and to get external validation.

Even though they are often incredibly well-meaning, it can lead to people taking advantage of them. The pleasers are also at risk of not guarding and going after their own needs and desires.

Why being a people pleaser is bad

Not satisfying your own needs

Putting other people’s needs first is often seen as a good thing by society.

However, when you’re always placing other people’s needs before your own, then you’re at risk of not satisfying your demands, which will make you unhappy and unfulfilled in life.

Can make you angry and vengeful

In the worst case, not putting yourself first from time to time can make you resentful and vengeful.

That’s of course not to say that you shouldn’t consider other people’s needs and occasionally put them before your own. The key word here is occasionally, and not always. Balance is key to living a healthy and fulfilling life.

They regularly expect the same behavior

The quote, “you'll end up really disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you” written on a background.

The problem with people-pleasing behavior is that they often expect the same kind of treatment in return from other people because “it is the right thing to do” or “I did the same thing for them.”

Of course, every person is different and has a varied mentality. Logically, this means that this kind of behavior is (luckily) not always reciprocated.

People really should stop pleasing everyone out there, because it’s not possible, not sustainable, and most certainly not healthy.

What are the positive traits of a people pleaser?

Even though I wouldn’t recommend being a people pleaser, they do have some positive traits that come naturally to them.
They’re empathetic by nature, and thus very attuned to the feelings of those around them. They’re kind, loving, and genuinely care about other people.

What is a people-pleaser personality?

Image of a young woman with the word “nice?” Written on her left cheek.
A people-pleaser personality is a character that’s predisposed to satisfy other people’s desires since they’re kind, loving, empathic, and helpful.
They’re typically the type of people who want to please others by helping them wherever they can, despite their desires.
Yet, this often ends up with others taking advantage of their gullible personality.

Are certain people more at risk of becoming people pleasers?

Agreeable people, which is a personality trait, are more at risk of becoming people pleasers.

That’s because they have the habit of putting other people’s needs and feelings before their own. Agreeable people are often kind, sometimes a bit too trusting of others, and unassertive.

This makes agreeable people inclined towards a people-pleaser personality due to their genetic predisposition.

Is it healthy to be a people pleaser?

Illustration of a man scratching their head while holding a yellow question mark.
Normally, we try to gratify the people that we love, since we want the best for them, and want to see them happy and content. Yet, excessive people-pleasing isn’t healthy at all and has many detrimental effects.

It can cause low self-worth, issues with setting boundaries, having a difficult time with making their own choices, and can even induce a fear of rejection.

Is being a people pleaser a toxic behavior?

Whether people pleasing is a toxic behavior or not depends on the severity, and how often we employ said demeanor.

What we must keep in mind is that we have a sense of altruism, and thus it’s not abnormal to want the best for others and to help them achieve happiness.

Nevertheless, it can lead to serious health issues such as depression and poor self-esteem when taken too far. That’s why we should never take our people-pleasing behavior to the extremes.

Is a people-pleaser insecure?

Image of a woman showing signs of insecurity while looking afraid.
The psychology behind a people pleaser is that they’re typically insecure and dealing with low self-esteem.

That’s why they’re employing pleasing behavior to seek out external validation and the approval of others.

They’re uncertain that their authentic personality will be good enough for those around them, and that they will be liked for who they truly are.

Is people pleasing a trauma response?

People pleasing, also called fawning, can be a trauma response, although not always.
Fawning can be a coping mechanism employed by people pleasers to fend off conflict, create a feeling of safety, and even appease their offenders.

What is people pleasing a symptom of?

A person holding a question mark in front of their face.
People pleasing at its core means a fear of being rejected when being authentic.
That’s why it’s often a symptom of low self-esteem. They’re not confident enough to be their true selves, and that’s why they try to wear a mask and please other people instead.

They’re too scared to put their own needs and desires first and have an extreme need for external validation and approval since it makes them feel better, more valuable, and most importantly, accepted.

Final note

Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

Every individual is someone of inherent worth. We all have different needs and desires, and it’s not wrong to admit this.

To stop being a people pleaser, we must learn a few new skills, or at least improve a few abilities we already possess partially. We must realize what it is we want from life exactly, and that conflict is necessary to resolve problems.

Perhaps the most important thing is to recognize that you as an individual matter greatly and that you must learn to take care of yourself. It’s also everybody’s responsibility to become happy and fulfilled. You are not responsible for the contentment of others.