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People Pleasing: How Do I Stop Putting Myself Last?

Oct 21, 2021

On its surface, people-pleasing may not seem that serious an issue. Putting others first and being conscientious of their needs and feelings almost sounds virtuous. Unfortunately, people-pleasing can take a toll on individuals who routinely sacrifice their own good for the sake of others. More than that, people-pleasing may be rooted in a belief that putting yourself second is the only way to gain love and acceptance. A people pleaser's self-esteem may be connected to their ability to please others. Over time, this is mentally and emotionally damaging, not to mention exhausting.  

Related: How to Deal with Overwhelm in 2021

What is a People Pleasing Personality?

People pleasers are generally perceived to be kind, considerate people who are always thinking of others. They can often be counted on to go the extra mile to help their friends or co-workers in a pinch. 

A people-pleasing personality focuses on what others want and need, and they don't factor in their own needs. This personality is overly concerned with displeasing people by saying no when a request is made or in any other way of 'ruffling feathers.' 

The people pleaser's tendencies work out great for those around them but not so great for them. They are often taken advantage of and inconvenienced regularly. 

Am I a People Pleaser?

You may be wondering if you're a people pleaser or simply a considerate person. Here are several signs to know for sure.  

  • You feel uncomfortable when people are angry with you. 
  • You pretend to agree with everyone so you'll be liked and accepted.
  • You often apologize for things that aren't your fault.
  • You feel responsible for other people's feelings and ensuring their happiness.
  • You can't say no to people without feeling anguished.
  • You feel overwhelmed and burdened by the commitments you have made.
  • You feel constrained to please people even when it's not in your best interest.
  • You need praise and approval to feel good about yourself.
  • You never admit that your feelings have been hurt.
  • You go to great trouble to avoid conflict.

Related: Physician Burnout: Everything You Need to Know 

What's the Problem with People Pleasing?

Did you recognize yourself in the above traits? Now that you know you're a people-pleaser, the following are reasons to change your behavior and revise your belief system. 

You Devalue Yourself

People-pleasers lose sight of who they really are and what they really want. Over time, your constant focus on the wants of others may mean you don't remember what makes you happy.

You Lack in Self-Care

Being so concerned with the needs of others will leave you little time for yourself. You may experience burnout and mental exhaustion. 

You Become Resentful

Even though you haven't been forced to do what you do, you may find yourself feeling resentful and angry at yourself and the people you work so hard to please. Your resentment will seep out at times without your control.

It's Hard to Enjoy Yourself

People-pleasing produces mental stress and frustration, which makes it hard for you to enjoy your life. You don't feel any control of your own time or activities.  

Are you a physician who needs a wellness professional to help you stop being a people pleaser? We’re here for you. Contact Deanna Larson MD to learn more. 

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser 

Here's how to stop being a people-pleaser:

Establish Boundaries

Set clear boundaries with your limits in mind. If someone is asking for too much of you, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it's okay to say no to them. You can be pleasant, but be firm.

You don't always have to be verbal; you can set boundaries by limiting when you take phone calls or respond to emails. You can also set times or days when you are available to help and clarify that you are unavailable at other times. This will restore some control to you. 

Start Small

Don't expect everything to change immediately. Long-held behaviors take time to be modified, and the people in your life may not be open to your new mindset at first. Begin small, like saying no to minor requests or asking for something you need. You might also share your honest opinion about something small and remind yourself that it's okay to think or feel differently.

Related: What is a Life Coach? What You Need to Know

Give Yourself Time 

When you're asked to do something, respond by asking for time to think about it. Even if you still say yes, a delay will help you feel more in control. Requesting time to think isn't a tactic; you should actually consider if you want to do it. Ask yourself if you have the time to commit, if it's something you will enjoy, and if it will prevent you from doing something more important. Taking a little time will improve your chances of making a good decision.  

Set New Goals and Priorities

You can determine new priorities by considering what's important to you, where you want to spend your time, and with whom you want to spend it. Once you have set parameters, you will know what to do with requests when they come. You can keep your time free for the important things. Remember to let one of your priorities be to address issues as they come. If you feel that familiar stress and tension, know that you have overstepped your own boundary or allowed someone else to do it.  

Remember Relationships are Give and Take

Relationships are 'give and take,' not merely take. If someone in your life tries to monopolize your time or attention, you must address it. If you feel unable to speak directly with the person, you may have to take other measures to protect yourself by removing them from your life. 

Don't Make Excuses

Be as direct with people as possible. They will respect you for it, and you will respect yourself. If your answer is no, then say no. Avoid lying, blaming, or making excuses—the more simple your response, the better. If you go into too much explanation about why you must decline an offer, you provide the requester means to 'poke holes in your reasons' and force the issue. If you don't want to do something, you don't have to. Say no politely, kindly, and, most of all, firmly

Related: How to Say No When You're Overwhelmed

Final Thoughts on People Pleasing

Although most people think of people-pleasing as harmless, it is damaging and stressful. People who focus all their intentions on pleasing other people usually neglect themselves and suffer from low self-esteem. On some level, they believe that they can only receive the love and approval they need by acquiescing to the needs or desires of others. But you can stop being a people pleaser by implementing the above tips to regain control and self-respect. 

If you’re a physician who is a people pleaser and experiencing stress and burnout, we can help. Our life coaching is especially for physicians and we can help you find joy and fulfillment again. Contact Deanna Larson MD for more information.  

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