6 Steps to Break Your People Pleasing Habit

Behind all stress and anxiety is a fear that something bad will happen.

For example, "If I work less, we'll have less money and will have to move out of our house, and that would be hard."

Or, "If I relax about our family dinner rule, the family will become disconnected and the kids will become sociopaths." (I'm kidding/not kidding. I've had this anxious thought myself.)

And when you dig deeper, for many of us, the big fear has to do with failing to please people.

If you make less money, maybe your partner will be disappointed in you, and that's scary.

If you don't always do family dinner, maybe your children will be disappointed in 20 years, and that's scary.

So many of our actions, particularly the ones driven by stress and anxiety, are about avoiding disappointing someone else (and sometimes that 'someone' is general society, or even someone who's passed away decades ago).

In order to live a life with less stress and anxiety, you need to develop a mindful practice of accepting that some people will inevitably be disappointed in you if you live your life the way that feels right for you.

This doesn't mean disregarding other people's feelings and treating them badly. This means treating others with respect while treating yourself with respect. This means honoring your limits and boundaries, while understanding that the other person may not like them.

The price of living a life with integrity, meaning, and deep fulfillment is disappointing other people sometimes.

The alternative is remaining a people pleaser, and letting other people's opinions of you dictate your life choices...which in the long run leads to resentment and anger, which causes a lot more hurt on both sides.

Let go of People Pleasing With these 6 steps

  1. Connect with your values and define what you need to live a meaningful life

  2. Imagine what would need to say 'No' to in order to live in alignment with your values

  3. Accept that disappointing others is sometimes the price of living a meaningful life, and remind yourself of why it's worth it

  4. Disappoint others gracefully, acknowledging that it's not what they would prefer but it's what's works best for you

  5. Be compassionate with the discomfort that comes with disappointing others

  6. Spend more time with people who delight in you taking care of yourself, and less time with people who can't accept or criticize your new boundaries

Working with a coach or therapist is a fantastic way to break your People Pleasing habit, because you give yourself the gift of an ally who's on your side while you do the hard work of setting better boundaries and advocating for yourself.

With love and optimism,

Dr. J