The People Pleasing Disease

Do you say “yes” often to be nice or because you feel bad or guilty for saying no? After you said yes, do you feel frustrated, upset or mad you didn’t say “no”? 

People pleasers worry about what other people think, spend a lot of time doing things for others, and rarely do things for themselves—or feel guilty when they do.

Why do we people please? Often, it’s because we don’t feel good enough ourselves. It’s a basic human need to feel loved, worthy and to matter. We want to be liked and valued. 

Constantly trying to please others is draining. People pleasers often feel anxious and exhausted. 

People pleasing is the ultimate barrier to becoming more of who we are. It’s a block to understanding ourselves. Pleasers are too busy trying to make everyone else like them or happy that they forget about themselves and who they really are. They can lose sight about what really is important in their lives. 

The disease to please is a way to distract yourself from feeling. It can be a mask that covers pain. It can hide your feelings from others and yourself. By keeping busy, we don’t have to deal with the hurt.

It is possible to change this pattern and reduce the tendency to please others. Here are some suggestions.

  • Saying no is saying yes to you. Practice saying no. Remember to pause and take a breath before responding to a request. You might say, “I need to think about it first—I’ll get back to you” or “Let me check my schedule and call you back.” Use any phrase you like that gives you time before you automatically respond.
  • Write a list of your priorities and what is important to you.  Before making a decision, review your list and then respond. 
  • Check in with how you feel and what you are thinking. Then try saying what you feel and think more often.

Many people pleasers believe they will not be liked if they stop doing things for others and say no. If someone stops liking you because you don’t do what they want, you probably don’t want them as a friend anyway. People will like you for who you are and not simply for what you do or don’t do.

You deserve time for yourself and what matters to you, and it’s within your reach to change—one small step at a time.


-Kristen D Boice M.A., LMFT, EMDR Trained

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