As a past people pleaser I loaded my life plate with all the good things I was sure a mother, wife and friend had to do. I would cook, volunteer at school, clean, carpool, babysit for friends, dog sit for family, and much, much more. I completely overwhelmed myself.

The world is full of good things for us to do, and family and friends to love and take care of. The problem is, the world is a buffet of delicious choices. As we take our life plate and wander down the buffet, we tend to overload it with obligations.

What is a people pleaser?

Psychology Today, in its article, "Are You a People Pleaser," describes people pleasers as people who "don't take care of themselves because they are too busy taking care of others." They describe them as the nicest people you know, who can always be counted on for a favor, even if it hurts them.

Why do you do it?

1. Fear of rejection

As children it was so very important to keep your parents happy, you were trained to try to please others. Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. writes in his article, "From Parent Pleasing to People Pleasing." Children who fear rejection by their parents, if they do something wrong, can grow into people pleasers. As a child, if the consequences of failing to meet your parents' expectations was the feeling they did not love or want you, it became vital to be obedient and please them. You may then carry this fear of rejection into other relationships, and try to please others like your parents.

2. You are more focused on, and aware of others' needs and wants, than your own

Seltzer went on to explain that you may have given up your, "self," or your personal needs, to please your parents. That means that you may not know what you like, or feel or may not have formed your own feelings about the world. For example, if your spouse asks you what you want for dinner, you may reply, "I don't know, whatever you want is fine," because you really don't know.

3. Because pleasing others is a good thing to do, you become addicted to the happy high

It is wonderful to treat a child to unconditional love and his favorite dessert. But, a self-help website for addicts seeking recovery explains, "To a certain healthy degree, people pleasing is just diplomacy. We would get nowhere without it... . In people pleasing, the balance between necessary diplomacy and healthy self-assertion has been sacrificed for the perceived 'high' of being liked. The irony is that people pleasers fail because it is impossible to please all the people all the time."

4. People pleasing has a price

I know I paid mine. Psycologytoday.coma self-help website by professional mental health contributors, lists the following problems with people pleasing:

  • So busy taking care of everyone else, you neglect yourself.

  • Resenting the people you are trying to please because you can't possibly keep up with the demands.

  • Feeling guilty, anxious, overwhelmed and just plain exhausted.

  • Stress and guilt. Failure to say no means your plate is always too full. You will not be able to do what you say you will, which leads to stress and guilt.

  • Being taken advantage of. Once people figure out you always say yes, you will have a lot of friends with needs, but no one asking what you need. Examine your friendships, I know I did mine. Are your relationships give and take, or one-sided?


So, how did I recover and how can you? Psychcentral, an online mental health resource lists steps to recovery. Here are the tips that worked for me:

Realize you always have a choice

Make your decisions based on your priorities

If you have multiple things you could commit to do, look at the list. If your family is the most important thing to you, keeping that in mind will help shorten the list.

Remember that your children, your husband and true friends will still love you if you say no

Set time aside each day for yourself

Start small and practice doing something for yourself. Get to know yourself. Explore what you like to do, read and eat.

Practice saying, "No," or even "No, thank you."

Start small, and move up. Try it at the grocery store over "paper or plastic" kinds of questions and move to saying no to dessert offered by a friend. You can use empathy. For example, "Gosh, I can see you really need help moving. I wish I could help, but it is my son's last soccer game and I can't miss it." You acknowledge their need, and explain politely.

Practice saying no politely and not explaining why

This is for those in advanced recovery. But, when you're ready, give it a try.

Set clear boundaries

Choose things you will or won't do. For example, I do not babysit pets.

Accept that you can't be everything to everyone unless you are God


Use positive self-talk like, "Good mothers say no."

Let go of one-sided friendships and make room for healthy friendships

As a mother and parent, I realized every moment of every day with my family was precious. I was giving my moments away to too many people. I had to learn to say "no." The surprising thing is, my family still loves me and the friends that matter are still here. Today, choose the people you want to please, and don't forget to put yourself on the list.

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