[White Queen]: Alice, you cannot live your life to please others. The choice must be yours, because when you step out to face that creature, you will step out alone.
-Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Living to please others can be an exhausting and stifling way to navigate through life. Constantly seeking validation and approval from those around us can hinder personal growth and self-discovery. If you find yourself stuck in the cycle of people-pleasing, it’s time to break free and reclaim your authentic self.
In this article, I share practical strategies to stop pleasing others and start living life on your terms.
How To Stop Pleasing, Proving, and Pushing For Others… and Live For Yourself
“When we don’t feel loved and seen for who we are, we try to become someone else to get the attention and appreciation we need.“
- Functioning vs. Flourishing:
- Functioning is about meeting daily responsibilities, while flourishing is about joy, ease, and purpose.
- Many struggle to flourish despite successful external lives.
- Wired to Flourish:
- All living organisms are wired to flourish (entelechy).
- Human flourishing is deeply connected to secure attachments and positive relationships.
- Conditions for Flourishing:
- Most people lack secure attachment, impacting their ability to flourish.
- Insecure attachment leads to the adoption of masks (perfection, pleasing, proving) to gain approval.
- Creating Conditions to Flourish:
- Building optimal confidence involves embracing inherent self-worth.
- Self-compassion and acceptance are crucial in the face of life’s uncertainties.
- Self-Compassion and Daring:
- Self-compassion is essential for facing challenges.
- Optimal confidence starts with embracing self-worth, and all daring originates from within.
- Bottom-Up Approach to Confidence:
- Authenticity is the foundation of flourishing.
- A bottom-up approach involves self-discovery, acceptance, courage, and aligned action.
- Life’s Ultimate Questions:
- At the end of life, the key questions are whether one stayed true to oneself and fulfilled their purpose.
- Individual and collective flourishing are intertwined, reflecting nature’s wisdom.
How To Stop Pleasing Others
1. Cultivate Self-Awareness
The first step in stopping the cycle of people-pleasing is to cultivate self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your own needs, values, and priorities. Understand the reasons behind your compulsion to please others excessively.
Identify specific situations or relationships where this tendency is most pronounced.
- Journaling: Set aside time each day to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Write about situations where you felt the need to please others and analyze the underlying reasons.
- Mindfulness Practices: Engage in mindfulness meditation or deep-breathing exercises to become more aware of your emotions in the present moment.
2. Set Clear Boundaries
Learning to set clear boundaries is crucial in breaking the pattern of people-pleasing. Practice saying no when necessary, and communicate your limits assertively.
Remember that establishing boundaries is not a sign of selfishness, but a healthy way to maintain your own well-being.
- Define Your Limits: Clearly articulate your personal boundaries. Determine what you are comfortable with and what you are not.
- Practice Saying No: Learn to say no without guilt. Practice assertiveness in a respectful manner to communicate your limits effectively.
3. Prioritize Self-Care
Make self-care a top priority in your life. Create a routine that includes activities you enjoy, sufficient sleep, and attention to your physical and mental health.
Schedule regular “me time” to focus on your own needs and recharge, recognizing that taking care of yourself enables you to better support others.
- Prioritize Self-Care Activities: Dedicate time to activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
- Establish Routines: Develop daily routines that prioritize your well-being, including adequate sleep, healthy eating, and exercise.
4. Distinguish Kindness from People-Pleasing
Understand the distinction between genuine kindness and people-pleasing. While being considerate is admirable, sacrificing your own needs for the sake of pleasing others is detrimental.
Strive for a balance between being helpful and ensuring your well-being.
5. Build Self-Worth and Confidence
Work on building a strong sense of self-worth and confidence. Recognize your own value independent of external validation.
Challenge negative self-talk and replace it with positive affirmations that reinforce your strengths and capabilities.
- Positive Affirmations: Create a list of positive affirmations that reinforce your self-worth. Repeat them daily to build confidence.
- Celebrate Achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. This will boost your self-esteem over time.
6. Embrace Discomfort
Recognize that asserting your needs and setting boundaries may initially feel uncomfortable. Embrace this discomfort as a natural part of personal growth.
Over time, the more you practice prioritizing yourself, the more comfortable and empowered you will become.
- Challenge Perfectionist Thinking: Recognize and challenge thoughts that demand perfection. Accept that making mistakes is a natural part of life.
- Learn from Mistakes: Instead of dwelling on failures, view them as opportunities for growth and learning.
7. Evaluate Relationships
Assess your relationships and identify those that are mutually beneficial and supportive. Surround yourself with individuals who respect your boundaries and appreciate you for who you are.
Consider distancing yourself from toxic relationships that consistently demand more than you can give.
- Evaluate Relationships: Assess your current relationships and identify those that may be toxic or overly demanding.
- Communicate Openly: Share your feelings and needs with others. Healthy relationships involve mutual understanding and support.
Related content: How To Treat People as Ends, Not Means
8. Seek Support
Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about your struggles with people-pleasing.
Sharing your experiences and seeking guidance can provide valuable insights, emotional support, and encouragement.
- Therapy or Counseling: Consider seeking the help of a mental health professional to explore deeper issues related to people-pleasing.
- Support Groups: Connect with others who are on a similar journey to share experiences and strategies.
9. Identify Your Values and Prioritize Them
When you are clear about your own values, you gain a solid foundation for making decisions and setting boundaries that align with your authentic self.
- List Your Values: Make a comprehensive list of your core values and beliefs. Identify the values that are truly important to you.
- Rank Your Values: Prioritize your values based on their significance in your life. Use this as a guide when making decisions.
Related content: Discover Your Personal Values
10. Celebrate Your Achievements
Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Recognize that breaking the habit of people-pleasing is a commendable journey of self-discovery and personal growth.
Celebrate your progress and be compassionate with yourself as you continue to prioritize your own well-being.
Breaking free from the cycle of people-pleasing is a transformative journey that requires self-reflection, courage, and a commitment to self-care. By setting clear boundaries, prioritizing your needs, and cultivating a strong sense of self-worth, you can create a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Prioritizing yourself is not selfish—it’s a necessary step toward building healthier relationships and living a more authentic and satisfying life.