5 Signs You Are a People Pleaser (and How to Break Free)

| Amanda Bloom, LCMHC

Do you have difficulty asserting yourself and expressing your thoughts, feelings and opinions to others?

Would you say you crave validation and approval from others?

People pleasers often seek approval, praise and validation from the people in their life. They base their sense of self- worth on whether they are liked and accepted by others. It is associated with a fear of rejection, judgment and criticism and doing whatever they can to avoid these things. Don’t worry, part of this in inherent to our DNA. We are biologically wired for belonging and connection. When we get positive feedback and affirmation, we feel validated, loved and connected. These are healthy emotions and normal human needs. So, if you truly had no concern at all for what people thought about you, I would be a little concerned.

However, it becomes problematic when the fear of judgment, criticism and rejection become so consuming that you are willing to put other people’s needs above your own. It is when you rely too much on the approval from others to provide your sense of self-worth that you have moved into people pleasing. Many people pleasers hold automatic core beliefs that contribute to this pattern of behavior. For example, they may confuse their people pleasing behaviors as acts of kindness. They may be reluctant to assert themselves or set healthy boundaries for fear this means that they are selfish, mean or aggressive. Unfortunately, this can lead to allowing others to take advantage of them and feelings of resentment.

You might be a people pleaser if…

1. You don’t speak up for yourself.

You hold back on sharing your true thoughts, emotions and opinions for fear that others will not agree with you. You don’t want to “rock the boat” or give anyone reason to criticize or judge you. Your main intention is to be liked and seek approval. This inhibits your ability to form authentic relationships. You can’t form authentic relationships if you can’t speak up and say how you really feel.

2. You avoid conflict.

This means that you agree with others even when you don’t really mean it for the sake of fitting in and being liked.  It means you struggle to stand up for what you believe in including your own core values and beliefs. 

3. You have difficulty saying “No.”

You put others’ needs in front of your own. You are willing to do things for others, even at your own cost.

4. You need praise from others to feel good.

While getting praise and validation from others would make anyone feel good, people pleasers depend on that validation to provide them with a sense of worthiness.

5. You feel responsible for other people’s emotions.

You overestimate your influence on others people’s emotions and reactions. Each individual person is responsible for their own thoughts, emotions and behaviors. 

How to liberate yourself from people-pleasing patterns.

First, try to work on becoming more aware of your people pleasing patterns. When are you more likely to engage in this behavior? With whom are you more likely to be a people pleaser? Identify your patterns and seek to understand how this impacts your life. Is this consistent with your core beliefs and values?

Learn the interpersonal and communication skills necessary to build your assertiveness skills. Practice verbalizing your thoughts, emotions and opinions with others, even when it may be different from their opinion. Practice communicating your needs by saying ‘no’ when you mean it and asking for what you need. Teach others how to treat you by setting healthy boundaries.

Build your sense of self-worth based off of your own intrinsic values. When we measure our sense of worthiness from external factors such as other people’s beliefs, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Work on building your self- worth from a foundation of self-compassion. Try to challenge and redirect critical and negative self-talk. Think about how you would talk to a best friend and use that as your own internal dialogue.

If you continue to struggle with breaking free from these patterns, seek professional help. A therapist can help you build the tools necessary to change unhelpful patterns and create a meaningful life!

Today's the day to make a change.