Are You Destined to a Life of People Pleasing?

Lifetime people-pleasing happens. I’ve treated a number of older clients that can’t seem to break their strong connection to pleasing others to their own detriment. And I’ve realized, it’s the people pleaser I see in my office way more than someone that takes advantage of them. Which I always find interesting.

When you’re trying to break these habits, first you must gain self-awareness. And, how can you know what you don’t know, right? But, if you’re here reading this now, you have some self-awareness. From here it’s a matter of implementing actions that break the habit.

In the beginning of breaking this habit, I was the worst at putting my feelings into words. I didn’t know how to describe my feelings, but I knew when I was having a bad feeling vs. a good feeling.

So, I started paying attention to my uncomfortable feelings.

Recognize Uncomfortable Feelings

Exploring those feelings allowed me to understand what I would agree to, what I wouldn’t and what actions I did out of habit to please or be validated.

I would’ve repeated a cycle that had been repeated so many times in the past by ignoring that inner intuition or gut instinct which was my brain and body telling me something feels wrong. That cycle is generally, people-please, experience growing resentment and anxiety and depression, and wonder why I wasn’t happy, then repeat.

Once you gain awareness of what does and doesn’t make you feel bad, you act on it. You can act on these bad feelings by setting boundaries. The issue determines the type of boundary.

There are several different types of boundaries one can set. The important task here is to decide whether each boundary is negotiable or rigid. And don’t make every boundary negotiable to avoid confrontation. That’s what you are trying to get away from.

You must really analyze every action that makes you feel sad, mad, belittled, triggered, and so forth. You must stop arguing with your inner truth.

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Don’t Argue with Your Inner Truth

Your inner truth is unique because it only exists in you. Your inner truth includes your life experiences, genetics, history, neurological pathways, and observations that have led up to your current perceptions. These inner truths have trained your body to know when something feels wrong. When something makes you uncomfortable, that’s your inner truth saying “ALERT, ALERT”!

I remember when I first began analyzing what felt bad to me, I struggled because there were times when something bothered me, but I didn’t want that certain thing to bother me. I would say to myself, “this doesn’t feel good, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t. So, maybe I let this one slide”.

Absolutely DO NOT ignore that feeling just because it doesn’t make sense to you. There is almost always a reason. Learn to listen to your inner truth. And know, everyone’s inner truth is personal to them. So, when someone else has issues that bother them, it should be respected because that’s their inner truth, not yours.

Put Boundaries in Place

Once you’re self-aware and stopped arguing with your inner truth, you practice boundary setting. Say no when you need to. Leave a room when you need to. Create distance between you and a friend or family member if you need to. Quit a job. End a relationship. Take a friend trip. Take a solo trip. Make time for yourself. Set the boundary based on your inner truth. Pick up Set Boundaries, Find Peace for a detailed look at setting boundaries

Here’s a recap of the three steps I’ve discussed here.

  • Pay attention to uncomfortable feelings.

  • Stop arguing with your inner truth.

  • Put boundaries in place.

Of course, the process of undoing people-pleasing can be so much more complicated. However, if you start here, you’ve at least started. And as always, making progress is better than striving for perfection.

Jenn Kemp, PMHNP, is a dedicated psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner with a personal and professional commitment to helping others overcome people-pleasing behaviors. Having navigated her own journey through these habits, Jenn combines clinical expertise with genuine empathy to guide her readers towards healthier, more authentic lives.

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