July 17, 2024
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July 17, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Do any of the following sound like you?

Do you feel like you walk around all day apologizing to people?

Are you uncomfortable when someone is angry with you, so much so that you feel an overwhelming urge to set it right immediately?

Do you feel like people take advantage of you—but you let them do it anyway?

Do you “need” to feel needed?

Are you the person everyone goes to when they require a listening ear or $5?

Do you have trouble setting limits and boundaries with friends and family?

Do you neglect your health, appearance or success because you are spending too much time putting other people’s needs before your own?

Do you ever tell people what they want to hear, even if you feel different, to make them feel good or so that they will like you?

Do find that you agree to do things for people, even when it’s too much for you or you simply don’t want to?

Does your self-worth depend on other people’s praise and compliments of you?

So what’s wrong with being a people pleaser?

People pleasing becomes an issue because:

You can not reach your greatest potential when you are trying to be all things to all people. You simply aren’t investing enough time in yourself and your own pursuits.

Your health can end up suffering because you are too busy helping others to practice proper self care.

Over time you may become so invested in pleasing/doing for others that you deviate farther and farther from knowing and honoring your own motivations and opinions.

You may begin to feel resentful of the people or situations where you are overextending yourself.

You may be putting yourself in positions where you are being taken advantage of.

Being helpful and charitable is generally a good thing as long as you don’t overdo it. The goal is to strike a balance between properly meeting your own needs and only then extending yourself to others.

How do I stop people pleasing?

Develop an awareness of where your people pleasing tendencies come from. Usually, the tendency to people please comes from a fear of abandonment or rejection (e.g., “If I don’t agree with this person or do what this person is asking, then they won’t like me or want a relationship with me.”) A healthier way to view this is that not everyone will love all of your opinions, or like being told no, but they will still like and value you and the relationship you have with them. Reminding yourself of this important difference often can help strengthen you.

Say no to the small stuff first. Start with a small issue, or something you know will be easier for you to say no to. Or start with a person that you find it easier to say no to. Slowly work your way up to bigger issues or people you find it more difficult to set limits with.

Practice expressing your opinion. Each time you do this, you get to know yourself a little bit better, and reinforce for yourself that expressing a difference of opinion will not cost you friends or isolate you.

Start with “I’m not sure.” If you want to say “no” to something, but you are finding it too difficult, start with an “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure” or “I’ll have to get back to you.” This will buy you some time to figure out how to solidify the “no” and hopefully send your requester the message that you are feeling ambivalent about fulfilling the request.

Set time limits. You can agree to help a neighbor, volunteer at your kid’s school or do a favor for a friend, but let them know from the get-go that you are working under a time constraint and only have “x” amount of time to give them. Then stick to what you said.

Don’t make excuses and/or apologies. When saying no to someone, don’t follow it up with excuses or apologies. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for not being able to help them out. A simple “Hey, I really wish I could grocery shop/pick up your kid/hang out, but I can’t do it today” is fine.

Set clear boundaries and be consistent about them. Chances are, people close to you are used to you always extending yourself for them. In the beginning it may be difficult for you to let them know that you mean business. The best way to get them on board as quickly as possible is to set clear boundaries and maintain them. First-degree relatives (kids, parents, spouses) in particular are notorious for being persistent and/or manipulative in wearing you down and getting you to renege on your original agreement. Stay assertive and firm.

Don’t worry about consequences. Once you’ve made up your mind, don’t torture yourself by continually worrying about what the other person is thinking about you and your decision. The interaction has already taken place and is over now. As long as you declined in a respectful way, keep moving and don’t look back. You haven’t done anything wrong.

By Heather Feigin

Heather Feigin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Passaic, New Jersey. For appointments call 973-348-5279. Got a question for Heather? E-mail [email protected].

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