How To Overcome People-Pleasing

People-pleasing may seem harmless at first, but over time it can have devastating consequences for our relationships. Let’s explore how to overcome the habit of people-pleasing and step into greater authenticity!

When I use the term people-pleasing, I’m referring to any time we say or do what we think someone else wants us to. The intention behind people-pleasing is almost always positive: to create harmony and connection with others, or to feel a sense of belonging and approval.

In the short-term, people-pleasing appears to create more ease, but over time it has the power to undermine our most important relationships! When we make choices based on what we think others want from us rather than our true inner experience, we lose touch with our authenticity—and when it comes to building and keeping genuine connections, authenticity is the absolute bedrock. Despite what our habits might lead us to believe, trying to create harmony and connection without being authentic will never be genuine or satisfying.

If we want healthy, thriving relationships, it’s time to stop people-pleasing and practice tuning in with our authenticity. Let’s walk through a few steps that have been really helpful to me in overcoming people-pleasing!

The first step is to do a gut check. I also like the term self-connection. This is the process of going inward to check in with your true experience. Many of us are so accustomed to placing our attention on how the otherperson is doing in our interactions that we forget to check in with our own experience. If you have the space and privacy to close your eyes when you tune in with yourself, this often helps me to connect quickly and deeply with my inner experience. If not, you can absolutely do a gut-check while you’re simultaneously interacting with someone. All it takes is placing your attention on your inner experience—and specifically, gauging where you land on your inner “yes-to-no” spectrum. If you focus on what others want or how they will perceive you, you’ll likely lose touch with your genuine truth, however if you put your focus on your own experience and look for where you personally stand on the yes-to-no spectrum, this will help you step out of people-pleasing mode.

The second step is to slow things down. It can be easy to fall into the illusion that everything is urgent. Our society moves at a very fast pace, and we can internalize that and feel pressure around every decision we make. But in my experience, the vast majority of our interactions are not actually urgent! In most cases, I could take five second, five minutes, five days, or in some cases even five months to come to a decision. Because it’s not natural for most of us (and in some situations very counter-cultural) to slow our conversations down, it’s helpful to have some go-to phrases ready to use. I like the phrases: “Let me sit with that,” “I’d like to take some time to think about this,” “There are a few things I’d like to consider. When do you need a decision by?” What are some phrases you could use in crucial moments to buy yourself a little time to do a deeper check-in? 

The third step is to put your needs on the table. Because so many of us are habituated to focus on how others are doing, we often lose sight of our own experience. Once you’ve done a gut check and slowed things down, this is a moment to take stock of your needs in the situation. If you don’t already have my Feelings & Needs list, you can download it here. This list will offer some vocabulary to help you familiarize yourself with what needs might be coming up for you in any given situation. It’s important to note that vulnerability is key when communicating your needs! Simply rattling off your needs robotically isn’t likely to be connecting, but speaking from the heart about why your needs matter to you can create a profound shift.

The fourth step is to build your tolerance for other people’s discomfort.This is not a fun or easy step, but it’s vital if you’re committed to overcoming people-pleasing. Choosing to be authentic means that you are bound to find yourself in situations from time to time where your choices and truths will stimulate difficult feelings for others. This is not bad or wrong, it’s natural! You can’t sidestep or avoid pain, and trying to artificially protect others from experiencing pain is futile: you not only rob them of their own growth and learning opportunities, but you also sacrifice your own authenticity (which, as we’ve covered, is one of the foundations of healthy relationships). Practice noticing your discomfort with others’ discomfort! When someone experiences emotional distress, what happens for you? Can you slow down, breathe, and remind yourself that you’re okay even though this other person is in distress? The more you strengthen this muscle of staying grounded despite other’s discomfort, the more ability you will have to be authentic and honest in the moments when it matters the most. Remember that your honesty is the foundation of real trust and respect in your relationships.

Lastly, I want to leave you with this message: 

Your self-worth does not come from how other people perceive you, how much they approve of you, or whether they like you. It comes from within you. 

 This message has been so transformational in my journey of overcoming people-pleasing! I used to operate from the belief that my self-worth was dependent on how other people viewed me, and that therefore I had to keep them happy and make sure they liked me. As you can imagine, this only led to resentment, inauthenticity, and a sense of loneliness in my connections. Claiming my own self-worth has been a true gift to me, and to everyone I touch.

My hope for all of us is that we shed our old habits of people-pleasing. May we stand in our authenticity, and trust our inherent self-worth regardless of others’ perceptions of us. May we stay grounded in our truth and keep an open heart even when it does not align with what someone else would want. May we build strong, resilient, authentic relationships that allow us to grow, thrive, and live joyfully together!

3 Simple Steps To Set The Boundaries You Need

Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships, but rarely are we taught how to set them. Let’s explore how to set the boundaries you need and build healthier relationships in your life!

First and foremost, I want you to give yourself permission right here and now: you can set the boundaries you need whenever you need to.

Many of us never received this message early in our lives. In fact, we may have had a lot of experiences that taught us otherwise: that it’s not okay to ask for the boundaries we need, or that people won’t respect them even when we ask. It’s really important to remind yourself that it is absolutely okay and accessible to you to set the boundaries you need whenever you need them. It is truly the kindest thing you can do for yourself and others!

Now let’s walk through the 3 simple steps to set the boundaries you need:

  1. Recognize when you need a boundary. Resentment is going to be the tell-tale sign that you need a boundary! I encourage you to get familiar with the feeling of resentment. What thought patterns happen for you when you feel resentment? What body sensations? What knee-jerk behaviors do you tend to do? The better you acquaint yourself with the feeling of resentment and recognize it as it’s happening, the faster you can catch the opportunities to set the boundaries you need.

  2. Focus on the behavior you want, rather than the behavior you don’t want. When we recognize that a boundary has been crossed, the most automatic reaction is to point out the behavior we didn’t like. Yet oftentimes, people feel attacked when we do this! Plus, they don’t have any sense of the behavior we actually want to see instead. Clearly, this is not an effective way to get someone on your team around the boundary you need. The solution? Focus on the behavior that would be most meaningful to you—and be sure to include why that behavior would be meaningful to you. What deeper values would it support for you? What would it give you to have this boundary honored? The "why” behind your boundary is what’s really going to connect with the other person and help them partner with you to honor what you’re asking for. 

  3. Remove blame. This is much easier said than done, but such a worthwhile step! It’s really common when we set a boundary to have some level of blame for the person we need to set the boundary with. This is totally human, but it’s very problematic if we don’t catch it, because blame on the receiving end feels like an attack and is likely to stimulate defensiveness.  And when defensiveness is present in an interaction, connection doesn’t happen easily. If we really want to have productive conversations around our boundaries, we need to remove blame from the interaction. My favorite coaching question for working with blame is “What would I have to feel right now if I let go of the blame?”  Blame is the discharge of pain. Usually, hiding just underneath our blame are things like vulnerability, shame, or some tender feelings that want our loving attention. If we can uncover what’s underneath that urge to discharge our pain against other people and be present with those things in ourself, we can take more responsibility for it, offer ourselves some compassion, and have a much healthier interaction around our boundary. 

Remember, you have unconditional permission to set the boundaries you need whenever you need them. Use resentment as your clue that a boundary is being crossed and that you need to look for a boundary  to set.  Focus on the behavior that you would love to see and why it matters to you and share that in a vulnerable way, and you will have a much better chance of getting the other person to partner with you in that conversation. 

And finally, notice if you are holding any blame toward the other person and if you are, ask yourself, “what do I need to feel underneath my blame?”  If you can take responsibility for those feelings and offer yourself compassion, you will create a much cleaner interaction with the other person and hopefully set up a boundary that both parties feel really good about.

Happy boundary setting!