How to Stop Being a People Pleaser (and Still Be Nice!)

how to stop being a people pleaser and still be nice

Alright, okayyyy, I'll say it. I'm a recovering people pleaser.

I’ve been the girl who worries excessively about whether or not everyone at the party is having a great time. The one who always wants to say “YES!” even when I know shouldn’t. The girl who cried pretty much her entire wedding weekend because of the crushing pressure of 1000 different people needing something from her and feeling like she couldn’t say no.

When I took that dive back into my memory to gather these examples, it’s cool to see how far I’ve come. But the journey hasn’t been all easy, breezy, beautiful (CoverGirl), that’s for sure.

Also, just to keep things clear, when I say that I’m a recovering people pleaser, it means that sometimes I totally want to fall back into that tricky trap of making people happy at my own expense. You know why? I freaking love seeing people happy. It brings me boatloads of joy. 

But when I take it too far, it stresses me out. A LOT.

And that, my beautiful people-pleasing friends, is what makes this dangerous to us and our well being. When we give SO much to others that we forget to give to ourselves, too.

Here are my favorite three steps that I used to stop people pleasing:

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser

  • Figure out what you need

  • Communicate clearly and effectively

  • Kindly and firmly stick to your word

Figure Out What You Need

The first step to giving up people pleasing is to figure out what you need. 

Maybe you want to stand up to your well-meaning but guilt-tripping parents who expect you to be at every single family function which cuts into your precious weekend time to get caught up and spend time with your own family. Or maybe it’s a workplace thing - you want to stand up to your coworkers who always find a way to convince you to take on extra tasks when your plate is ALREADY too full to manage.

Getting to the heart of what your needs are has to come before anything else. Because truly, this desire to stop people pleasing is all about making your life better. So we have to figure out what will make it better before taking action.

Ask yourself: 

How are your people pleasing behaviors affecting your life right now? 

What about your excessive people pleasing is currently stressing you out?

In a perfect world, how would you stand up for yourself?

Clear & Effective Communication (aka SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!)

Now that you know what you need, it’s time to start putting it in action. This probably won’t be a sit-down-come-to-Jesus kind of conversation (although it can be), but will most likely happen more organically in conversations on a moment-to-moment basis.

You’re aware now of those people and situations that reaaaaally make you want to stretch those people pleasing muscles, so you can be extra aware when these come up for you.

Here’s the big question you’re probably thinking now: What do I say? And how do I say it without being a b*tch?

Great question! So glad you asked!

This is going to depend on who you’re talking to, what your relationship is like, and what they’re asking of you. Here’s what’s worked for me.

  1. Lead with a positive. This is just who I am naturally, so it works for me. I’ll thank the person for inviting me or thinking of me and remind them I love them -only if I actually do love them, of course.

  2. Be radically honest. I let that person know that I’ve been saying yes to too many things that have been wearing me down, so unfortunately I’m having to say no right now. Or maybe it’s that I don’t have the emotional energy to take on whatever they’re asking of me right now. I let them know with kindness and compassion.

  3. Say thank you. I thank that person who is asking something of me. I thank them for thinking of me, or for inviting me, or for worrying about me, or whatever makes sense for the particular conversation. This might feel like thank you overkill, but it usually feels good for me, so I do it!

  4. Release and remember. I release and remember that they are in control of their reactions and feelings, and I am in control of my own.

This step-by-step will make standing up for yourself easier next time, at least that’s my hope! But I want to let you know that I KNOW this isn’t easy. It can be tough, especially when we’re at the beginning of our journey to stop the excessive people pleasing. Remember that it’s not always going to be perfect, but the more you practice these kinds of conversations, the easier they’ll get.

Kindly and Firmly Stick to Your Word

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but still super important. If people aren’t used to you standing up for yourself, they might try to keep pushing or question your decision to say no.

This is when kind but firm communication is needed.

This is very much going to depend on your particular situation, but if you can come from the place of remembering that their reaction belongs to them and not you, it can help you decide how to proceed in a compassionate way.

Remember that this person may benefit from your people pleasing A LOT, so it may come as a shock to them when you start to stand up for yourself. Stand firm. And remember that even if they’re having a hard time understanding now, the more you flex this muscle, the easier these conversations will get.

And You’re On Your Way!

If you’re sticking up for yourself, feeling empowered AF, and finally like you have a say over how you spend your time and your life, you’re doing the thing! If you feel part of that miiiight be true but you’re struggling, you’re still doing it. Saying no to people pleasing usually isn’t cut and dry, and it varies on a case-by-case basis.

My biggest tip for you to take with you along the way is this: 

Remember that YOU are in charge of YOU and other people have the responsibility of being in charge of themselves.

CAVEAT TIME! or...What I’m NOT Telling You To Do

What I’m NOT telling you to do is say no to everyone and everything that you don’t feel like dealing with. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do - that’s part of life. But only you can decide what those truly important things are and what things you’re saying yes to that aren’t as important.

My biggest tip here is to remember that there may be consequences to saying no. Can you live with those consequences? 

If so...go ahead and proceed with your awesome self! If not, dig deeper. Figure out what about these consequences you can’t live with. Even though it may not be the opportune time in life to show up to your high school BFF’s wedding, it may be worth it to you to go, even if it feels like a lot right now. 

These decisions are always up to you - trust that you know what’s best. You absolutely do.

Now get out there, start speaking your truth, standing up for yourself, and shutting down that excessive people pleasing! I’m cheering you on so hard!

xo Jess

Jess Wagner