People pleasing saying yes when you want to say no

How to stop being a people pleaser

4 September 2022

Are you a people pleaser? Do you find yourself saying yes when you want to say no? Do you spend your time trying to please everyone else so you can feel good about yourself?
Of course, we all want other people to like us, to fit it and to be accepted. Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as a kind and caring person?
Being loving and helpful is usually a good thing.  You may have received praise for helping others as a child and been rewarded for putting other peoples’ needs first.  As this gets reinforced, feeling you have to please others can set up unhealthy habits of self-sacrifice and self-neglect. You end up do whatever it takes to make other people happy, even if you end up tired and burnt out.

people pleasing it feels good to belong

Feeling good

Helping others feels good. And it’s great to receive praise, thanks and recognition that you’re a good person. In fact, helping others can benefit your heath in some ways. But, if you’re always chasing after these feelings, it can lead to people pleasing being your default way of life. And not leaving time for yourself means you can end up feeling stress and anxiety.

If you’re a people pleaser you place your own needs firmly at the back of the queue. Trying to keep other people happy can stretch your own health and wellbeing to breaking point. Instead of taking time to care of yourself, all your time and energy goes into meeting others’ needs. It can be exhausting trying to be all things to all people and not speaking up when you feel hurt or upset. You can end up feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.

people pleasing leaves you feeling depleted and exhausted

Can’t say no, even when you want to

While you may enjoy helping, you can often end up feeling frustrated when you are doing things grudgingly or because you feel you can’t say no. This can set in place a cycle of helping someone, then being annoyed at them for taking advantage, and then feeling sorry for yourself. These feelings can then result in other unhelpful behaviours as a way to compensate such as comfort eating, shopping or drinking.

For ways to deal with this check out

Hiding your true self

People-pleasers often hide their feelings and their own needs and desires, so they can fit in with others. This can make it feel as if you are not living your life genuinely. It can even leave you feeling that you don’t know what you really want or don’t know yourself at all.

As a result, other people don’t get to know the real you. This can affect your confidence and self esteem as you don’t express your true thoughts or feelings. You may not value your own needs and look to doing things for other people to gain approval and acceptance.

For ways to break out of this cycle have a look at

people pleasing means hiding your true self leading to feeling isolated and alone

Being taken for granted

Over time, people get used to you always helping and may begin to take your kindness and attentiveness for granted. So much so, that they’re not even aware they’re taking advantage of you. They have become so used to you being the person who’s always willing to help so they always ask. They may not even realise how much you’re giving of yourself, and stretching yourself too thin, just so you can be able to help them.

Learning to stop people pleasing

The good news is there are steps that you can take to stop people pleasing. You can learn skills to balance making others happy without sacrificing yourself. When I work with clients who want to let go of people pleasing, we look at their life as a whole to find the approach that works for them. We look at the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead them to default to putting others needs before their own.  Once we can understand the patterns of behaviour, we have the key to making lasting changes.  Together we develop and practice strategies to help you to learn when you want to say yes, and to be able to say no when you want to without feeling guilty.  We look at ways for you to value your own needs and to express your own thoughts and feelings without fear. Working in partnership with you, I support you to make the changes you want in your life, in a way that lasts.  You can find out more here

Here are my top five ways to stop people pleasing.

Letting go of people pleasing can take time. Each step can be learnt and built upon. By taking these steps you can start to live your life on your own terms.


1. Set boundaries

Start to get clear on your boundaries.  Write down what your limits are and get clear on them in your own mind.  Then you can clearly and concisely communicate your boundaries to other people.  It helps to be clear and specific about what you’re willing to take on, and when. If it seems like someone is asking for too much, let them know unambiguously this time you won’t be able to help.  It can help to practice what you are going to say beforehand.

You can also create boundaries in your life to help you to let go of people-pleasing. For instance, you may decide to only take phone calls at certain times, such as after your children are in bed or after you’ve finished your working day.  You can then set limits on when you are able to talk. You can also explain to others that you are only available for a certain amount of time. This can be help you to values your time and conveys the message clearly to others.  It also ensures you have control over what you are willing to do and also when you are willing to do it.

setting boundaries helps stop people pleasing

2. Start small

It can be hard to make a sudden change.  It’s often much easier to begin by asserting yourself in small ways.  You’re not only teaching yourself to do things differently, you also have to change the expectations of those around you so they understand and respect your new boundaries.

As a result,  it helps to start with small steps.  Each small change supports to gradually let go of being a people pleaser.

It can be helpful to start by saying no to smaller requests or expressing your thoughts about something small, or even asking for some help yourself.  For instance, you could try saying no to a text request. The next step would be to  work your way up to saying no face to face. It can help to practice in different settings or situations such as when talking to a shop assistant, ordering food at a restaurant, or communicating with colleagues at work.

Each small step you take is one step in the right direction.  The more you practice the easier it will become.

learning to press pause helps stop people pleasing

3. Take your time

Next time someone asks you to do something, try asking for more time.  You could say you need time to think about it so you’re not put on the spot there and then.  Feeling you have to say yes straight away can leave you agreeing to things you don’t want to do, leaving you to feel stressed, anxious and overwhelmed.  Giving yourself time to respond can give you the space to evaluate and decide if it’s something you do want to do.

Before you make a decision, try asking yourself:

  • How much time will this take?
  • Is this something I want to do?
  • Do I have enough time to do it?
  • How will I feel if I say yes?

By giving yourself a breathing space, you’ll be more able to choose if you want to do and have the capacity to take it on.

4. Stop making excuses

Learn to be direct when you say no.  Try and avoid blaming other obligations or making excuses for why you can’t participate. Once you start explaining why you can’t do something, you’re giving others a way to find holes in your excuse. Similarly, they may take it as an opportunity to change what they’re asking you to do to ensure that you can still do what they want.

It can really help to use a decisive tone when you say no to something.  It’s good to resist the urge to add in all the reasons why you can’t do it. Instead, try and remind yourself that no is a complete sentence.

5. Harness technology to help you

There are lots of apps out there to help you.  One of the best is a Google Chrome extension called Just Not Sorry? Every time you write emails using phrases such as, “I’m just,” “I think,” or “I’m no expert,” it rewrites it for you.

You can check it out here

For more information on my From People Pleasing to Inner Confidence Group Programme and how you can develop the inner confidence to be the person you want to be click here

Would you like to make living life easier, right now? Get your free Live Life on Your Terms recording here and begin to live your life with confidence.

Back to blog listing

Interested in making an appointment or more information?

You can use the link below to book your free telephone consultation, for any other enquiries feel free to leave me a message

Follow me on: