Did you see my earlier Pep Talk, 9 Reasons Not to Be a People-Pleaser? Boy, did I get a lot of "amens" on that one. If you missed it, I invite you to click on the link in this paragraph.
For now, let's talk about how to stop people-pleasing—and the benefits of doing so. I'll say right up front, I believe wholeheartedly in extending grace and kindness and class, even when it's difficult.
But trying too hard to win someone else's approval? That's a caricature of those things. It isn't life-giving—it's life-draining. In fact, only when we stop people-pleasing is true friendship and connection possible.
9 Tips to Break Free From People-Pleasing
- Count the cost. Excessive people-pleasing can lead to frustration, exhaustion, self-doubt, and let's face it, resentment. You can also be tempted to compromise your highest values. The people who are right for you would never ask you to.
- Surround yourself with healthy people: those who bring out your best, not your worst. Healthy people don't take themselves too seriously. They know that friendships in particular should be fun.
- Know when to say when. To paraphrase Jim Rohn, some people you can be around a few hours, but not a few days. Some folks you can be around a few minutes, but not a few hours. Part of letting go of people-pleasing is acknowledging and accepting your own limits.
- Say no with a smile. The key here is to own it. The more you accept your need to say no, the more simply and kindly you can convey it. Incidentally, the other day I saw a magnet that said, "Hold your ground, it's sacred." Bingo!
- Let go of the need for approval. Example: A few Fridays ago with very little warning, I had to call 911 for a loved one—this was not met with universal warmth and acceptance. But it was the right thing to do and within minutes everyone was on board. And yes, everyone is fine. But it was not a frivolous call. Lesson learned: Do what you need to do.
- Invest in yourself. Whether it's reading more books or hiring a personal trainer or whatever form it takes, there's just no substitute for self-investment. Here's the paradox: You'll have more to give to others. But you'll also be less likely to look to others for validation—a validation, by the way, they were never meant to provide.
- Try affirmations. I know. Thanks to the SNL character Stuart Smalley, affirmations have become trivialized. But even a simple affirmation such as "I make wise decisions" can restore your energy and confidence. Both will help you chip away at people-pleasing tendencies. Shout-out to my assistant for linking to my favorite Stuart Smalley sketch. Enjoy!
- Cut your friends some slack. Sometimes the closer the friend, the more we expect them to please us. But I have found the opposite is true: The better the friend, the more slack they deserve. Granting slack to others gets us to loosen up and lighten up.
- Seek joy where it can be found. I once heard an old deacon who happened to be dying say something so simple and profound, I grabbed the nearest envelope and wrote it down as fast as I could:
"We are loved with a love that is greater than our human minds can understand."
That's it! Cultivate that love—whether it's through music or nature or worship or all three, whatever speaks to you, spend time there often. Because here's the bottom line: You were made for joy. You were made for respect. Letting go of people-pleasing creates more room for both.