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What Happens When You Stop Being a People Pleaser

If you are a people pleaser, it means that – in social situations – you have an unconscious tendency to mold into a version of yourself that makes others more interested in you.

People-pleasing involves prioritizing the needs, wants, and opinions of others over your own, sometimes at the expense of your own well-being and personal boundaries.

A psychological dynamic that often happens below the awareness of conscious thought, being a people pleaser involves seeking approval and validation from others by trying to accommodate their needs – even if it means sacrificing your own desires or values.

What It’s Like to Be a People Pleaser

Being a people pleaser can be both a blessing and a curse:

  • The good news is that, as a people pleaser, you may be appreciated for your ability to show up for others and prioritize their needs. They will feel you matching their frequency and tuning-in to them. They will feel seen and heard.
  • The bad news is that it can be exhausting. You might be baffled as to why your own relational needs go unmet. You might think there is a lack of reciprocity and wonder why you catch yourself beginning to behave passive-aggressively. In time, you can feel emotionally drained, resentful, and burned out.

“Why Am I a People Pleaser?”

People pleasing stems from a lack of groundedness – of always moving away from rejection and toward approval.

Sometimes it can be a coping mechanism developed from early life experiences:

  • From growing up in a family of origin with narcissistic tendencies.
  • Or growing up in a specific culture and time when it was challenging to get through each day without feeling severely anxious or depressed.

In that sense, being a people-pleaser may have served you well, as it helped you navigate into adulthood more or less intact.

To be a people pleaser is to feel an unconscious yet strong desire to be valued by others. In avoiding ridicule, relentless sarcasm, or invisibility, you may have learned to present an off-center persona rather than being fully true to yourself.

If you’ve been a people pleaser for a long time, you might not even know yet, fully, who your truest self is:

  • What would it be like to no longer downplay your needs and preferences?
  • What would it be like to no longer hide your desires and true feelings?

Being a people pleaser helped you survive – and that’s a good thing.

But is it serving you now?

People-pleasing can significantly impact your mental health, leading to feelings of isolation as you struggle to reconcile your authentic self with the persona you present to the world.

What follows is an exploration of what can happen when you stop being a people pleaser.

You’ll see how it can benefit your life, including tips for fully embracing authenticity.

The Connection Between People-Pleasing and Passive-Aggressiveness

Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of behavior in which a person indirectly expresses frustration with others, often through actions or words intended to be ambiguous or obscure.

Passive-aggressive behavior can take many forms, such as giving the silent treatment, making sarcastic comments, procrastinating, or being forgetful.

There are many reasons why people engage in passive-aggressive behavior, some of which may be unconscious. Here are two common reasons:

Difficulty Expressing Feelings: You might struggle to express emotions healthily and assertively. In that case, passive-aggressive behavior is a way to indirectly express some of your emotions without feeling as vulnerable or exposed.

Power Dynamics: Passive-aggressive behavior can be a way for you to assert power. You might sometimes use passive-aggressive behavior to manipulate or control others, often without realizing it. In the case of people-pleasing, a passive-aggressive dig can be an attempt to indirectly cue someone that you’re giving more than you’re getting or that you’re not being valued enough. It’s a sneaky way to punish someone for not meeting your relational needs.

Passive-aggressive behavior serves as a coping mechanism in the short term but can ultimately lead to adverse outcomes – such as damaged relationships, unresolved conflicts, and increased stress and anxiety.

“I’m Ready to Stop Being a People Pleaser”

While being a people pleaser might seem like the easiest and most comfortable path to take in a social situation, it can also harm your mental health and well-being in the long term.

Here’s what happens when you stop.

Benefit 1: Increased Self-Awareness

When you stop being a people pleaser, you prioritize your needs and desires.

This means you take the time to assess what makes you happy, what your boundaries are, and what you need to do to take care of yourself.

You become more self-aware and in tune with your emotions, which can help you identify triggers that lead to people-pleasing behavior.

Woman emerging – metaphor for what happens when you stop being a people pleaser

By becoming more self-aware, you can start to identify patterns in your behavior and address them:

  • You may realize that you tend to say yes too often, perhaps out of fear of missing out or being seen as unhelpful.
  • Or, you may recognize that you avoid conflict because you are afraid of rejection or disapproval.

Once you identify these patterns, you can develop healthier responses.

Benefit 2: Improved Relationships

When you stop being a people pleaser, you may find that your relationships improve.

This may seem counterintuitive, but by being true to yourself and setting boundaries, you set the foundation for healthier relationships. You’re no longer compromising your needs and desires to please others, meaning you are more genuine in your interactions.

This authenticity can lead to deeper connections with others. When you are true to yourself, you attract people who appreciate you for who you are. You also create an environment where others feel safe to be themselves, which can lead to more meaningful friendships.

Benefit 3: Reduced Anxiety and Stress

People-pleasing can be incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing.

It can be exhausting when you constantly worry about what others think of you or try to please everyone. You may find yourself taking on more than you can handle.

You take the pressure off yourself when you stop being a people pleaser. You no longer have to worry about pleasing everyone and can focus on what is truly important to you.

Benefit 4: Improved Self-Esteem

People-pleasing often stems from a lack of self-esteem or a fear of rejection. When you stop being a people pleaser, you prioritize yourself.

You start to value yourself and your opinions, which can lead to an improvement in self-esteem.

By setting boundaries and standing up for yourself, you show that you are worthy of respect and consideration. This can positively impact how you view yourself and interact with others. You may find that you are more confident in your decisions and more willing to assert yourself in situations you previously would have backed down.

Benefit 5: Increased Productivity

When you stop being a people pleaser, you concentrate on what is important to you. This can lead to increased productivity, as you no longer waste time and energy on tasks or activities that do not align with your goals.

You may find that you are better able to manage your time and focus on tasks that are meaningful and fulfilling to you. This can lead to a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as you can progress toward your goals and succeed in areas that are important to you.

Benefit 6: Improved Mental Health

People pleasing can take a toll on your mental health. It can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and burnout. Now you will have more time and energy to focus on self-care activities – such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones.

By prioritizing your own mental health and well-being, you’re able to improve your overall quality of life. You may find that you are happier, more content, and more fulfilled in your daily life.

Challenges of Not Being a People Pleaser

While there are many benefits to not being a people pleaser, it is crucial to recognize that there may also be challenges:

  • For example, you may face pushback or resistance from others who are used to you always being their rapt audience.
  • Stranger still, when you set boundaries, people may become intrigued and want you to stay in their life even more so they can see you relent and return to your old boundaryless ways. (Some people believe love means no boundaries, but that’s called codependency and a subject for a different article.)

You may find that it’s difficult to set boundaries or assert yourself in situations in which you previously would have backed down.

Developing these skills and becoming comfortable standing up for yourself can take time and practice.

Finally, you may need to work on developing a support system of people who appreciate and respect you for who you are.

This may mean letting go of relationships that are not supportive or finding new friends who share your values and beliefs.

Tips for Not Being a People Pleaser

If you are interested in not being a people pleaser, here are some tips to get started:

  • Identify your Values and Priorities. Take the time to assess what is truly important to you and what you want to prioritize in your life.
  • Practice Assertiveness. Work on developing your assertiveness skills to stand up for yourself in situations you previously would have backed down.
  • Say “No” More Often. Learn how to say no and set boundaries with others. It is okay to prioritize your own needs and desires.
  • Practice Self-Care. Prioritize your own mental health and well-being. Take time for activities that are fulfilling and meaningful to you.
  • Develop a Support System. Surround yourself with people who appreciate and respect you for who you are. Let go of relationships that are not supportive, or find new friends who share your values and beliefs.

Conclusion: The End of People-Pleasing

Being a people pleaser can be exhausting and detrimental to your mental health and well-being. By learning to prioritize your own needs and desires, you can improve your self-esteem, relationships, and overall quality of life.

While there may be challenges along the way, such as pushback from others or difficulty setting boundaries, the benefits of not being a people pleaser are significant. By practicing assertiveness, developing a support system, and prioritizing self-care, you can begin to live a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Perhaps the best part of when you stop being a people pleaser is learning to like people again on a whole new level.

Of course, you might have fewer relationships because you’ve culled the less functional ones from your life. But your personal interactions with people will be more fulfilling now that you have faith in your own strength, resilience, and boundaries. You might fall in love with humanity as a whole and on a much deeper level.