How to stop being a people pleaser

Updated: May 2

Hello fellow overthinkers. Welcome to how to stop being a people pleaser 101.


It pleases me that you are reading this. (Or should I say, my thoughts about someone reading this pleases me…)


The dangers of being a people pleaser


A people pleaser is someone who prioritises other people's opinions and feelings above their own.


People pleasers often display one or more of the following behavioural habits:

  • Worrying whether people are mad at you

  • Doing things you’d rather not to avoid hurting someone’s feelings

  • Feeling anxious if someone is unhappy with something you’ve chosen to do

  • Assuming if someone is upset with you then they’re going to reject you for good / end the relationship

  • Wanting to ask people ‘are we okay?’ frequently

  • Seeking reassurance that people like you and approve of you or a decision you’ve made

  • Regularly feel the fear of letting someone down

Clients of mine often ask me 'how to stop being crazy' and say 'I'm worried my friend is mad at me', questioning daily how to get rid of relationship anxiety - whether that be early relationship anxiety, dating anxiety, or friendship anxiety.


As a recovering people pleaser, I’m pleased to tell you that you are NOT CRAZY and these actions are not the result of a personality trait.


You were not born with this way of thinking, and you are not just stuck with it for the rest of your life.

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So, why do we fear upsetting people?


If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’ll know that our actions come from our feelings, which are produced by our thoughts. And so these types of behaviors come from a collection of limiting thoughts and beliefs that have been wired into our brains.


We can boil these beliefs down into two main categories:


1) We’re seeking validation


Our brains are wired to seek validation from those around us (think of the caveman days where our survival was dependent on being part of a tribe). And if that wasn’t bad enough, as women – we’re also conditioned to look externally for validation and to measure our worth on what other people think of us.


We’ve been raised, subconsciously and sometimes consciously, to believe women should be ‘pleasing’ and ‘co-operative’ and that it's kind and good to ‘put other people’s needs before our own’.


So it makes total sense that we interpret someone’s disapproval as a sign that we are inherently unworthy and ‘bad’.


Men are not taught this in the same way, which is why it's more often people that identify as women that also identify as being people pleasers.


We have thoughts like: ‘They’re mad at me’ which means ‘I’ve done something wrong’ and ‘I’m a bad person’ which produces guilt, shame, and anxiety.


2) We're fearing permanent exile


In the caveman days, permanent rejection from the tribe would make us less likely to survive. So it makes sense that our minds subconsciously relate rejection with DEATH. Our brains then assume that any kind of rejection is highly dangerous and results in total exclusion, and becomes overly concerned with whether other people like and accept us.


How to stop being a people pleaser


Despite the odds being stacked against us – these thought patterns can be changed once we work through and rewire a few subconscious, incredibly unhelpful thought errors - including….


  • We cannot ‘please’ other people.

When we believe we are responsible for someone else’s feelings, we then opt to do things we don’t want to do rather than have the discomfort of telling ourselves we’re to blame for their negative emotion.


But we do not create people’s feelings, their thoughts do.


Whatever you do is then interpreted in their mind – which then creates a sentence (a thought) – which produces their feeling of either pleased or displeased.


So even if you do something that they believe ‘pleases’ them – it’s actually their own thought about what you’ve done that has pleased them. And their brain is going to produce negative thoughts sometimes no matter what you do.


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Don’t believe me?


Have you ever done something that you were certain would please someone and then they’ve still been upset anyway? Like if your friend says she really wants you to come to her party, so you go, but then when you arrive she’s upset about something else – someone else who didn’t come, or she doesn’t like how her makeup looks.


You might ‘make’ them happy for a few hours or days, but their thoughts – just like yours – will soon revert back to their usual patterns of thinking, regardless of what you do.


Thought correction prompt:

“I am not responsible for the electric signals in someone else’s brain”

“They think I’m responsible for their emotions, and that’s okay”

“Other people’s negative emotions are not a problem”


  • Other people cannot validate us

Let’s be honest… we are not actually bothered about their thoughts and feelings at all. What we’re bothered about is the lack of validation we receive when someone believes we’ve done something ‘wrong’.


We only want them to approve of us because if they don’t we’re scared of what OUR own brains will make that mean about us. We’re making how they feel directly impact how we get to feel.

Which when you think about it… is crazy!


Just like their thoughts produce their feelings – our thoughts produce ours. And the only reason we feel good when someone is pleased with us is because we have the thought ‘I did X so now they will like me’, ‘they like me, therefore I am likeable and good enough’.


We’re waiting on them for validation handouts in order to believe those thoughts about ourselves. But what if we stopped using them for validation and just gave it to ourselves instead?


What if we just chose to validate ourselves and have our own backs about our decisions no matter what someone else thinks?


Thought correction prompt:

“I am a human being, and all human beings are valuable”

“I am a kind, loving person and I am more than good enough”


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  • Putting ourselves first is not selfish

Again, any one socialised as a woman will have absorbed messages from all around her that tell her to put others needs first, and that to do the opposite is selfish.


But since we can’t make other people feel happy – that’s completely down to the thoughts in their own heads – it makes absolutely no sense for us not to just do what makes us happy instead.


And actually, when we’re happy and being true to ourselves, we actually have more energy and love to spread around – making us even better members of society. Which to me sounds pretty unselfish….


Thought correction prompt:

“What if my opinion is just as important as theirs?”

“It’s not selfish to be honest about what I want”


  • Rejection isn’t deadly

Our primitive brains are the biggest drama queens.


Let’s be honest, it’s very rare that upsetting someone leads to them completely cutting you out of their life.


But if it does happen – despite what our brain would have us believe – it does not equal death.

And even though our primitive brains, mixed with patriarchal society, would have us believe that rejection means we’re no longer valuable or worthy – this is a complete lie. We are valuable and worthy no matter who likes us or who rejects us.


Thought correction prompt:

“Someone being mad at me is not deadly""

“Rejection is not fatal"


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  • Avoiding rejection means avoiding people authentically accepting us

If we spend our time trying to be what other people want so we can feel accepted and validated, when they do ‘accept’ us, they’re not accepting the real us – they’re accepting a fake, manufactured version of us.


So rather than leaning into the real us and finding the people that like that and resonate with us – we’re focusing on trying to be liked by EVERYONE and rejecting ourselves in the process.


Thought correction prompt:

“I give myself permission to be true to myself”

“What if the only person’s validation I needed was my own?”



So, what can you do when your anxious, people-pleasing pattern rears its head?


1) Remind yourself you do not cause someone else’s feelings – their brains do. And that if their thoughts have made them feel upset or disappointed, that’s complete okay. Nothing has gone wrong.


2) Acknowledge you’re only worrying about what their brain is doing, so that you can feel okay. But that you can now choose to just manage your own mind instead (which has a much higher success rate)


3) Work out what you’re wanting to feel. Is it accepted? Valued? Good enough? Peaceful?


4) Ask yourself what you would need to think to feel those emotions now? And then find a thought you can believe and practice it. (See the thought correction prompts for inspiration)


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Thought patterns like this are so well ingrained in our minds that they can take months, and even years, to rewire.


Working with a coach will massively speed up this process and help you spot your unhelpful thought errors and say goodbye to them for good.


Fancy a free consult to find out how I can help you? Let’s book one in!

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