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  • Writer's pictureErika Agbabian, AMFT

Breaking Free From People-Pleasing

Do you often find yourself saying "yes" when you really want to say "no"? Do you prioritize others' needs and desires over your own, often to your detriment? If so, you might be caught in the people-pleasing trap. People-pleasing behaviors are extremely common and often fly under the radar, disguising themselves as kindness, politeness, and consideration for others. While caring about the happiness of others is healthy and admirable and people-pleasing behaviors are not always inherently bad, they can become quite detrimental to your mental health over time. The compulsion to people- please causes individuals to constantly put the needs of others ahead of their own, leading to issues like stress, anxiety, and a loss of self-identity. It can trap you in uncomfortable situations and lead you down a never ending rabbit hole of dissatisfaction and feeling unfulfilled.

Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives to people-pleasing behaviors that can help you reclaim your well-being and sense of self. Set out toward a more authentic, fulfilling life by embracing the practices listed below. As you begin to implement these elements into your daily life, you can break free from the people-pleasing cycle and build a healthier lifestyle. Remember that your mental health is worth prioritizing, and it's never too late to start practicing these healthier habits.


One of the first steps to breaking free from people-pleasing is self-awareness. Take the time to reflect on your own needs, values, and boundaries. Understand that it's okay to prioritize your well-being and set limits when necessary, even though it may feel uncomfortable at first. Recognizing the signs of people- pleasing, such as feeling guilty when you say "no" or seeking external validation, is essential for replacing these tendencies with healthier alternatives.


Once you become aware of your own people-pleasing tendencies, you can begin to set and maintain healthy boundaries for yourself. Learn to say "no" when necessary and explore the feelings of guilt that may arise. The more you practice maintaining your boundaries, the easier it will get to replace these guilty feelings with confidence and self-assurance. Understand that setting boundaries is not a rejection of others but a way to protect your own well-being.


An important skill for setting boundaries is assertive communication. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs honestly and respectfully. Practice assertive communication by using "I" statements to express your preferences and boundaries rather than using language that may trigger defensiveness in others. Remember, it's possible to assert yourself while still being considerate of others' feelings.


Instead of seeking external validation from others, work on validating yourself. Remember that your value is not determined by others’ approval. Though this can be difficult to implement in your life, learning to relinquish dependence on external validation is an extremely empowering and fulfilling practice. This can be done by acknowledging your accomplishments and self-worth independently. As you get in the habit of recognizing your own value and successes on a daily basis, self-validation comes much more naturally and instinctively.


Maintaining healthy and supportive relationships in your life and letting go of manipulative and toxic ones allows you to surround yourself with people who are understanding and supportive of your needs and well-being. Upholding these relationships makes it feel much easier to be honest and authentic, set and maintain boundaries, utilize assertive communication skills, and prioritize your own needs and values.


Last but not least, seeking support is an essential part of breaking free from people-pleasing. Implementing these changes to your lifestyle can be extremely challenging at times and difficult for anyone to do all on their own. Seeking the help of a therapist can be extremely valuable for identifying, relinquishing, and replacing people-pleasing behaviors. Therapists can hold you accountable while offering guidance, encouragement, and a listening ear as you navigate this important transformation.

If you would like help and support for breaking free from people-pleasing behaviors, contact a therapist to schedule your first appointment.

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