Stop People Pleasing.

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

In our quest to please other people, we suppress our needs, feelings and desire in a bid to prioritize other people’s wants and desires. We people-please as a result of our early childhood programming by our parents, caregivers, teachers and early influencers. This early programming, conditioning and domestication makes most of us unable to say No, set healthy boundaries and stop performing for the people around us. We play different roles in different situations such as the role of being a family member, spouse, co-worker and neighbour. We people-please based on the individual we are dealing with or the authorities involved.


A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?” So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?”

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them: “Please all, and you will please none.”

“People pleasing is consciously and unconsciously suppressing and repressing your needs, desires, expectations, feelings, and opinions to put other people first so that you gain attention, affection, approval, love, or validation or avoid conflict, criticism, disappointment, loss, rejection, or abandonment.”

“We live in a world that socializes us from early childhood to be people pleasers and to believe that boundaries are wrong and selfish. Yes, we’re taught about certain dangers and about how no means no, but we then receive such confusing and conflicting messages about compliance and how to be loved and safe that many of us lose the ability to say no with confidence. We learn that no means no as long as it doesn’t involve hurting someone or pissing them off or being a “bad” person.”

“We learn early on that it’s critical to please your parents and caregivers in whatever form that takes because, well, they “know best” and we depend on them for survival and love. Work hard at school. Be the best. If you’re not the best, be good. Live our dreams, make us proud, don’t embarrass us with the neighbors. Be seen and not heard, keep your feelings to yourself. Stop being so sensitive. Work hard and you will get the grades. Be good and you’ll receive praise, peace, friendship, and relationships, and avoid undesirable outcomes. Do the things we expect of you. Let that relative hug you even though you’re clearly uncomfortable because you will offend them if you don’t. Be “nice” so you’re not seen as aggressive. Be “good” so people don’t think you’re slutty and ruin our reputation. Do you see those things we don’t like about those other people? Don’t do that. When you get the grades, you’ll get into university or get a job. From there, you’ll get the money, the home, the relationship, and the kids. Basically, be good and you will be a success.” 1

Sociotropy and Autonomy

 Sociotropy is characterized as an excessive investment in interpersonal relationships, and autonomy is characterized as an excessive concern with personal achievement and control.

According to research by psychologist Toru Sato Ph.D. and Doug McCann, Ph.D. – Sociotropy-autonomy and interpersonal problems 1, Sociotropic individuals are overly nurturant to nonclose others but vindictive to individuals who are close to them. In contrast, autonomous individuals were found to be domineering to nonclose others but socially avoidant toward people close to them.

Sociotropic individuals are characterized by an overvaluation of closeness and social acceptance in order to boost low self-esteem, while autonomous individuals base their self-esteem on achievement, independence and control. 2

According to a 2022 YouGov Survey Poll 3 on people pleasing, 1,000 U.S. adult citizens were asked Americans whether they might be people-pleasers and, if so, how they felt about it.

About half (49%) of Americans say they would self-identify as people-pleasers, including 14% who said they “definitely would.” Women (56%) are more likely than men (42%) to say they would describe themselves this way.

About half (47%) of American adults believe that other people in their life would definitely or probably describe them as a people-pleaser. Among women, 51% believe others see them this way, and 42% of men say the same.

Among Americans who would describe themselves as a people-pleaser, 76% also say others would definitely or probably describe them this way.

Prioritize your Needs 4

Consider how flight attendants explain airline safety to passengers. In the event the cabin decompresses, you’re supposed to put on your oxygen mask before helping others put on their masks. Help yourself first. Then, assist others. These instructions aren’t intended to promote self-preservation. Rather, the airline knows that if you help others first, you risk succumbing to hypoxia. And that would prevent you from helping anyone.

Saying no to people is one of the most important skills you can develop. It frees you to pursue your own interests, both personal and professional. To that end, it’ll boost your productivity, improve your relationships, and fill you with a sense of confident calm that may seem alien to you at this moment.

The ability to say no is liberating. But developing the skill is often difficult. For most of us, it requires undoing years of practice to the contrary. For some of us, learning to say no counteracts a lifetime of indoctrination from our parents, teachers, bosses, coworkers, and family members.

But it’s worth the effort. Once you possess the ability to say no with confidence and grace, and do so with regularity, you’ll notice changes in how others perceive you. They’ll have more respect for you; they’ll place a greater value on your time; and they’ll come to see you as a leader rather than a follower.


In his memoir Will 5, American actor Will Smith recalls how he used to perform and people please as a coping mechanism to navigate the tension he experienced while growing up.

I performed to placate my father to quell his fouler moods. I performed to distract my family from the growing tension and resentment that was consuming our home. I performed to get the kids in my neighborhood to like me. As such, I began to see happiness for myself and my loved ones as a function of my ability to perform. If I performed well, we would all be safe and happy. If my performance faltered, we were in trouble.

To me, love was a performance, so if you weren’t clapping, I was failing. To succeed in love, the ones you care for must constantly applaud. Spoiler alert: This is not a way to have healthy relationships.

People-pleasers tend to be consumed with thoughts about what others are thinking and feeling. They want to appear as good, helpful, and inviting. For people-pleasers, setting a boundary is especially hard because their worst fear is being disliked, on top of the fear of being mean or rude. These fears are often significant enough that people-pleasers would rather suffer in relationships without limits than face their fears. 6


  • Daily Calm with Tamara Levitt – Non-Attachment
  • Meditation is not about wanting your body always to be relaxed or the mind to feel quiet. Meditation is about accepting whatever is happening at the moment. And letting go of our attachments, which means not making our pain wrong and pushing it away and not grasping towards a peaceful feeling. The less attached we are to feelings, objects and ideas, the less suffering we experience.
  • Non-Attachment does not mean being cold, distant or uncaring. What it means is that we begin to relate to ourselves and the world in a more accepting way because we understand lives ephemeral nature. Each of our relationships would change, so we allow space for them to; our bodies would change, so we gently accept that our experiences would change so we don’t get as riled up when we face difficult emotions, we create goals, but we aren’t attached to the outcome, we don’t chase happiness, we enjoy it when it is present and when it is not, that is ok because we trust like impermanence knowing happier days are ahead.

“Our journey is about being more deeply involved in Life and yet less attached to it.”― Ram Dass

  • Daily Jay with Jay Shetty – Honest Living
  • George Washington and the Cherry Tree:
    The story goes that when Washington was six years old, he received a hatchet as a gift, after which he promptly went and cut down his father’s favorite cherry tree. When his father found out about it, he was understandably angry and confronted his son, asking if he had done it, to which little George replied that yes, indeed, he had done it. And with those brave words, father’s anger melted away, and he embraced his son, exclaiming that his honesty was worth more than a thousand trees.
  • Even though we are not being malicious, dishonesty can get us into trouble in our relationship and how we feel about ourselves. Honesty is an opportunity to build trust, build a stable foundation for your connection and show that you are bringing your authentic self to the table, and it is possible to communicate the truth in a way that demonstrates that you value the other person and yourself.
  • When the urge to lie comes up, it is usually driven by your desire to protect yourself or the other person from discomfort, and therefore you may want to get the interaction done quickly instead slow down take a breathe and pause so you can act with intention then communicate in a kind and candid manner.


If you haven’t done it in training, you are not going to do it in a race.

  • Sheila Taormina – an American former athlete who competed at four Olympics (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and was the first woman to qualify for the Olympics in three different sports (swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon). Pentathlon – Olympic sport consisting of fencing (one-touch épée), freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting, and cross-country running.

First female athlete to qualify for the Olympics in three different sports.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

Comments are closed.