Approval-based worth can be conditioned in us from a young age. As an adult, I realized that I was bending over backwards to be all things to all people while my neglected needs piled up in the corner. Giving to others can be beautiful, but I found I was doing it for love rather than from love. If you feel responsible for others’ feelings and have trouble saying no, here are five ways to heal from this unhealthy habit:
Recognize When You lack Boundaries Self-awareness is the first step in dropping these tendencies like they’re hot. Start by checking your heart for resentment. Do you feel irritated that other people keep asking too much of you? Are you annoyed at yourself for always saying yes? These are indicators that you might be in people-pleasing mode. Examine your intentions: are you acting from a surplus of your kindness or merely trying to gain someone else’s favor? Does this “yes” to another mean a “no” to your physical or emotional well-being? Identify specific situations or people who consistently trigger your desire to appease.
Define Your Worth Outside of Others' Opinions
If you love and accept yourself, the power of others' rejection is greatly diminished. Knowing your inherent value releases the pressure to acquiesce. Not everyone is going to like your boundaries or beliefs, but respecting yourself enough to be authentic protects you from becoming a pushover or playing the victim role. Vital acts of self-care sometimes require disappointing another person -- their reactions do not have to define the way you perceive yourself.
Practice Healthy Detachment
This does not mean that you become cold-hearted or uncaring; it is simply recognizing when you are taking on the emotional burden of problems that aren’t yours to fix. Pour yourself into an activity that requires your full attention, gently redirecting your thoughts when you notice them circling back to another person’s validation of you.
Let Them Be Wrong We often people-please out of the fear that someone will think less of us if we say no or speak our feelings. It’s true that others might misconstrue your boundaries, mistaking your self-preservation as selfishness. But you know the intention behind your choice and the quality of your character. Do you love yourself enough to let others be wrong about you?
When repeated often, the right words can shape our thought patterns and offer a more life-giving perspective. What messages would help you combat people-pleasing? Some examples include:
It is not my job to control how others view me.
I give myself permission to disappoint another person.
I compassionately disengage from the hold this individual has over me.
Loving myself does not require someone else's consent.
Remember, you can support others without carrying the weight of their happiness on your shoulders. You can remain altruistic while releasing the addiction to approval. Other people’s opinions are a burden you do not have to bear. Cultivate an inner peace as you sit in the discomfort of someone’s less-than-perfect feelings towards you.
Erin is a speaker, songwriter and music therapist (MT-BC) working in mental health and rehab. She is a recovering people-pleaser/perfectionist who writes about self-compassion.