If you want to respect yourself, stop using these 10 people-pleasing phrases

It can feel like a difficult balance to strike. We all want to be liked, it’s a natural instinct. But nobody wants people to walk all over them.

When we start to feel a desperate need for validation from others, people-pleasing can sneak in.

That might involve pretending to agree with someone when you don’t or saying yes all the time because you don’t want to disappoint.

It’s not healthy, and rather than improve our relationships it can end up damaging them.

That’s why if you want to respect yourself, you need to stop using the following 10 people-pleasing phrases.

1) “I don’t mind”

People pleasers often sacrifice their own needs for the sake of others. But if someone asks for your preference, don’t be afraid to give it.

It does not make you selfish or demanding to have one. We all have wants.

Part of living together in societies and forming relationships undoubtedly involves navigating our sometimes conflicting desires. But you are entitled to yours just as much as anybody else.

If you always allow others to choose, chances are you never let your own needs take first place.

2) “It’s no trouble at all”

As with a lot of our phrases, the problem isn’t the words themselves. It’s that they’re not actually true, yet you are afraid to admit it.

It’s good to give.

Whether it’s time, money, or skills we are offering, being generous with others can make us feel good.

But there should be limits too. These protect our own well-being so we don’t end up giving more than we can manage.

It’s important to say no sometimes. If you feel the pressure to say yes all the time, people-pleasing is at play.

We don’t have to do it all.

When something is asked of us, it’s important to consider not only whether we can, but also if we want to.

3) “I could be wrong but…”

Sometimes we want to appear humble, so we say things like:

  • “Perhaps I’ve misunderstood”
  • “Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick”
  • “This is probably a stupid question”

Sound familiar?

There’s a good chance you may have used at least one of them before.

We may think we’re being tactful or polite, but we subtly undermine our authority.

People may inadvertently lose some respect for us when we are unable to offer our opinions with confidence.

It’s not bossy to share what you think and feel. You can do so unapologetically.

4) “Yeah, maybe you’re right”

There’s actually nothing wrong in itself with changing your mind.

In fact, being able to take on board other people’s opinions, ideas, and experiences can be a strong sign you are open-minded.

But ultimately, we need to fall back on our own values and beliefs as the compass that guides us.

If you are very easily talked around, perhaps you are not giving enough weight to them.  

Quickly abandoning your own thoughts on things may mean you are bowing to pressure, and in the process disrespecting yourself.

5) “I don’t want to bother you”

People pleasers have a habit of making themselves smaller.

They give, give, give yet can feel very timid about approaching others for even the smallest of things.

It could be a little favor, asking someone’s advice, or requesting some information from them.

You are not a burden and it’s okay to take up space. You’re not “bothering” someone simply for approaching them.

6) “Sorry”

People pleasers often take the blame even when they’ve done nothing wrong. It’s almost like an apology falls from your mouth automatically.

As therapist Jocelyn Hamsher explains:

“With people pleasing, over-apologizing is motivated by trying to manage the other person’s emotions and make them feel better. Even if you weren’t the one to cause harm because you’re uncomfortable when other people aren’t happy.”

Self-responsibility when you’ve done wrong is one thing, but trying to take responsibility for everyone else’s feelings falls into people’s pleasing.

7) “It’s okay (when it’s not okay)”

I made a pact with myself several years ago to stop hiding my true feelings.

My first big test came when a guy stood me up for a date, only to slide into my DM’s several days later with a poor excuse.

The people pleaser in me wanted to be cool about it, and make out like it was “no big deal”.

But I knew that if I was to show myself the respect I deserved, I couldn’t do that.

You see we can still tell people how we feel without being angry, moody, or even overly emotional about it.

In this instance, rather than say “It’s okay” (when it really was not okay), I found the courage to tell the truth:

That my feelings were hurt and that I’d been disappointed.

We have to call people out when they cross our boundaries if we want to welcome healthy connections.

This is the only way to encourage open and honest communication.

8) “Alright, if you insist”

I admit I have jokingly muttered this on a few occasions.

For example, to imply someone is twisting my arm when they offer me another drink or that last slice of chocolate cake.

But if this phrase comes out of your mouth after someone has been applying pressure, it’s not good.

You are being talked into things you don’t want or may not even feel comfortable about. Yet you are finding it hard to stand up for yourself and clearly say “no” and mean it.

9) “It’s okay, I’ll manage”

When it comes to accepting help, people-pleasers can really trip themselves up.

They may automatically turn it down and protest that it’s okay, “I got this”. After all, they hate the thought that they may be an inconvenience to others.

Yet at the same time they often secretly want that support.

Deep down you may want someone to see that you’re struggling and swoop in to lend a hand.

This can lead to resentment building when that doesn’t happen. You might start to feel like others are taking advantage of you.

We sometimes hope that others will be mind readers, but we cannot and shouldn’t expect them to be.

10) “What should I do?”

When you fall into a pattern of people-pleasing it can end up impacting your ability to make an independent decision.

You have taught yourself to put everyone else’s thoughts and feelings first. So it’s understandable that in doing so you may lose touch with your own.

Dr. Susan Biali reflected on why she is so swayed by others, and came to some startling realizations:

“I was shocked by how little I have respected and valued my perspective. I constantly turn to others, as if they have magic answers. As if those answers couldn’t be found in me. Instead, I always hoped that some obviously wise person would firmly tell me what to do, so that I didn’t have to own the decision, myself.”

Final thoughts

The phrases we’ve just seen are often used to avoid conflict, gain approval, or maintain a sense of control over situations.

And herein lies the real issue.

While people pleasers have good intentions, we have to take care of our own well-being as well as try to meet the needs of others.

Mia Zhang

Mia Zhang blends Eastern and Western perspectives in her approach to self-improvement. Her writing explores the intersection of cultural identity and personal growth. Mia encourages readers to embrace their unique backgrounds as a source of strength and inspiration in their life journeys.

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