7 things people pleasers do that undermine their self-worth

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Putting the needs of others ahead of yourself is a great practice. But once you take it too far, it might eventually chip away at your self-worth.

When you become a people pleaser, others typically catch on and take advantage. 

Remember, there’s a difference between being nice and being a pushover. You’re a human being and deserve the same dignity and respect as everyone else. 

If you have difficulty with this, don’t worry–there’s always a path toward improvement. 

In this article, I’ll take you through seven things that people pleasers do that undermine their self-worth. Once you recognize the behaviors, you can correct them. Let’s get to it! 

1) They say yes to everything

Here’s the thing: people pleasers struggle with saying ‘no,’ even if they have no interest in fulfilling the request. Instead of putting their foot down, they reluctantly accept.

They stay passive and bottle their feelings up, letting others exploit them and their good nature. 

In the workplace, the people pleaser might allow co-workers to put them on the spot and then pass their responsibilities onto them.

Being unable to say ‘no’ has a powerful effect on you–you become resentful towards both the other party and yourself. This is unnecessary stress.

Start standing up for yourself and speaking your mind. Once you get through this step, your confidence will gradually rise. 

By saying ‘yes’ to others you’re saying ‘no’ to your own needs. This brings me to my next point…

2) They neglect their own needs

Do you know someone that’s often angry at the world?

Sometimes people project their anger externally when they’re actually just unhappy with themselves. 

People pleasers will eventually wisen up to what’s bringing them down: that their own needs aren’t taken care of. And hence, they place a lot of blame on themselves, which can manifest in an overall sense of frustration and hostility toward others. 

So, if this sounds familiar, just try to be mindful of your own needs and autonomy as a person. 

And remember in order to truly live your life to the fullest you need to practice self-care, this means prioritizing your needs. 

3) They do their best to avoid conflict

From my experience, people that are looking to please are often uncomfortable with uncertainty. 

They don’t want to rock the boat by standing up for themselves. So this means avoiding conflict at all costs. 

This also means staying meek and agreeable instead of bold and assertive–and when others notice, the tendency is to walk all over you. 

The key here is to stop allowing them to do so. Voice your opinions. Try not to sugarcoat. Don’t be afraid to risk offending people if they’re in the wrong. 

You don’t want to be the person living in regret over things you should’ve done or could’ve said. Start taking action! 

4) They apologize excessively

And speaking of avoiding conflict, the people pleaser will go to great lengths to make sure they haven’t upset someone. 

A telltale sign of a people pleaser is their habit of excessive apologizing. And frankly, a lot of the time what they’re apologizing for is either minor or not their fault altogether.

They just dislike the anxiety associated with someone potentially being angry with them.

Let’s say you are in the wrong. So what? As long as you genuinely apologize once, that’s enough. You’ve done your part now let it go.  

You don’t want to appear weak and frail by saying ‘sorry’ every other hour. 

This is also just you looking for validation. And on that note…

5) They seek approval from others

Here’s the truth: people pleasers typically have very delicate foundations as people. 

They don’t really feel great about themselves so they depend on others for validation rather than seeking it internally.

They get their dopamine high through compliments and positive feedback. But this in itself is a slippery slope as they can easily become easy targets of manipulation and coercion. 

This is particularly true in this day and age, where everyone is constantly posting on social media for likes, even though the content might be highly exaggerated or disingenuous. 

We have become collectively addicted to validation. 

Remember that episode of Black Mirror called “Nosedive”? Without spoiling it too much, the main character is a smiley, status-hungry young woman that is absolutely obsessed with her social media rating. 

Although technically satire, it isn’t really a far stretch from our current reality where people pleasers (and well, everyone else) are constantly in search of validation and will go to great, sometimes extreme lengths to fill that void. 

6) They take on too much responsibility

As we touched on earlier, with people pleasers being ‘yes’ men and women, they have a tendency to take on too much, even when they don’t have to… 

I have a friend that was once like this. Let’s call him Tim. 

Tim was both a people pleaser and an external optimist. He’d make promises to everyone (himself included) that were almost too good to be true. He was convincing. We became business partners. 

Months later, everything crashed. Tim was overwhelmed by all the responsibilities he initially agreed to take on. He went into debt that he’s still paying off to this day. Of course, I have yet to recoup my investment. 

I don’t consider Tim a bad guy. But one of his weaknesses has always been people pleasing: he was hooked on the feeling of exciting others by promising them the world. It gave him a high. 

He has since adopted a more grounded approach to life. It was a valuable (and expensive) lesson for everyone involved. 

7) They neglect their own values

Real talk: people pleasers are sometimes willing to sacrifice their own values and beliefs in order to satisfy others. As we mentioned earlier, this is rooted in their fear of conflict and disapproval. 

When you’re young, your version of people-pleasing is called peer pressure. Remember when you were a kid and your friends (that your mom might have warned you about) convinced you to steal or cheat with them? 

You ended up doing it solely to please your friends and be accepted, even though you knew it was wrong. 

Well, this is essentially how the people-pleaser works: they’d rather compromise their own values to fit in instead of risk upsetting the status quo by standing up for themselves. 

Later on, when the dust settles, they might feel regret, a lack of integrity, and a drop in their self-worth. That’s quite a tradeoff for a few positive comments. 

How to be less of a people pleaser

So since you’ve come this far, I think it’s only right that I give you a few tips on how to start having more respect for yourself and becoming less of a people pleaser: 

  • Practice setting boundaries – The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Outline your boundaries with your well-being at the center. Start practicing saying ‘no’ if someone asks you to do something that gets in the way of these boundaries. Just politely say you’re busy and eventually people will get the hint. 
  • Prioritize self-care – Remember once you feel good about yourself, you tend to be confident in your day-to-day life. So don’t forget to practice self-care. Don’t neglect the things you enjoy doing like going to the movies, exercising, going to live music gigs, etc. Allow yourself to have fun, step back, and recharge. This will have an empowering effect down the line. 
  • Seek support – Maybe you struggle with anxiety issues in which case there’s no shame in seeking help from other people, be it therapists or people that have successfully overcome people-pleasing behaviors. This might give you a more well-rounded perspective moving forward. 
  • Remember that it’s okay to disappoint people – It’s great that you care about others, but when it comes at your expense something needs to be changed. There’s no shame in putting your needs first! 

Final thoughts

In conclusion, there are many reasons why people become people pleasers, but one might be that they’re simply good humans.

So if this sounds like you, give yourself a pat on the back; kind people are an increasingly rare commodity in this world. But as I’ve mentioned, the unfortunate reality is that we live in a world where many people will have no qualms about taking advantage of you and your kind ways.

So with that awareness, the best thing a person can do is to strengthen their backbone. 

Once you do that and make yourself a priority expect your self-worth, self-esteem, and overall confidence levels to go through the roof! It’s your life, after all, it’s about time you own it. 

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