What Happens If You Stop People-Pleasing?

emotional health people pleasing people-pleasers Jun 29, 2024
What Happens If You Stop People-Pleasing

As you work on changing your people-pleasing habit, a lot is going to change with you and your relationships. Most of it is going to be surprisingly good, because the catastrophes you assume will happen, won’t happen. However, some of what will happen will be hard to cope with. Let’s take a look at the good and the hard so you know what’s coming.

Let’s start with what would change if you stop people-pleasing. There are many aspects to people-pleasing behavior, and some of it is surprisingly subtle. So subtle, you didn’t know it was something to consider changing. 

If you were to stop people-pleasing: 

  • You’d occasionally say no to requests. Usually, you’d say yes right away and regret doing so later.
  • You’d express preferences to your friends and family that they typically don’t hear. Usually, you would have just gone along with what everyone else wanted.
  • You’d have and express opinions that might not be the same as your friends’ opinions. Usually, you would have formed an opinion based on what others think.
  • You’d tell friends and family if you weren’t okay with something that was said or done. Usually, you’d just brush it off to avoid conflict.
  • You’d stop overthinking every interaction and wondering what you did that might have upset someone. Usually, you’d replay interactions over and over wondering if what you said was upsetting.
  • You’d stop trying to read people’s minds.
  • You wouldn’t start sentences with “I’m sorry.”
  • You’d stop taking responsibility for everyone’s moods. Usually, you’d make sure you did everything right and if someone was not happy, you’d believe it was because you didn’t do a good enough job.
  • You’d stop scanning every situation for how you might have done something wrong or didn’t do enough.
  • You’d stop striving to be perfect at everything.

If those things changed about how you showed up in relationships, your relationships would be a whole lot different–in a good way.

Here’s what you have to look forward to.

  • You’d be better at saying “no” and setting boundaries, which would lead to:
    • Having more “you” time.
    • A better work-life balance.
    • More respect from others for you and your time
    • Less resentment on your part.
  • You’d feel like you knew yourself better because you’d be forming your own opinions about issues, rather than basing your opinions on what other people think.
  • You wouldn’t overthink so much, which means you wouldn’t be so anxious and tense.
  • You’d learn that saying “no” doesn’t lead to conflict most of the time and so you’d stop being so avoidant of conflict.
  • And, if you got into an argument, you’d be better able to handle it.
  • You’d be more relaxed.
  • You’d have more self-respect and confidence.
  • Others would understand you more. Since you’d be setting boundaries and expressing your preferences and opinions, other people would understand better how to treat you. 
  • You wouldn’t be harboring resentment towards others.

All of these good things are definitely worth the process. But like any change, it isn’t always a bed of roses. So let’s look at some of what you will struggle with.

  • You’re likely to feel guilty at first. Most of this guilt will be the result of you trying something different and your fear telling you that you should go back to your old ways. The guilt will fade over time as you get better at your new way of being.
  • People will get mad at you. This is a tough one because you have set up your relationships to keep people from being mad so changing your behavior is going to upset some people, and rattle you. These are the people who really benefit from you people-pleasing all the time. It’s okay for them to be mad at you and it’s okay for you to continue to say “no” and express your opinions.
  • You might lose some relationships. People who depend on your people-pleasing habit, might distance themselves from you. Again, this is hard, but ultimately could lead to more room in your life for higher quality relationships. 

I tell my clients that anything worth doing is worth doing awkwardly at first. These difficult parts of changing your behavior will feel awkward, you will feel guilty as a result, and it may upset some people. Don’t let any of this discourage you. It’s normal to have these feelings and reactions. None of this is a sign that you should stop trying. It’s actually a sign that you are on the right path–otherwise you wouldn’t feel this way!

These hard parts of recovery from people-pleasing are the reason it’s best to do this work under the guidance of a coach or therapist. Your friends won’t be much help here because they aren’t neutral third parties. Their vested interest in your behavior will keep them from being the kind of support you need.

I highly encourage you to take the plunge and commit to reducing your people-pleasing behavior. Remember, it’s not people-pleasing if doing something kind feels good and lifts you up. It is people-pleasing if you don’t have the interest, resources, time, or energy to engage but you do so anyway.

Check out these resources for help in starting the journey.

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