Stop Being a People Pleaser so You Can Take Charge of Your Health

I see a trend among my health coaching clients; it pops up over and over. The one thing they all have in common? A tendency toward people-pleasing.

Not just regular, ordinary, say yes to the checkout clerk when he asks if you want to donate a dollar to whatever health cause they’re supporting, not signing up to bake cookies once a year for your child’s school fund raiser.

Nope, they are afflicted with the kind of people-pleasing that makes them take on way too much. That exhausts them, that causes undo stress, that takes a toll on their physical and mental well-being.

Does this sound like you?

You may be a people pleaser if:

  • You say yes to things that you really do not want to do (because you’re afraid someone will be upset, because you think you “have” to, or because you want people to like you)
  • You volunteer for committees and to be on cleanup crews and to host dinner parties and to let the soccer team come to your house after the game because you think you “should.” (Reasons are vague, but you know there’s a tug of guilt if you don’t, or perhaps you hear the whisper of your parents reminding you it’s your duty to take on such things)
  • You don’t say what you feel and believe. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep your mouth shut, sure, but you don’t share your opinion with coworkers because it’s different (even if what they’re saying is offensive or upsetting to you), you keep quiet when your in-laws bring up your faults, and you say nothing when your spouse has done something truly upsetting. The reason you’re so quiet? Well, you don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable or upset, now, do you?
  • You apologize frequently for indiscretions that are probably the other person’s fault, or maybe even in your head
  • You feel as though you need to be responsible, lovable, and basically perfect almost all the time

If any of this rings any bells, beware, it could be harming your health in these four ways:

  1. First and foremost, the toll people pleasing takes on your overall well-being is easy to see (and feel). You’re trying to please others in order to be “good” or feel safe or feel loved, which means somewhere deep inside you’re sending yourself the message that you have to be a certain way to be accepted. If that’s your story, stress runs high as you try to please everyone. That’s terrible for your blood pressure and terrible for your overall happiness.
  2. You may eat more because you can’t say no. If your sweet aunt says you must have another slab of sheet cake, you’re likely to feel you have to.
  3. You may eat more because you’re stressed. Pleasing others all day is bound to leave you overwhelmed and grumpy by the end of the day, the prime time for overdoing it. Maybe it results in an extra glass or two of wine, or maybe it means you’re standing over the sink eating cookie after cookie (hey, weren’t those for the bake sale tomorrow?). Bottom line: making everyone else happy is going to leave you drained and open you up to problematic eating behaviors.
  4. You don’t have time for important “you” activities like exercise when you’re doing what everyone else wants. If you have kids, a spouse, and a job, it’s hard enough to fit in meal planning, cooking, and exercise, not to mention additional health measures like stretching and meditation and hanging out with friends. But if you’re also a people pleaser? When on earth are you going to get that precious time you so desperately need to maintain your own physical and mental health if you’re always worrying about everyone else?

Is there an easy, one-step solution? Not really, but acknowledging your people-pleasing behaviors and learning to say no are two good places to start.

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