How to break free of the people-pleasing trap

stop people pleasing

Are you always putting other people first? Do you suffer from people-pleasing syndrome? Do you feel other people’s needs are more important than yours?

Sometimes it’s very subtle, so subtle and ingrained that we don’t even know we are doing it.

Sometimes it’s learnt from a parent or caregiver and sometimes it develops over your life or many lives.

I know. I’ve been there. And I still spend a lot of time falling back into it and having to have a good internal chat with myself.


The first thing you need to do is to become aware that you are doing it. Notice when you are doing things you don’t want to do because you want to help, not disappoint or not disrupt. That tendency to put others’ needs before your own.

Clues you might be a people-pleaser

  • you say yes to things you don’t want to do
  • you find it hard to say no
  • you apologise a lot
  • you find it hard to set boundaries (basically points 1 and 2)
  • you don’t put your needs first
  • you find it difficult to ask for help or express your needs (maybe even to yourself)
  • you’re afraid of conflict and will do things to avoid it. Like things you don’t want to do.


Then you need to learn to accept that your needs are just as important as everyone else’s.

You need to learn that by saying no or putting yourself first you are not being heartless or selfish. It means you are learning to love, honour and value yourself. And that’s a very very good thing.

be good to yourself


Once you start to see yourself as valuable and worthy things will become easier. Saying no will become easier. Making yourself a priority will become an act of self-love.

But if saying no is too big a leap then start with baby steps and say you will get back to them or you’ll think about it.

The biggest takeaway is that it is ok to say no. It is ok to put yourself first. It is ok. But do it with heart. Explain that you need to rest or no don’t have enough time. Or you can just say you’re not really keen. You don’t really need to explain but it might make it a bit easier than a hard no. 

Maybe it’s not even saying no to someone. Maybe it’s something really simple like being ok with taking the last piece of cake or not responding to a text straight away. there are so many ways it shows up and so many opportunities to practice and grow into a more empowered version of yourself.

It's ok to say no

Know you are worthy

If you scratch beneath the surface you will find that your need to please others comes back to a lack of confidence or self-worth. A belief that other people and their needs are more important than yours.

So it is very important to tell yourself that you are worthy. Worthy of being happy, worthy of living your life the way you want to. And you need to understand that it’s not your job to look after everyone and make their life easy.  You are here to fall in love with yourself and become empowered. And you do that by understanding your needs and setting healthy boundaries.

Don’t worry about what other people will say

And the last important thing to understand is it doesn’t matter what other people think. If they are upset that you have said no then that is a reflection of them not you,

If people don’t respect your needs and boundaries then that is something for them to look at. It doesn’t mean you are bad, lazy or selfish. 

It might take some people a whole to adapt to the new empowered you. They might have to learn to do their own work, look after themselves or become better at time management. But it’s not your problem. 

A message to the people pleasers

Helpful phrases

To say no

  • I’m sorry I can’t
  • That doesn’t work for me
  • I’d love to but I can’t
  • Maybe another time
  • I’m really busy/tired 
  • Can you ask someone else?
  • I don’t have the time/energy

Related articles

Language and strategies for empowered conflict resolution

How to stop people pleasing

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I’m Selene



My passion is helping women like you on their journey of spiritual and personal development. I help you delve deep within your heart and mind to find your truth and discover the great amazing being that you truly are. To love her and to step into the beauty of who you be.

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