Setting Boundaries: How to Stop People-Pleasing (But Still Be Nice)

Monday, June 13, 2022

GUEST POST | Believe it or not — as humans, we are inherently good. There is nothing wrong with trying to make someone else happy. However, in most cases, people-pleasing goes beyond simple kindness. It can be damaging to ourselves and to our relationships. In this post, I’ll help guide you to stop people-pleasing and learn to set boundaries so that you’ll feel happier doing things you choose to do!

Signs You May Be a People-Pleaser

People-pleasing involves putting someone else's needs before your own. According to Merriam-Webster, a people-pleaser is defined as “a person who has an emotional need to please others often at the expense of his or her own needs or desires.” 

Although people-pleasing is somehow not negative, allowing other people’s wants to have more importance than your own needs could result in people taking advantage of you, suppressing your own emotions, and you might struggle to get to know who you truly are.

There are signs to identify whether you’re people-pleasing or if you’re just “being nice”. It’s important to understand your own behaviors in order to figure out how to stop people-pleasing. To help you, here are signs you may be a people pleaser:

  • You struggle or always feel guilty to say “no”.

  • You say sorry a lot even when you know you aren’t to blame.

  • You struggle with feelings of low-self esteem.

  • You need praise or reassurance from other people in order to feel good about yourself. 

  • You feel the need for everyone to like you.

  • You always worry about what others think of you.

  • You avoid expressing your opinions when you know it’s different from others.

  • You pretend to agree with opinions that you believe are wrong.

Being thoughtful and caring to other people are positive qualities that some people-pleasers have. If you think you’re experiencing these signs and it’s affecting your well-being, you must first understand that you need to balance between helping others and still caring for yourself.

How to Stop People-pleasing

You know now that people-pleasing could damage yourself as it leaves you feeling drained and stressed. But as matter of fact, it could also negatively affect your relationships, other people within your environment, and how other people perceive you. 

To some people, people-pleasing can become annoying. Other people can tell if you’re just pretending to be someone you’re not or saying something you don’t really mean just to please them. In that case, other people will struggle to trust you and you might even attract the wrong people into your life.

The good news? You can prevent these things from happening and stop people-pleasing by setting boundaries.

What are Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves. We can set boundaries for our personal space, sexuality, emotions, thoughts, possessions, time, energy, and even our culture, religion, and ethics. 

Some of us perceive “boundary” as keeping ourselves separate from other people but it’s actually not true. Setting boundaries is a way to maintain a healthy relationship with ourselves and others as it helps us build trust and respect.

5 Ways to Start Setting Boundaries

Learning to stop people-pleasing means establishing personal boundaries not just for other people but also for yourself. Although it might take some time to practice, it is surely more worth it than sacrificing your own time, sanity, and well-being. On that note, here are five ways to help you start setting boundaries:

  1. Take time to self-reflect

Self-reflection is an exercise to help you assess your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Take some time to reflect on your people-pleasing behavior and how it affects you. Ask yourself:  “do I ask for approval too often?” or “how do I feel when I say “yes” instead of an honest “no”?”.

  1. Figure out your desired boundaries

There are many types of boundaries you can establish for yourself and for other people to help you stop people-pleasing. Some healthy boundaries might look like the following:

  • Not answering work emails on the weekends.

  • Avoiding people who are hurtful or stressing you out.

  • Saying “no” to the things you don’t have the time, energy, or resources for. 

  • Communicating your wants and needs.

Implementing these examples of boundaries is not bad at all, however, the reason why you need to self-reflect first is that you have to identify the boundaries you personally need. 

For instance, saying “yes” to other people’s favor all the time leaves you feeling overwhelmed, and burnt out. The boundaries you might want to set could be like “I make my emotional well-being a priority.”  By doing so, you will be reminded that you’re not responsible for everyone and everything and what’s most important to you.

If you aren’t sure where to start, use the “I Statements”:

“I feel ___ when ____ because _____. What I need is ________.”

  1. Communicate your boundaries

Communicating your boundaries to others might be a little bit scary but it will help them understand that you have your limits and ultimately, it will help you stop people-pleasing. 

To communicate your boundaries to your partner, friends, or family members, always remember to speak from the “I” perspective.

Instead of saying, “You have to stop making me feel responsible for your feelings,” you can say “I need to focus on my well-being, too. I hope you understand that it’s not my job to think, feel, or live for others.”.

Validate other people’s thoughts and feelings. Take the time to listen to what they have to say, however, keep in mind that you don’t need to apologize for standing your ground.

  1. Start small

You can always start small in setting your boundaries and build them up slowly. For instance, you can start by establishing first that you will no longer work past 7 pm and once you get the hang of it, you can add more boundaries that will help you stop people-pleasing.

  1. Be assertive

Being assertive means having the ability to confidently communicate what you want or need while also respecting the needs of others. Remember that you can still be firm with your boundaries but also be kind in expressing them. You can be assertive by using “I statements which we have discussed earlier.

Final thoughts on How to Stop People Pleasing

People-pleasing can be damaging to ourselves and to our relationships. We often get confused between  “being nice” and “being a people-pleaser” and that’s why there are signs to tell if you’re a people-pleaser. If you think you’re experiencing the signs and it’s damaging you, the good news is — you can learn to stop people-pleasing by setting boundaries.

Lastly, know that it’s possible to take care of yourself and other people. But remember that you’re not responsible for other people’s feelings and emotions, and they are not responsible for yours. That is why it’s important to find your balance and learn to prioritize so that you can live a more fulfilling life and be your most authentic self.

About Jocelyn 

Jocelyn is a Communication student, a mental health advocate, and the creator of the personal growth blog called Cresentella. through her weekly blog posts, she strives to inspire young adults to discover themselves and empowers them to create the life they want. You can find her on Instagram: @the_cresentella or visit her blog, Cresentella.

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