People pleasing you could be bad for your health. How to stop now and take charge of your life

As a recovering person, I have a hard time saying no to my mom, my friends, the waiter when they get my order wrong. Natalie Lue, author of The joy of saying no, can relate. Growing up, he felt enormous pressure to be good and do what was expected of her. Although her parents separated when she was a child, Luc spent the rest of her childhood feeling guilty for dividing her time between her families.

“I got a clear message at an early age that you have to act a certain way to be accepted,” recalls Luc. “There were all these messages – at home and at school – that if you’re unhappy, then you’re going to have problems. Your job is to make others happy. Your job is to make other people’s dreams come true. Your job is to outperform and give 100%.”

So a people pleaser was born.

“But there was a part of me that gave in too much to friendships, family, work… I was burning myself out because I would overdo it, I would overperform, and I was super dependable all the time,” she says. “And when my health struggled because I have an immune system disease called sarcoidosis, I kept giving too much work to overcompensate for doing something as awful as being sick.”

By definition, people who love people put the needs of others above their own. While helping others has great mental health benefits, doing it to your detriment can lead to negative consequences, such as stress and depression, as well as resentment.

“Liking people is a response to anxiety,” says Lue. “Whether we recognize it in the moment, or later, what we’re really saying is ‘I’m anxious about something. I’m anxious not to be appreciated. I am anxious to be rejected. Or I’m anxious about not getting what I want.’ Pleasing people is a manifestation of anxiety, and I’m also trying to manage my anxiety, which is only causing me more problems.

Once we recognize what people pleasure is and how it manifests itself in our lives, then we can make the necessary changes. Below, Lue outlines a few that can help you get started:

Check with yourself

Luc recommends spending a week getting to know your inner people better by paying close attention to who and what you say yes to and what you say no or maybe.

“The average person people likes is high on the yes,” she says. “There’s a maybe or two in there, but I’m running out of nos. See where you are spending your yes.

Before committing to another activity or request, Lue recommends implementing a pause and checking yourself (and your body’s signs of stress) before responding.

“Many people don’t bother checking how they feel and recognize whether they want or should say yes,” she says. “Who is it that triggers your anxiety when you see their name in your inbox or on your phone? That tension inside you, where you dread opening the phone because you expect them to ask you something, is a sign that people like you.

Luc also encourages people to pay attention to their feelings, whether it’s resentment, guilt, overwhelm, helplessness.

“These are what I call the feelings that people like,” she says. “This is your body letting you know you may have done a good thing, but for the wrong reasons. Your feelings are letting you know that you are out of integrity with whatever you have agreed to.

Prioritize your no

“There’s a lot of ‘new year, new you,’ this time of year,” Lue says. “But you don’t need a new you, you need a new no. The reason you’re in this place is because you overspent your yeses. You are overdrafted on your yeses.

The first step in recovering from pleasing people is figuring out when and where you can say no, whether it’s starting with the bartender at the bar getting your order wrong or jumping all in and dismissing requests at work.

“When you say no authentically, you can also say yes authentically,” says Lue. “You’re doing things that are truly integral to who you are, your values, and how you want to feel instead of doing them out of obligation or some hidden agenda.”

Embrace the joy of saying (and hearing) no

While many like-minded people are afraid of conflict, Luc argues that “‘no’ doesn’t hurt feelings, dynamics do.”

“If you say no to someone and they have a problem with that, that’s telling you about the dynamic between you and that person, not the validity of your no,” she says. “It’s also telling you that based on their reaction, you need to implement some limits. This is someone who doesn’t hear you “no” often enough.

But if we fear hurting other people’s feelings by saying no, then it could also mean that we believe it’s not okay for people to say no to us. So it’s important not only to embrace our no, but also to respect the no’s of others.

“If you don’t say yes authentically, you’re saying it with resentment and fear and avoidance and that leads to more problems than if you’d just said no in the first place,” Lue says. “When we truly accept this and acknowledge that people-pleasing is a lie, we can have more intimacy and honesty in our relationships.”

This story was originally published on

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