Are You a People Pleaser?

Do you find it difficult to say no to others? Do you find yourself agreeing to things that you don’t want to do or functions you don’t want to attend? Are you constantly worried about what others might think of you and that you don’t want to disappoint or let others down?

You might very well be a people pleaser….

The important thing here is to know the underlying causes of what has contributed to this type of behaviour.

People pleasers are good at tuning in to what others are feeling and are generally empathetic, considerate, and caring people. However, these positive qualities can also be closely followed by the tendency to overachieve, a poor self-image and, or a need to be in control.

There are a number of factors that could be contributing to this kind of behaviour:

Poor self-esteem

Someone who lacks self-confidence can constantly be looking for external validation and doing things for others will give them a level of approval and acceptance.


Feeling insecure about oneself can result in a person wanting to please others because they worry that other people won’t like them or want to be with them, so they go above and beyond to make them happy, often at the cost of their own happiness and needs.


Wanting everyone to be happy all the time, always having a good time, including how they think and feel can be a symptom of perfectionism and the need to be in control. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety about the slightest detail or event.

Past experiences

Our upbringing or traumatic experiences can also play a role (e.g. growing up in an abusive environment) can cause a person to want please others as a way of keeping the peace so as not to trigger abusive behavior or reactions and make them upset or angry.

Dr. Caroline Leaf says: “people-pleasing can be traced back to childhood where you were taught that love only comes when you sacrifice yourself and the space.”

Often this can result in one not being able to have a healthy attachment with others especially when it comes to romantic relationships. People pleasers crave connection and by people-pleasing, it is a way to feel validated or liked. By making sure people are happy, they feel as if they are useful or needed and valued.

The consequences of being a people pleaser can leave one feeling:

  • Anxious and stressed – constantly worrying about what others are thinking.
  • Frustration, anger, and even resentment – feeling they are being taken advantage due largely due to their own inability to say no or establish boundaries.
  • Not being authentic – going along with what others say or want due to wanting to be accepted and liked.
  • Depleted energy or willpower – constantly trying to please everyone and the stress that goes with that can leave one feeling mentally and emotionally drained and unable to focus on their own goals, dreams, and needs.

I myself was a people pleaser for many years before I put steps in place to change this. It’s also some of the tools I share in my books: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No.

Part of what contributed to this behaviour was due to my childhood where I lost my mom at age 7, and growing up in a home where there was very little validation and acknowledgment, and my father being emotionally unavailable (you can read my personal story here).

A crucial part of moving out of people-pleasing behaviour is to become aware of when and why you do it. If you have been doing it for years, it can be an automatic default without realising it due to the underlying need to serve the needs of others at the expense of your “self”.

So what are some of the ways to change this behaviour and shift from having a people pleaser mindset?

Start with small “no’s”

Learn to implement boundaries by starting off with a small no e.g. no thank you I do not want a second helping of food, I am full

Have a healthy relationship with yourself

Practice self-care and self-love behaviours so that you understand your own needs, likes, and dislikes which can help you establish boundaries.

Question your motives

Observe your motivations and intentions as to why you are doing something. Is it because you fear rejection or want to gain the approval of others?

Establish healthy boundaries

There is nothing wrong with being a kind and caring person but on your own terms. Kindness doesn’t demand attention or rewards and at the cost of yourself. Manage your expectations and do things because you genuinely want to do them not because you feel obliged or are looking for validation.

If you feel that you might be a people pleaser but are not sure where to start with exploring this, seek the help of a professional in your area. Alternatively, reach out to me, and let’s get you the clarity and support to shift you into finding a balance, a healthier mindset, and better choices in your life.


Paula Quinsee
Paula Quinsee
Speaker, Author, and Trainer Paula is a passionate advocate for creating healthy relationships at home, in the workplace, and against GBV, to co-create a more human connected world and positively impact people's lives. Paula is also an international speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No.

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  1. Your analysis is interesting.
    I am not a psychologist but I am always very interested in human behavior and I often ask myself a few questions.
    I believe that thinking and asking questions or doubts is an essential trait of our evolutionary nature and it is also the way we manage reality. Thinking too much, however, is the springboard for obsessive thinking, decision blocks, pathological doubt, anxiety, etc.
    I think you have to be spontaneous, authentic, serenely accept that someone doesn’t like you.
    It is obvious that if you notice a significant problem it is advisable to contact a professional.
    But with a good education and a minimum of self-esteem you can lead excellent relationships.
    I suggest making an effort to silence thoughts and rely only on your own spontaneity and creativity. And if someone doesn’t like us, never mind, will be that person that will have lost a good chance to establish a new, good social relationship.

  2. It is amazing that Dr. Rod King and myself wereexchanging comments on yes-no issue on my last paost for LinkedIn this morning.

    This propelled me to read your post as soon as I glanced the cover, Paula. It turned out to be an excellent read and surely reflect your great analytical mind.

    I agree with all the causes you mentioned in your post.
    Now, I am thinking of the problems of groupthinkk and the tendency to say yes to conform with the group.
    Does this mean that the issue you raise is a big one? I dare to say yes and not no.

    • Hi Ali
      Tks for taking the time to read my article.
      Yes I do think that when it comes to group situations some do ‘conform’ and go with the flow for various reasons such as:
      – absence of trust – unwilling to be vulnerable within the group
      – fear of conflict – seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate
      – lack of commitment – feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization
      – avoiding the spotlight – not wanting to stand out
      – toxic culture – resulting in a shut up vs speak up culture
      – hidden agenda’s – leader/dominant personality drives their own agenda (my way or the highway)
      I’d love to hear more on your views in this space?