7 ways you can stop people-pleasing and finally show yourself some respect

Sometimes when we lack genuine self-belief, we almost instinctively turn to people-pleasing behaviors as a way of coping.  

People-pleasing can provide us with the fleeting, superficial validation we often crave. 

But at the same time, when we lean on these behaviors too much, it tends to affect our self-respect and dignity. 

As far as science goes, you have one life to live. You should make it count. 

This means owning your existence and staying consistently proud of who you are, inside and out. 

When you gain this level of unadulterated confidence, there will be no stopping you. 

But first things first, let’s talk about the ways you can stop people-pleasing and begin respecting yourself a bit more. 

Once you identify the methods, you can start making the necessary adjustments. 

Let’s get to it!

1) Start setting boundaries 

I won’t sugarcoat it: some people suck. 

Sure, there are noble people everywhere; but for every great person, a shady one is lurking around the corner. 

This means that unless you live in a fictional utopia, you generally have to be on your guard when around new people, or risk being taken advantage of. 

When certain people sense weakness (i.e. you being a people-pleaser), then like a predator in the wild, they’ll go in for the kill, exploiting you for their benefit. 

Think about the snake oil salesman or the fair-weather friend. 

They’ll have no qualms about putting one over you, should the opportunity present itself. 

Thankfully, this can all be avoided if you firmly set clear boundaries.

Learning to say a resounding “no!” when something doesn’t align with your values or interests tends to go a long way. 

2) Practice self-reflection

As mentioned, much of the time when we people-please, it is done unconsciously, as a sort of coping mechanism to compensate for our shortcomings. 

So if you regularly feel short-changed by other people, or if you notice a clear imbalance in your relationships, try to analyze the reasoning behind this. 

Once you outline things systematically, you’ll gain greater clarity. 

So take time to reflect on your actions and the motivation behind them.

Ask yourself why you feel the constant need to please others and start to consider what you truly want, deep down. 

… and the first rule of self-reflection? Be honest with yourself. 

3) Assert your needs

When we get too caught up with people-pleasing, our own needs and desires often take a backseat… until they eventually fade into the abyss. 

I grew up insecure. 

During my formative years, my parents were often neglectful; and ill-prepared to fully take on the responsibilities of parenthood. 

I was also relentlessly bullied by my older, overachieving sister for years. 

From my childhood up until my early 20s, I had morphed into a full-time people pleaser, hoping to find the validation that I didn’t get from my family. 

I lived to please others, using their approval to feel better about myself, unaware that I become addicted to the quick fix it provided. 

Like any drug, when people-pleasing is left unchecked, it can chip away at you, body, mind, and soul. 

I knew there was a problem but I just couldn’t shake it off. 

One day, I finally had that eureka moment: enough was enough. 

I needed to start putting myself and my needs and desires first and stop letting others just walk all over me.

It was a process, and though I relapsed at times, I generally began to value myself and my preferences like I once did with everyone else’s.

Slowly but surely, I began to gain the self-respect that eluded me for much of my youth. 

Better late than never. 

4) Accept that you can’t please everyone

If you spend your days trying to please everyone, not only is this an exercise in futility, but you’re also doing yourself a major disservice–something that will erode your self-worth over time if you don’t take action. 

The fact is, it’s impossible to make everyone happy, every day. 

You shouldn’t regularly compromise your integrity and comfort just to appease others. You’re better than that. 

So if this means having to disappoint a few people in the process, then so be it. 

Challenge the inevitable guilt they’ll impose (or you’ll impose on yourself.) 

As humans, we can’t have it our way, all the time. That’s not the way the world works. 

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 

Accepting this can be incredibly liberating and reduce the unconscious pressure you put on yourself considerably. 

5) Seek support 

There’s no shame in getting support for trying to unlearn deeply ingrained feelings and behaviors. 

If you find yourself overwhelmed, then I encourage you to get help, be it professional help or through supportive friends and family members. 

Build a support system of people who will uplift you, respect boundaries, and encourage you to prioritize yourself. 

And get rid of the opportunists who are looking to pounce the moment they detect vulnerability in you. 

6) Develop self-compassion

Some of us let others disrespect us because deep inside, we don’t feel we’re worthy of anything better. 

And when you do get trampled upon by others, we’ll invariably feel even worse about ourselves, only to seek validation again later on–a toxic cycle. 

I have news for you: you’re human. 

Humans make mistakes; every one of us has flaws and imperfections.  Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. 

So start being kinder to yourself.  Acknowledge that prioritizing yourself and your happiness above all else is perfectly okay and fair. This doesn’t make you undeserving of love or respect. 

Once you start practicing self-compassion and embracing your shortcomings, self-respect becomes automatic. Real talk. 

7) Invest in your interests

People-pleasers tend to be overly focused on relationships, almost to a borderline unhealthy level.  

Hence, their life outside of their relationships can be pretty one-dimensional. 

Proactively start living for yourself by spending time doing things you (alone) love, without being preoccupied with other people. 

This can help you build self-confidence, as you regain and reclaim your identity as an individual, independent of your relationships.

If you don’t have substantial interests, then start developing a few. 

Graphic design, tennis, curling, stand-up comedy, anime, creating memes, the list of possibilities is quite literally infinite. 

The ball is in your court. You got this. 

Final words 

Don’t be too hard on yourself. 

We’ve all fallen into the trap of people-pleasing at one point or another. 

What counts is that you’ve made the first essential step: realizing that there is a problem that needs fixing. 

So take it a day at a time. Incorporate the tips in these articles gradually; and don’t overwhelm yourself. 

If you stay committed, with your eyes on the prize, you’ll get to where you want to be sooner or later. 

And when you get there, there will be no turning back. 

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Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Ideapod! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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