Are you a People Pleaser? — Lionesses of Africa

by Paula Quinsee

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 behaviour 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 acknowledgement 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 way’s 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.

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