How to Stop Being a “People Pleaser”

In my last post I offered a quiz to help you identify if you were a “people pleaser”. Not that you needed my little questionnaire to tell you about your own lifelong habit of helping people with little or no return. The real point is to help you get out of a life in the service of others (unless you are in the French Foreign Legion or have taken a vow of obedience) and to learn to serve yourself first.

Start Small to Make Big Changes

So where do we start? The same way you would you eat an elephant. By taking small bites out of a big problem. But every small step you take to stop being a doormat is a step in the right direction.

Make Yourself a Priority

Take the time to know yourself and to recognize your needs. First. Before you start thinking about she or he or they would like you to do, think about me, myself andI.Put yourself first for a change.

Think, Think, Think

Before you say yes, take the time, even a few seconds, to think about it. Then just before you agree, think again. One more time, just pause and think about whether you really want to do that thing for someone else. If the answer is yes, go ahead.

Just Say No

If you don’t really want to do something, then just say no. How hard can that be? You learned to say no at around 2 and a half and they’ve been trying to get you to stoop doing that ever since. Say it with me. No. No. No,

Re-establish Boundaries

Ah, boundaries. That’s where you end and I begin. Rediscover a new country, the country of YOU. You haven’t visited in a while. It’s the place where your needs and wants and dreams live. It’s a nice place. Make plans to visit often. Until you can learn to live here again.

Reward Success

When you do something good, like standing up for yourself, taking a small bite out of the elephant, or finally saying no, then give yourself a pat on the back. Better yet, buy yourself an ice cream, or a book, or a new pair of shoes. Acknowledge success so that you will be encouraged to keep going and get more.

Don’t Give Up

When you say yes when no was right on the tip of your tongue. Or when you put him or her or them first, again, don’t beat yourself up. The sovereign country of YOU wasn’t built in a day and you can’t change bad habits overnight. Get up off the mat, dust yourself off, and try again. Surely, but often slowly, you will get there.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit:


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10 Responses to How to Stop Being a “People Pleaser”

  1. msjenniferwoodard says:


    Great article and tips on stop being a people pleaser. I am trying to learn to put myself first. I can say no but then I tend to go ahead and do things anyway. This month I have worked hard to doing things for me and removing people out of my life that are a hindrance. I have found that it is family that is the biggest dead weight and I have been working to putting limitations on their involvement in my life. It isn’t easy.

    Great job again,

  2. Wonderful article! We kind of run a similar theme on our linked website, and am tempted to take a cue from your work here. (In general, and in response to Jennifer) – I would like to know how family hinders your progress. I am in the same boat, but feel guilty of keeping them at an arms length, wish they would be less intrusive yet still be there for me. Difficult one to manage!

  3. Michelle says:

    I’m afraid I can’t really agree with any of this. Life is all about giving and receiving.. if you can’t give without wondering what’s in it for you, then you probably need to stop thinking everything is about you. Stop keeping score! Just give and have faith in the universal law of give and take. We breathe in oxygen and breathe carbon dioxide..which the plants breathe in and convert back to oygen, its how we survive, its all part of the flow of life.

    Keeping your family at arm’s length? Are they really so bad? My family are mostly back in the UK and I miss being able to pop round for a cup of tea to say hello and see how they are doing. You should count yourself lucky that you have family *intruding*… how inconvenient that must be!!

    I have a tendency to feel like a bit of a martyr sometimes too, but I know that really that is my own problem and not anyone else’s, I should definitely give myself a break and enjoy the feeling of giving and open my eyes to what the universe offers in abundance. If you’ve been feeling like a doormat lately, perhaps you just need to be more receptive to the good things other people want to give you, rather than resisting.

  4. Adeline says:

    Stopping to think is definitely a great way to make sure that you get out of a jam and find yourself biting more off than you can chew.

    I also have had my share of finding myself at odds with my family, especially when it comes to the decisions that I make about my career and stuff. But no matter how much they say that they know you, you are the only person who really knows yourself. Sometimes, you need to be a bit cruel to be kind. 🙂

  5. kittykilian says:

    Hey Mike,

    A new blog template! Neat!
    And a very well-written text. Oh, and a new name for the blog as well!

    I would still like a picture of you, and of your book, in the sidebar, and a picture with every post. Do you need tutorials?

    • mike54martin says:

      Hey Kitty. Thanks again for your feedback. I am working on making improvements but I am such a non-techie that it’s scary. Sooner rather than later I will add pictures tho!!

  6. Mueed khan says:

    Hey Mike. Your article is very good. I am trying my best to implement it on myself. Thanks 4 ur sincere article. Although i had a little confusion. In our class, when my classfellows talk to me, i listen to them carefully but when i talk to them they paid no attention at first attempt, then paid little attention at second attempt. Sometimes they paid full attention too. I dont understand that when somebody talk to me i listen to them carefully but when i talk to others they r seeing here & there and paid little attention even when my conversation is short and brief. Plz give me some advices and suggestions. Thanks 🙂

    • mike54martin says:


      The first thing to remember is that you only control yourself. You do not control the actions, words or even reactions of other people. If you can focus on that it will help you because you will realize that what they say or think about you is not important.

      The second thing is to reward the people who are nicer to you by spending more time with them and less time with people who are rude. They have earned the privilege of your time. The others have not.

  7. ann says:

    So true my aunt in law gets on my nerve she always asking for stuff,im so sick of her.
    how do I slowly distant myself?

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