Basically, I’m a people pleaser who has a knack for disappointing.” -Kevin Nealon

Do you see it as good or bad?

You know, being a people-pleaser.

On the one hand it says ‘I want to be selfless, generous, contributing’. And on the other? Well, to many it says, ‘I want to be loved’.

So is that a problem?

Not necessarily. We’re all people-pleasers to some extent. The President, the Dalai Lama, even Oprah have a people-pleasing streak.

Wanting to be loved and thought well of, that’s natural.

It makes us human. Because that’s what makes this incredible planet such a great place to be: kind, caring, and helpful people looking out for more kind, caring and helpful people.

What a fabulous recipe for Utopia! But there is a snag.

Sometimes that desire to please others becomes more of a compulsion, an obsession. More of a disease.

The Disease to Please

The Disease To Please’ H. B. Braiker calls it. And the symptoms?

Being desperate for the world to love and approve of you. And believing that people-pleasing is the only way to inoculate yourself against rejection and conflict.

It’s exhausting, isn’t it?

And it leaves you more jaded and disappointed about life each and every day. Because when you hit the sofa, all you can think of is:

  • You did what someone else wanted, not what you wanted… again.
  • You said what someone else wanted to hear, not what you really wanted to say… again.
  • You pretended to be the person you thought they wanted to see, not the authentic you… again.

And it’s killing you inside.

How to Tell if You’re Serial People-Pleaser

Start by answering these questions, 100% honestly:

  • Do you find yourself being everyone’s go to person?
  • Do you always change your plans at a moment’s notice to accommodate what someone else wants?
  • Do you worry that putting yourself first is selfish?
  • Do you fear what would happen if you stopped saying ‘yes’ to everyone and everything?

If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above, don’t worry. There is a cure…

I know, because I was a serial people-pleaser. I’ve recovered now, but sometimes I still need to check myself.

But you know what really did it for me? What cured me of my addiction? Realizing that the very people I admired, the ones I looked up to all had one common trait…

They weren’t people-pleasers.

  • They found the balance of making time for others but also making time for what was important to them.
  • They thought about a request before answering.
  • When they said ‘no’, they said it confidently because they didn’t see a reason not to.

And what they didn’t do – oh, that’s critical too.

  • They didn’t feel responsible for the other person’s reactions.
  • They didn’t scan every request looking for hidden meanings – they answered it at face value.
  • And they didn’t mull over their ‘no’ for hours afterwards, worrying, stressing that they’d caused offense or conflict.

And crucially, these same people were widely respected, admired and loved. Ironically, more so than I ever was in my ‘people-pleasing’ years.

So I started taking notes from these people. And from them I learned  ways

  • to stand up for myself without conflict.
  • to say ‘no’ without guilt.
  • to put myself first

Guilt – The Liar

“There’s no problem so awful, that you can’t add some guilt to it and make it even worse.” –Bill Watterson

Like all cures, you need to get to the very root of the problem. And that means you need to deal with that false and infectious beast lurking inside you – Guilt.

Yep, guilt has lied to you for so long, you’ve ended up believing his lies. Guilt feeds on all your worries and fears, distorting all your good intentions.

It’s lead you to believe that you never do enough, that you’re never good enough. Guilt’s conned you into believing that if you  put yourself first, you’ll be a bad person. That if you stand up for yourself you’ll be unloved. That if you say ‘no’,  you’ll be shunned.

And yes, it absolutely knows the power of those false beliefs.

In order to cure yourself of guilt and release yourself from the prison of people-pleasing, you need to recognize Guilt’s 3 most common and powerful lies:

  1. Putting yourself first is wrong.

Decent, caring folk always put others first and themselves last, right?

Well, being the perpetual go-to person has left you overwhelmed, stressed and even disappointed in life.
That isn’t leaving you energized to commit to really helping others the way you’d like to – wholeheartedly and passionately.

That’s not letting your light shine. Not in any way.

Taking care of your needs first is essential to being the truly amazing person you were born to be. The one who is confident enough to offer your innate talents, share your valuable opinions and be joyous company for others like you.

Guilt lied. It’s fooled you into thinking that forever putting others first is what the world needs and wants.

Wrong. It needs and wants what you have to offer.

Putting yourself last is what’s truly selfish, because you will never have the confidence and belief in yourself to really help others.

  1. Saying ‘no’ will cause conflict and hurt people’s feelings.

Guilt’s has shamelessly preyed on your good nature. It has rubbed its grubby hands in delight over your genuine wish for everyone to be happy.

And it’s used that to whisper lies in your ear that if you say ‘no’, others will be crushed. Or angry. Or feel rejected.

And you’d be mortified if you ever caused any of those feelings in someone else.

But what guilt has caused you to forget is a universal truth:

You are not responsible for someone else’s reaction, they are.

Sure you need to say ‘no’ kindly, with compassion and with genuine understanding of the impact it might have. But you do that automatically because you care about their feelings.

And saying ‘no’ to them is no different to them saying ‘no’ to you. Think about it, the same rules apply:

They want something – you want something else , so you say ‘no’. You want something – they want something else, so they say ‘no’.

Two different people. Two different lives.

And Guilt fails to mention, that most of the time you exaggerate how important it is to the other person. Often they’ve forgotten that you said ‘no’ long before you have.

And the more you practice standing up for yourself and saying ‘no’, the less you’ll have to.


Because just like those people I admired, you’ll come to be seen as someone who knows their own mind.

And because you are not responsible for their reaction, if they are offended, then they are the ones who chose that reaction.

  1. Turning down an opportunity is ungrateful.

You feel ungrateful if you turn down an opportunity – after all, not everyone is offered such a chance. You couldn’t bear to be the person who takes their privileges for granted.

And that gets Guilt all juicy for making you feel bad and ashamed.

Those mean thoughts that Guilt plants in your brain leads you to say ‘yes’ to everything that’s offered to you… even when you don’t want it. So you go along half-heartedly, dispassionately, maybe even reluctantly.

And spend the time dreaming of where you really want to be.

But someone else would eagerly jump at that opportunity if they had the chance. Someone who would make better use of it, maybe do a better job.

Only they don’t because there is no opportunity because you said ‘yes’.

You can still be grateful for an opportunity and turn it down.

Stop Serial People-Pleasing

I used to feel the Dark Force of Guilt bullying me. And occasionally I still sense its unwelcome presence in my thoughts.

But I’ve practiced and now I can resist. Guilt has lost its hold over me.

You can beat guilt too. You can eliminate its power over you and stop people-pleasing.

  • Put yourself first, just once…and then do it again.
  • Say no without feeling guilty…and then do it again.
  • Turn down an opportunity you neither want nor need…and then keep doing it.

The world doesn’t need one more guilt-ridden ‘yes’ addict. The world needs you, the authentic you.

It always did.


Laura Tong

Laura Tong is an Ambassador for the life-changing power of gratitude. Her writings regularly appear on Huffington Post and other top blogs. Why not take her fun and revealing quiz and find out Your Gratitude Score?