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198 – Breaking Free from People Pleasing

by Jill

In a world that often values kindness and cooperation, the line between being nice and being a people pleaser can blur easily. Drawing insights from “Anxious to Please: Seven Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice” by James Rapson and Craig English we look at when being nice goes too far.

Understanding People Pleasing

People pleasing is more than just being nice; it’s a pattern of behavior where one prioritizes others’ needs at the expense of their own well-being. Chronic people pleasers often grapple with low self-esteem, depression, and strained relationships. They constantly seek approval, second guess their decisions, and feel guilty when they can’t meet others’ expectations.

I used to constantly worry about making everyone happy, often ignoring my own needs. Whether it was staying late at work or always deferring to others’ preferences, my actions were driven by a deep-seated fear of rejection and a desire for validation.

Recognizing the Problem

The first step towards change is awareness. It’s crucial to identify situations where you are overly accommodating and reflect on the underlying emotions and thoughts. For example, if you often stay late at work to finish projects, ask yourself why. Are you genuinely interested in the task, or are you afraid of disappointing your boss? Once you become aware of your behavior, you can start taking steps to address it.

Steps to Overcome People Pleasing

  1. Small Acts of Self-Assertion: Begin with minor actions that assert your needs. This could be something as simple as suggesting a restaurant you like or declining to stay late at work. These small steps can build your confidence and help you prioritize your needs without feeling guilty.
  2. Forgiveness and Patience: Changing long-standing habits takes time. Be kind to yourself throughout this process. Recognize that it’s okay to make mistakes and that every small step forward is progress.
  3. The Desert Practice: Spend time in solitude to reconnect with your desires and needs. This practice helps you understand what truly matters to you, away from the influence of others. During the podcast, I shared how camping alone has helped me learn to listen to my own voice and prioritize my preferences.
  4. Developing a Personal Ethic: Adopt a mindset akin to a warrior, who acts based on personal ethics rather than automatic niceness. This involves making conscious decisions that align with your values and capabilities. For example, if you decide to help a neighbor shovel snow, do it because it aligns with your values, not because you feel compelled to be seen as helpful.


People pleasing, while often stemming from good intentions, can be detrimental when it leads to self-neglect. By cultivating awareness, taking small steps towards self-assertion, and developing a personal ethic, you can balance kindness towards others with self-respect and authenticity. Remember, it’s about being kind without compromising your own well-being.

Our journey towards a more balanced approach to niceness begins with small, intentional steps. By recognizing our patterns, practicing self-assertion, and developing a personal ethic, we can navigate the challenges of people pleasing and lead more authentic, fulfilling lives.

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