Have you ever found yourself saying ‘yes’ to something when deep down, you really wanted to say ‘no’? Or maybe you’ve gone out of your way to make someone happy, even if it meant compromising your own comfort? If that sounds familiar, you might be dealing with a people-pleasing habit.

People-pleasing, is the act of prioritising others’ needs and desires over one’s own. It’s a type of trauma response which can often be traced back to childhood relationships with their care givers.

While it can stem from a place of kindness and generosity, it often leads to stress, burnout, and a loss of self-identity.

People-pleasing behaviour is a common challenge that many face, often rooted in a deep desire to be liked and accepted. However, constantly prioritising others at the expense of your own well-being can be detrimental to one’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

In this article, we’ll delve into the signs of people-pleasing, its underlying causes, examples of people-pleasing behaviours, and practical steps to overcome this habit.

Signs of People-Pleasing

Recognising people-pleasing behaviour is the first step toward change. Here are some common signs:

  • Lack of boundaries: You find extremely difficult setting healthy boundaries for fear of being rejected
  • Difficulty Saying No: You find it challenging to decline requests, even when you’re overwhelmed or uninterested.
  • Constant Need for Approval: You seek validation from others and feel anxious if it’s not received.
  • Overcommitting: You frequently take on more tasks than you can handle to make others happy.
  • Avoiding Conflict: You go out of your way to avoid disagreements, often agreeing with others to keep the peace or to feel safe.
  • Neglecting Personal Needs: Your own needs and desires are often put on the back burner to accommodate others.
  • Feeling Responsible for Others’ Emotions: You believe it’s your duty to ensure others are happy and comfortable.


Causes of People-Pleasing

People-pleasing behaviour can arise from various psychological and social factors:

  • Low Self-Esteem: Individuals with low self-esteem often seek validation from others to feel worthy.
  • Fear of Rejection: The fear of being disliked or rejected can drive people to constantly please others.
  • Childhood Conditioning: Growing up in an environment where approval was contingent on meeting others’ expectations can lead to people-pleasing habits.
  • Perfectionism: The desire to be seen as perfect and capable by everyone can result in overcommitting and self-neglect.
  • Cultural and Societal Expectations: Certain cultures and societies value self-sacrifice and service to others, reinforcing people-pleasing behaviours.


Examples of People-Pleasing Behaviours

Understanding how people-pleasing manifests can help in identifying and addressing it. Here are some examples:

  • Always Agreeing with Others: Even when you have a different opinion, you nod along and agree to avoid conflict.
  • Taking on Extra Work: Regularly volunteering for additional tasks at work, even when your plate is already full.
  • Avoiding Personal Goals: Putting your own aspirations aside to support others’ goals and projects.
  • Pretending to Enjoy Activities: Participating in activities you don’t enjoy just to make someone else happy.
  • Constantly Apologising: Apologising frequently, even when you’re not at fault, to maintain harmony.


6 steps you can take to heal People-Pleasing habits

Breaking free from people-pleasing habits requires conscious effort and practice. Here are some steps to help you reclaim your time and energy:

  1. Self-Reflection: Take time to reflect on your behaviour and understand why you feel the need to please others, just coming into the awareness of your people pleasing behaviour can lead to a break-through in beginning to heal this self-sabotaging habit.
  2. Set Boundaries: Learn to set healthy boundaries by clearly communicating your limits. Practice saying no without feeling guilty is important step in healing but often can be difficult for people who have not been taught that it’s not ok or safe to set boundaries.
  3. Prioritize Self-Care: Make self-care a priority. Ensure that your needs and well-being come first and give yourself permission to rest and recharge. Many of us have been programmed that it’s selfish to prioritise self-care.
  4. Seek Support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your people-pleasing tendencies. They can offer support and hold you accountable as you work to change.
  5. Practice Assertiveness: Develop assertiveness skills by expressing your thoughts and feelings honestly and respectfully. Role-playing scenarios can help build confidence.
  6. Embrace Discomfort: Understand that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable when you start prioritizing yourself. Over time, this discomfort will lessen as you become more accustomed to valuing your own needs.


Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy can be particularly effective for helping people-pleasers overcome their habits by addressing the internal dynamics and conflicts that contribute to this behavior. IFS, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, is a therapeutic approach that views the mind as made up of different “parts,” each with its own perspectives, emotions, and roles. Here’s how IFS can help:

1. Understanding the Parts Involved

  • Identifying People-Pleasing Parts: IFS helps clients identify the specific parts of themselves that engage in people-pleasing behaviours. These parts often act as protectors, trying to keep the individual safe from rejection or criticism.
  • Recognising Other Parts: Alongside the people-pleasing parts, there may be other parts that feel resentful, exhausted, or neglected. IFS works to identify and understand all these internal voices.

2. Exploring the Origins

  • Uncovering Root Causes: People-pleasing behaviours often stem from childhood experiences where approval and acceptance were conditional on meeting others’ expectations.
  • Understanding Internal Conflicts: Clients can understand the internal conflicts between the people-pleasing parts and other parts that might be resisting or suffering due to these behaviours.

3. Developing Self-Compassion

  • Embracing the Self: IFS emphasises the concept of the Self, a core state characterised by qualities like compassion, curiosity, and calmness. By accessing the Self, clients can approach their people-pleasing parts with compassion and understanding.
  • Healing Wounded Parts: The Self can help heal wounded inner child parts that contribute to people-pleasing, such as those holding beliefs of inadequacy or fear of abandonment.

4. Releasing Burdens

  • Letting Go of Extreme Roles: IFS works to help you release extreme roles and burdens you may have unconsciously taken on. For example, the people-pleasing part can learn to let go of the belief that it must constantly seek approval to be worthy.
  • Transforming Roles: Parts can take on healthier roles within the internal system. The people-pleasing part might transform into a part that still values kindness but respects the individual’s own needs and boundaries.

5. Establishing New Internal Relationships

  • Creating Balance: IFS helps to stablish a more balanced internal system where all parts are respected and valued. This can reduce the internal pressure to please others at the expense of one’s own well-being.
  • Harmony and Cooperation: Parts learn to cooperate and communicate effectively, leading to a more harmonious internal environment. This reduces the compulsion to engage in people-pleasing as a coping mechanism.

6. Practical Steps and Exercises

  • Self-Dialogue: Clients are encouraged to engage in self-dialogue, where they communicate with their parts to understand their needs and concerns. This can lead to insights and shifts in behaviour.
  • Imagery and Visualisation: Leah will support clients in using imagery and visualisation techniques to help clients connect with and understand their parts better, facilitating healing and transformation.

7. Empowering the Self

  • Strengthening the Self: The goal of IFS therapy is to strengthen the Self so it can lead the internal system effectively. A strong Self can set healthy boundaries and prioritise self-care without being overridden by people-pleasing parts.
  • Increasing Self-Leadership: As the Self becomes more prominent, clients experience increased self-leadership, allowing them to make decisions that are in their best interest without excessive concern about others’ approval.

8. Ongoing Support and Integration

  • Continued Therapy: IFS sessions can provide ongoing support as clients navigate changes and challenges, helping to integrate new insights and behaviours into daily life.

Internal Family Systems therapy offers a comprehensive and compassionate approach to addressing people-pleasing habits.

By understanding and healing the internal parts that drive these behaviours, IFS helps individuals develop a stronger sense of self-worth, establish healthier boundaries, and create a more balanced and fulfilling life. Through the empowerment of the Self, clients can transform their relationships with others and, most importantly, with themselves.

Let’s chat to see if IFS therapy is a good fit for you at this time.