Pleasing others vs. setting healthy boundaries


By Todd Smith LCPC (Chestnut Psychotherapist)
Most of us enjoy being accepted and liked by others. However someone who is a people pleaser typically avoids conflict out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings, disappointing or upsetting them. For some it is easier to get along by going along. A few signs of people pleasing include:

  • Agreeing to do something when you really don’t want to.
  • Often putting yourself last and others first.
  • You feel like a “better” person when you please others and a “worse” person when you don’t.
  • You have difficulty making decisions without deferring to others. 
Our behavior is driven by our belief system. If we believe we MUST be loved and accepted by others and it is unacceptable to NOT be loved and accepted our beliefs will motivate us to bend over backwards in order to avoid rejection.  To change our behavior we must change our negative pattern of thinking.
A few ways to set limits:
  • Remind ourselves we have a choice if someone asks for our help. We can say “no”.
  • Pause before answering when asked for help. The pause gives opportunity to consider whether we really have time to help and possibly avoid giving an automatic “Yes” when we really do not have time to help someone pack for a move.
  • No need to apologize if we say “no”. People pleasers sometimes apologize even if it is not their fault. To begin changing this habit, consider if, or how, you may be at fault. We are not to blame for the behaviors of others even if they choose to blame us for their anger.
  • Recognize when you successfully set a limit or manage a problem. It is often easier to note accomplishments of others however we deserve to do this for ourselves also.
  • If you decide to help someone prepare for an event, like a church function, set a time limit to how much time you devote to the activity and stick to the limit.
  • Pray for guidance in setting priorities with your time.  What does God tell you about how you prioritize your limited time?
The goal is not just doing for others or just doing for ourselves but finding a balance during the stressful times in our life.