How To Curb Your People-Pleasing Tendencies And Take Care Of Yourself

The holiday season is an excellent opportunity to evaluate your own people-pleasing tendencies. Do you buy and send out 150 holiday cards every year, even though you only have a personal relationship with 20 of the recipients? Do you feel obligated to put yourself into debt in order to make sure every single person you know gets a gift from you? Have you ever stayed up three hours past your bedtime baking unsolicited holiday cookies for your mail carrier or your kid's teacher? If so, you're probably a people pleaser.

A people pleaser is someone who forfeits their own well-being in order to fulfill the needs of others, according to Merriam-Webster. There are many reasons people fall into people-pleasing territory, but women are more likely to fall victim to it than men are. You may have learned it from the way your mother took on the thankless task of keeping everyone happy at her own expense, or you might struggle with seeking external validation because you experience feelings of low self-worth. Whatever the cause, there are steps you can take to change your people-pleasing tendencies. Here's how to start. 

Fill your own cup

You may have heard people say that you can't pour from an empty cup. In the context of people pleasing, your cup is your store of physical, mental, and emotional energy. When you let this cup be drained without refilling it, your system will run out of fuel and you'll find yourself running on empty. When you continue to do for other people even though you are physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted, you will find yourself bitter, resentful, and burnt out, even if those people never asked for what you're giving. Emotional burnout can cause myriad troublesome symptoms, including physical ones like headaches and fatigue, according to Healthline.

First, ask yourself which obligations you can cut out of your life today. What would happen if you only sent out 20 holiday cards or if you left your mail carrier a simple thank you card instead of a gift? Most likely, nothing. Once you've removed some of the habits that deplete your cup, it's time to figure out how to fill it. The answer is self-care, including healing your relationship with your self-worth. Consider starting a journaling practice and creating affirmations to train your brain to recognize your intrinsic value as a human, no service required (via TruBalance). Finally, set aside time at least once a week to recharge. Consider this time non-negotiable and commit to spending it only doing recreational activities you find enjoyable. No favors, care tasks, or household chores allowed. 

Give only from overflow

Once you've prioritized who and what you'll give your energy to and learned to refill your cup, there is still more work to do. The most difficult part of any long-term change is maintaining the new routines and behaviors that led to the change, according to Psychology Today. Now, it's time to uphold the new boundaries you've set and continue to fill your cup regularly through self-care, healing practices, and recreational time. Eventually, you'll begin to feel that your cup isn't just full, it's overflowing with energy.

Only once you feel sure that your energetic cup is overflowing should you consider taking on more than the bare minimum of tasks for other people. When what you are giving is from overflow, you'll find that you no longer feel the same drain that produces eventual resentment, exhaustion, and disdain. Take the time to soak up the benefits associated with giving out of pure generosity (via the University of Arkansas). You no longer need to be of service to feel valuable. Now, carry your new boundaries and self-care practices with you and pass them on to others who seem to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.