7 Warning Signs of People Pleasing and How to Stop

Do you find yourself frequently saying “yes” when you would prefer to say “no”? Do you often give in to the needs and expectations of others? If so, you may be struggling with people pleasing.

As a Christian, it is important to remember that our worth and identity come from God, not from the approval of others. Read on to learn about the 7 warning signs of people pleasing and how to stop.

People pleasing is rooted in low self-esteem and insecurity. The need for others to like you is driven by an unhealthy compulsion to do more for them than you should be doing. Oftentimes, people pleasers have a tendency to do things for others that they should be doing for themselves.

A people pleaser can be defined as a giver, and givers attract takers. Galatians 1:10 says it best when it asks, “For now, am I seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man?

If I was still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” For every people pleaser out there who is deceiving themselves into thinking they are doing God’s work by serving others, the scripture just obliterated that.

You see, when people pleasing replaces God pleasing, we’re walking on very thin spiritual ice.

Here are seven warning signs of people pleasing and how to stop

1. You can’t say no.

For people pleasers, saying yes is an addiction that they just can’t kick. Even if they know in the back of their mind that they shouldn’t be saying yes, they still do it anyway. The Holy Spirit revealed to me that if you are people pleasing, you are supposed to say no. When I reminded you of how exhausted you are and how much you had going on, I prompted you to say no, but you felt compelled to say yes.

2. You actually feel guilty setting boundaries. 

This is where a lot of people pleasers get hung up because it’s easier to say yes than it is to deal with the guilt afterward. Learn how to work through that guilt, and you will come to a place where that will bring resolution. But constantly saying yes to people to avoid the guilt will never bring any resolution. All it will do is attract more people who want to get a yes from you.

3. You need permission to take time for yourself.

The truth is you have to give yourself permission. You have to be able to have the inner conviction to say, “I’m important too, and my rest is important as well.”

4. You frequently apologize, especially for things that you don’t need to.

If you find yourself constantly apologizing for things that you’re not doing wrong, it is highly likely that you are a people pleaser.

5. You have a high need for approval.

If you are always looking for people to approve of what you say and what you do, you are likely caught in the people pleasing trap. When we aim to please others, that means we need their approval. 

6. You struggle with insecurity and low self-esteem.

This speaks to number five. When you’re constantly looking for approval from other people, it typically stems from insecurity and low self-esteem. You think so lowly of yourself that you need others to validate you.

7. You avoid conflict at all costs.

People pleasers go out of their way to avoid conflict because they don’t want to upset others. However, sometimes conflict is necessary to set boundaries and make your needs known. Learning to deal with conflict in a healthy way is crucial to overcoming people pleasing.

How to stop being a people pleaser as a Christian

Become secure in who you are, not only in Christ, but who you are as a unique creation.

I find it to be extremely helpful for those who have just ignored it, those who have designed their lives around the needs and expectations of others. So much so that when somebody says, “hey, just be yourself,” you’re like, “great, but who am I?”

That’s what I want you to start discovering – who are you? Because if you’re constantly trying to find your identity in other people, that identity is going to be on very shaky ground. It’s going to constantly change. 

Elevate your desires to please God, not the desires of other people.

When your aim is to please God, your desire to please others can start to diminish. I know what a lot of people pleasers are going to say, “but that’s going to be so selfish.” It’s really not.

It’s not about swinging the pendulum all the way to the other side where I completely reject people, never self-sacrificing or giving the coat off my back or going the extra mile. That’s not what I’m talking about, and that’s where a lot of people pleasers will miss here.

Part of pleasing God is going to be of service to others, but here’s the difference. I want God to tell you who to be of service to, not these other people, not the people that Satan is sending your way.  I’m not saying that Satan is sending every single person that is asking something from you. You have a big part in this. Make the most of your limited time on this earth.

Do you want to use that time to please other people or to please God? Let God direct your steps, and I assure you, you will be pleasing the people that he needs you to please.

Stop apologizing.

There is a better way to show appreciation than apologizing. For example, if you’re late, instead of saying “I’m so sorry” repeatedly, look for the other person to say, “No, no, it’s okay. I totally understand why,” to make you feel better. Then try expressing gratitude by saying “Thank you so much for waiting for me. I really appreciate it.”

If you constantly apologize and express how bad you feel, you’re making it all about you. You’re interrupting whatever the other person has going on and causing them to turn their energy and focus on making you feel better when you’re the one who was late.

The enemy can get us trapped in people pleasing, but we can position it as caring and giving.

Instead of apologizing, just thank the person for what they did do for you. Also, become very aware of apologizing for things that you didn’t do. I’m not encouraging you to stop apologizing if you did do something wrong. In that case, I want you to repent to somebody, because repentance and apology are different.

Repentance means that you’re very convicted of the behavior and want to stop it because you value the other person and God more than the behavior.

If you need to repent, don’t get caught in the “I’m so sorry” trap because that’s not about the other person, it’s about you feeling bad. Apologize when you need to apologize, but stop apologizing, especially for things you didn’t do.

Set your boundaries  and respect somebody else’s “no.”

Many people pleasers view “no” as unloving. It’s not just one-sided.  They don’t want to say “no” and also have a difficult time receiving it. They tend to get manipulative when met with “no.”

They might say “I’ve done so much for you” or “after all I’ve given you,” but this is crossing somebody else’s boundaries and using manipulation, which is not okay. Catch yourself and see how often you struggle when somebody puts up a boundary with you

Start by respecting someone else’s “no.” Take a moment to reflect on your own reaction when someone puts up a boundary with you. Do you feel angry, sad, or tempted to manipulate or guilt trip them? It’s important to take these feelings to the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance in dealing with them. Healthy relationships require healthy boundaries on both sides.

If you’re struggling with codependency, my course, Conquering Codependency, can help. You’ll learn about the 4 types of codependency and how to overcome them, giving you the tools and knowledge you need to start living a healthier, happier life.

In conclusion, people-pleasing behavior didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t untangle overnight either. It’s helpful to seek the support of a good friend, pastor, mentor, or counselor to help you unpack where some of these patterns began, why you’re doing it, what triggers it, and how to stop.

With the guidance and support of a Christian counselor, you can overcome and learn how to stop people pleasing.

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