Stop Being A People Pleaser: 5 Tips To Not Be The Office Door Mat

Are you a People pleaser? Let’s see:

Do you often leave your own work in the middle to acquiesce to someone else’s need for your assistance? Do you say yes to everything that you don’t want to do just to keep someone happy and avoid having to say “no”? Do you find yourself sitting back at work while your co-workers went off to that amazing party? Do you carry on in situations that make you uncomfortable, instead of expressing your distaste? Do you smile and oblige when your horrible boss makes an unfair request? And if you do somehow find it in you to say “no”, you feel the sting of remorse for days?

people pleaser

While being a people pleaser may make you seem likable to your co-workers for now, this behavior can be detrimental for you in the long run.

If you are a people pleaser, you often put aside your own ambitions by looking to the outside for validation. Taking on more responsibility when you have already bitten off more than you can chew means that you are prioritizing someone’s needs and wants above your own.

By pleasing others all the time, you neglect yourself and the things that actually matter. As a result, you may find yourself eternally exhausted, exasperated, missing deadlines on your work, and feeling taken for granted.

Looking back on my life, I realize that I have whiled away the better part of my life trying to feel appreciated and liked by everyone else around me. Trying to be the perfect child, the perfect student, the perfect friend, the perfect employee, and so forth. Perhaps what I wanted in reciprocation, were the very things I should have given myself: attention, care, and love!

The truth is that People-pleasing is an unhealthy behavior stemming from a low self-esteem. It is inauthentic, disempowering, and extremely time and energy consuming. Which is why I am going to give you some tips that stopped me from becoming a people-pleaser at work!

people pleaser

1.    Seek Internal Validation

Being a people pleaser makes you constantly hungry for appreciation and validation. The urge to feel needed makes you over-the-top helpful and eager to say yes to everything. However, this means that you are solely basing your confidence on “external forces”. This time, I want you to start relying on your internal validation.

The best way to fight this destructive behavior is to build up what makes you feel good. When you truly feel good about yourself, you won’t need to hear it from others. Do things that make you happy, hang around with people who make you feel awesome without having to do anything for them, and keep reminding yourself that you already have a lot going for you without seeking approval from others.

Treat yourself with dignity and respect. Eliminate disempowering phrases from your repertoire: “I am not good enough”, “I am a failure”, or “I am stupid.” Acknowledge your achievements, your willingness to learn and grow.  Once you embrace yourself with love and compassion, the idea of being alone won’t feel scary or hard, and you will start to enjoy your own company. As Wayne Dyer says, “You can never feel lonely when you like the person you’re alone with.”    

2.      Make Peace With The Fact That You Can’t Please Everyone

“One of the most freeing things we learn in life is that we don’t have to like everyone, everyone doesn’t have to like us, and it’s perfectly okay!” Enough said! I used to be the ultimate people pleaser until I read this somewhere. These powerful words set my own mindset shift into gear, and I decided that I was going to start putting myself first.

Now, everytime I feel my people pleaser instincts kicking in, I remind myself that its ok for people not to like me. You can’t please everyone all the time!

As a people pleaser, you try to outdo yourself in trying to make people like you. You tend to go along with the group even if the group wants to do something you hate; you pretend like you are fine with everything even in the midst of uncomfortable situations; you are never the first one to say goodbye; you never say what you really want to do; You take on tasks that you don’t want to do!

In reality, this behavior comes from a place of severe low self-esteem. In a nutshell, you like yourself when others do, and when they don’t, you start disparaging yourself.

 The best way to wean off the need for validation from others is to start working on increasing your self-esteem. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself and refer back to the list frequently. Start treating yourself like you want others to treat you and connect with people who love and accept themselves as they are. Once you surround yourself with positive people, you start modelling their behavior.

3.      Be Assertive, Yet Courteous

I used to be the “model employee”, not because I could do things that others couldn’t, but my boss knew he could count on me at literally any time of the day. I couldn’t say “no”! No, I did not want to work over the weekend, No, I didn’t want to re-do the design for the umpteenth time for that client, No, I was not OK with being overlooked for that position I deserved. But I knew how to suppress my voice!

Here’s what happens: for a people pleaser, saying “no” comes with the need to offer a lengthy explanation for disappointing the asker. When in fact, a short explanation or none at all is needed. A polite “no”, here and there, can help a people pleaser be assertive with their decision.

When a co-worker asks you if you could leave your own work and do theirs instead, just say something like “I’m sorry I can’t right now but will let you know when and if I can”. This approach lets the asker know that they are not the priority right now, while giving you the flexibility to return at a time convenient to you.

4.      Assertive Communication

“When you say Yes to others, make sure you are not saying No to yourself.” ~ Paulo Coelho

One of the reasons I was terrified of saying “no” was because I didn’t know how to articulate with clarity and confidence, forever apprehensive of coming across as impolite or aggressive. With time however, I learned to say no with grace, without offending anyone. Here are some simple formulas that always worked well for me:

  • “No thank you, but it sounds lovely.”
  • “Perhaps another time, how about next week?”
  • “It’s too bad I’m busy, but do let me know how it went.”
  • “Thank you for inviting me but I’m sorry I can’t at this time.”
  • “I would love to help out but I’ve got too much on my plate right now.”
  • “The event sounds amazing. Too bad I am stuck this week. “
  • “It doesn’t work for me right now.”
  • “I am in the middle of something right now. But i will give it a go if I get done before my shift ends.”

5.      Set Boundaries For Yourself

If you set a few firm boundaries for yourself and say “no” to yourself from time to time, you will eventually learn to do the same in front of others. Setting boundaries and prioritizing tasks help you focus on what’s truly important. I have set a few for myself, such as:

  • A start-time and a stop-time for work. Everyone at work knows that I cannot be reached before 9 (after I have punched in at work) and that my laptop slams down at 5 sharp (and it stays closed till the next day).
  • Work in a no-distraction zone. When I am at work, I make a pact to keep all messaging programs and email notifications turned off. And my smart phone is on silent mode, tucked safely inside some drawer.
  • Only check email once a day. I lose focus quite easily when I am met with distractions. I can’t have too many thoughts swirling around in my mind at work!

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