What’s the Price of People-pleasing?

A friend phones to ask you for a favour.

You’re already swamped and you don’t have the time or energy to help them out. Plus, this particular friend never seems to return any of the favours you do for them.

They wait expectantly for your answer.

A voice in your head is advising: “don’t agree to this. You have too much on already. Say no”.

Into the phone, you say with a smile:

“Yes, of course, I’ll do it – no problem”.


Did you want to do something nice for them? Did you want to show them how much you care? Did you want them to think well of you?


But I’ll hazard a guess the real reason you said yes when you wanted to say no was guilt.

You said yes because you knew you would’ve felt guilty if you hadn’t.

If you’d said no, the instant the word spilled out of your mouth your Inner Bully would have popped up to punish you: “You’re so selfish. I can’t believe you did that. They were just asking for a small favour. What harm would it have done you?”

The sense of guilt would have made you so uncomfortable, even if you’d initially declined their request, you may well have ultimately agreed to it.

Sometimes it feels just too hard not to please people.

But have you ever considered the price you pay for people-pleasing?

If you’re too focused on other people’s needs, your needs inevitably get shoved to the bottom of the pile. While it’s perfectly fine to be considerate and help others, it’s no good if your own needs are ignored.

And if you continually ignore your needs, you’ll turn to food – not only as means of compensation for not getting what you really want out of life, but also as a way of filling the tank so you can keep going and carry on providing for others.

The Inner Bully will then give you a hard time about eating too much and gaining weight.

You just can’t win, can you?

Because your Inner Bully doesn’t want you to win.

It doesn’t care about the expense to you of people-pleasing. It maintains you’re selfish if you don’t comply, don’t give in, don’t give unceasingly of your time and energy to others.

Have you ever noticed how your Inner Bully holds you to exacting high standards but not other people? It doesn’t assess if others are behaving reasonably or considerately. It just beats you up if you don’t instantly concede to their demands.

And that’s not fair.

So, if you’re a chronic people-pleaser, the best thing you can do is learn to deflect your Inner Bully’s guilt attacks.

Dismiss them with a swift – “there’s nothing wrong with saying no” or “meeting my own needs isn’t selfish, it’s self-care”.

Better yet, come up with something in your own words that has real truth in it for you.

Whether we realise it or not, we’re teaching people all the time how we expect to be treated. If you’re used to complying with other people’s wishes, that’s what they’ll always expect. It’s OK to teach them a new way to relate to you.

If they truly care about you, they’ll adapt.

Because life’s about balance, it’s not about pleasing other people at the expense of your health and wellbeing.

I can hear your Inner Bully arguing with that statement. Do you want to tell it where to go or shall I?

©️ Julie de Rohan 2020.

25 thoughts on “What’s the Price of People-pleasing?

    1. I’m afraid it’s very common – especially for women. We’re often taught to be compliant from a young age. Thank you for sharing your experience, Jeanne – I’m sure many people will relate to it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s so important to respect your limits, and to recognize that ‘saying no’ is no reflection on your relationship with that individual. Sometimes it’s truly a matter of self preservation.
    But I also realize it is very hard for a lot of people. However, my experience has been that the more I say no (when it is legitimate and reasonable) then the easier it becomes. Thanks for sharing this Julie.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post. I like doing nice things for people, but I recognize that there is a time and place for everything. And that most people take your good nature for granted. No one will take care of you unless you take care of you.

    Good to see a post from you. Stay golden!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Julie! Let me raise my hand and say…..I’m a recovered people pleaser! 🙋It’s taken me three quarters of my life to stop “guilting” myself. It’s very hard to do but once you start politely saying no, it gets easier. Now, I have no trouble being particular about things I really want to do and refusing to participate in “time wasters.” Wonderful post that can apply to anyone!😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s so great to hear, Erin. I hope that anyone struggling with people-pleasing might be inspired hearing of your experience. As you say, there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘no’ politely. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s so true, Julie! It’s hard to break this pattern. I’m still at the step where it takes work to notice what it is that I actually want or need in the moment – the ‘yes’ is a pure reflex. Realizing how burned out I am is difficult, then actually turning that into the word ‘no’, well, I’m still a work-in-progress with that 🙂 Thanks for the post and take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We can often say “yes” before we’ve even registered what’s going on – as you say, it’s a reflex. But what a price we pay – getting burnt out is no fun at all. It takes time to stay present and notice when we’re giving in automatically. I wish you luck with it, Karen – it sounds like you’re on the right track.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Such an important message Julie. I learned this years ago also how to set boundaries on peoples expectations of me. My children (and others) learned not to ask for things at the last minute from me. I think the quote is “lack of planning on your part does not constitute a crises on my part.”

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  6. Thank you for sharing!.. while I will help when I can, I know my limits and will not hesitate to say no (with a apology perhaps) when needed and not feel guilty… “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realize how seldom they do”.. (Eleanor Roosevelt)… 🙂

    Hope all is well and until we meet again..
    May flowers always line your path
    and sunshine light your way,
    May songbirds serenade your
    every step along the way,
    May a rainbow run beside you
    in a sky that’s always blue,
    And may happiness fill your heart
    each day your whole life through.
    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    And may all the wishes you wish come true
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s beautiful, Dutch, thank you. I’m pleased to hear you know your limits when it comes to other people – it’s good to hear your thoughts on this.


  7. So true! I have trouble saying no even if it isnt reasonable for me to say yes. I try to be accommodating but I also want recognition that I went out of my way – is that narcissistic?? Keep on writing the good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure that’s an unhealthy narcissistic trait, I wonder if it’s more about just wanting to be liked? Seeking recognition is often about just being liked and accepted and, therefore, safe. I don’t know if that resonates with you, but I’m grateful to you for sharing your thoughts, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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