How to set boundaries when you’re a people pleaser

This article is all about how to set boundaries when you’re a people pleaser.

Before we start, take this quick quiz:

  • Do you have a hard time saying no?
  • Do you feel like you’re always being taken advantage of?
  • Do you find it difficult to ask for or accept help from others?

If you answered YES to any of the above questions, chances are you’re a People Pleaser.

So what’s a people pleaser and why should you care?

People pleasers are usually really nice, super helpful, exceptionally kind and incredibly giving people.

Notice the adjectives there?

I did that on purpose because many of us will have some or all of the traits I mentioned above but people pleasers have those qualities in abundance.

A people pleaser will find it hard to deny anybody anything.

They have a very difficult time saying no and will go out of their way to help others, often to their own detriment.

It’s pretty obvious how hard it is to set boundaries when you’re a people pleaser.

From a coaching perspective, I’ve found that those of my clients who have trouble sticking to positive lifestyle habit, such as maintaining a healthy eating plan or healthy weight, are often people pleasers.


Because they are so busy taking care of everybody else’s needs and wishes that they don’t have time to take care of themselves.


People Pleasers Are Also Known As Obligers

In her book, The Four Tendencies, Gretchin Rubin speaks of how Obligers are extrinsically motivated, but find it very difficult to self-motivate and to be intrinsically accountable for their actions.

As Obligers, People Pleasers find it a very tough task to commit to a personal development and lifestyle change journey unless they are able to manage their people pleasing tendencies first.

Not being able to set boundaries when you’re a people pleaser means that it’s very difficult to be true to your own commitments and intentions.


Are you a People Pleaser?

Still not sure if you’re a people pleaser?  Let me ask you a few more questions:

  • Do you apologise a lot, even when you’re not wrong?
  • Do you say yes when you really want to say no?
  • Do you feel guilty if you say no?

Ok, by now, it’s probably only the people pleasers who are still reading, so let’s cut to the chase.

How to set boundaries when you're a people pleaser

The #1 Problem with People Pleasing

By being a people pleaser you are neglecting YOU.

  • What opportunities pass you by because you’re busy taking care of everybody else?
  • What would you do, who would you be, what could you achieve if you were able to say NO?
  • What impact is people pleasing having on your health and wellbeing?


We ALSO know that people pleasing can cause you serious health risks by increasing your stress levels, depleting your energy and affecting your sleep.

So if you are a people pleaser and you want to do something about it, you’re going to have to set some boundaries in order to take care of your own needs.


9 Ways to Change Your People Pleasing Habits

Here’s 9 ways you can change your people pleasing habits:

1.      When your instinct is to say ‘yes’, pause instead.

Rather than instantly agree to what’s being asked of you, say instead, ‘that sounds like a possibility but I’ll need to check my schedule and get back to you.’

This gives you time to decide if you really want to say yes or no and to think about how stressful or time consuming their request will be for you.

If it’s something you want to say yes to because you genuinely want to, then go ahead and say yes, however, if you want to say no, then there’s a way to do that effectively too


2.      Be assertive but do it with empathy.

If you decide to say no to a request, let the other person know that you understand their situation but that in this instance you’re unable to help them.

If you approach saying no in this manner, you’ll have spoken with compassion, respect and also conviction.


3.      If you agree to assist someone, set some boundaries on the help.

Give it a time limit, explain clearly how much commitment you can provide and then stick to your guns


4.      Don’t make excuses.

If you want to say no, then say no.  Don’t feel that you need to give 101 reasons why you can’t help.

You’ll only confuse the other person and come away feeling awkward and guilty (see point 2 above on being assertive)


5.      Take it slowly.

When it comes to creating sustainable behavioural change, the best approach is to take baby steps.

You have a lifetime of this behaviour behind you so don’t try to combat it all in a day.

Take it one step at a time.  Start small, reward yourself for your successes.

This will build your confidence to keep trying out the new behaviour and will also allow you to stretch a little further each time you try it out.


6.      Stop apologising.

If you find yourself apologising all the time, have a think about whether it’s really your fault.


7.      Be clear in articulating your boundaries to others.

If you don’t tell them what you can and can’t do, then how are they to know?  Say what you’re thinking and what you want.


8.      Remember why saying no is important to you.

Your time is precious and finite so there should be no guilt attached to saying no and setting boundaries around your willingness to oblige others.


9.      Champion your successes.

People pleasers often focus on what went wrong so instead start focussing on what went well.

Try journaling your successes.

Write down the times you were able to effectively set boundaries and pay tribute to your successes.  It’s another great way to build your confidence and keep you on track to counteracting your people pleasing tendencies.


In Summary

So, now that you know what a people pleaser is, why it’s important to take care of your own needs and how to go about counterbalancing your people pleasing tendencies, what’s your next step?

What are 3-4 strategies you can start implementing this week in order to people please proof yourself?

If you really want to break free of these unhelpful patterns and take control, get in touch for a confidential appointment with me.

Kristine Gardener

Kristine Gardener

Health and Wellness Coach

Kristine is a qualified Naturopath and Health & Wellness Coach who helps busy professionals to manage stress and get balance in their lives.

Want some help getting your healthy eating organised in a 100% foolproof way?

Book a confidential enquiry with Kristine.

Book a confidential enquiry with Kristine