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The Pitfalls Of People Pleasing & How To Overcome Them

Written by: Lyn Ray, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In my work as an Executive Wellbeing & Life Coach, people generally come to me because they are stressed, anxious, or frustrated. In our conversations, I look to get to the root of what is causing this. Typically, there are several factors at play, but people pleasing is a common one.

Two women having a serious conversation in a room.

So where do people pleasing come from? For some, as children, we learnt that the best way to be accepted and to receive love and praise was to do what other people expected of us. In doing this it also protected us from our fear of criticism and conflict. In childhood, this may have seemed like a good strategy, but in adulthood, it can be problematic.

For many of us, we are trying to please a lot of people – our partners, our kids, wider family and friends, our boss, our team, colleagues, our customers. It’s a long list and an impossible task, yet we try our best. We end up working long hours, our free time gets swallowed up, frustration mounts and we end up exhausted. It feels like we have no time for ourselves. Does this resonate with you?

The first step is to recognise if you are a people pleaser. Gretchen Rubin developed a useful quiz that assesses how you react to internal and expectations. People pleasers (or as Gretchen calls them Obligers) prioritise meeting external expectations over their own inner expectations. The quiz only takes 5 minutes and it provided valuable insight

The second is to become aware of what this is costing you. How are people pleasing impacting you mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially? It is beneficial to reflect on this and to write down the ways it is affecting you.

The third step is to carve out time to gain clarity on what you want. Because people pleasers have spent most of their life doing what other people expect, they are often unclear as to what it is that they themselves want. Yet when you get clear on what you want, it is easier to make decisions on where to focus your time and energy to move towards the life that you want.

There are simple ways that you can do this. Get a plain art pad. Set aside 5 minutes a day and think about what you would like in your life. Let yourself dream. You’ve got to see it to create it. Capture your thoughts on your pad. Over time you will start to get clearer about what you want. Alternatively, start to compile pictures of things you’d like to do and pin them on a noticeboard. This is a good technique as pictures evoke feelings and so this motivates you to start taking action to do them.

Working with a coach can be a sound investment for people pleasers as this process gives allocated time and space to work out what it is that you want and the accountability to take action to meet your own goals and to set boundaries on external expectations. As Leading Psychologist Stefanie Stahl says, “You weren’t put on this planet to fulfill other people’s expectations.”

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Lyn Ray, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lyn Ray is a Transformational Coach who specialises in helping busy people become happier, healthier and more fulfilled. For most of her adult life, Lyn struggled to find balance, either overworking at the expense of other areas of her life or sacrificing her career to enable her to be there for her family. This led to feelings of anxiety, frustration and a lack of fulfilment. After becoming increasingly interested in personal development, the lightbulb moment came when Lyn recognised that she was discounting her own abilities and the opportunities open to her. She retrained as a Transformational Coach and now works with clients to enable them to recognise the unique strengths & skills they have, the opportunities open to them, the limiting beliefs that hold them back and to build positive beliefs and habits to enable them to live the life they want.



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