In middle school, I would do almost anything to fit in. I faked liking things because they were trendy and pretended to not like other things because they weren't. I wanted to stay true to myself, but that seemed too dangerous and scary to be an option. What if no one liked the real me?
Now, as an adult being able to be my real self, voice my actual opinions, and like or not like something based on my tastes is one of the best parts of adulting. The problem is that sometimes that scared kid in me surfaces again, and I find myself unable to stay true to who I am by being too much of a people-pleaser.
When you’re a people-pleaser, it’s more important that the needs of other people are satisfied, even if it means giving up your own. Getting and keeping their approval becomes your ultimate goal, and it tends to silence your truth.Toni Dupree, who recently released her new book “Straight Up From the Teacup,” says, “Outside validation is where [people pleasers] thrive, they need to be needed and must have the approval of others (it doesn’t even matter if it’s real or not).”
In her book, “The Year of No Nonsense,” author and speaker Meredith Atwood defines people-pleasing as “putting the needs (actual or emotional — or both) of others above your own — in a habitual or neurotic manner. And it doesn’t matter who the people are necessarily.” It could be the people you work with, your friends, family, or even strangers. It goes beyond making a good first impression — it’s being liked by faking who you are.
The more you people-please, the further you stray fromyour true self, and over time, you can lose touch with the real you, and you don't stay true to yourself. The behavior that may have started with the best intentions — wanting to do for others, or protecting yourself from emotional harm - can cause you to forget who you are. The sacrifice of self isn’t worth whatever gains you get from people-pleasing. Here are some suggestions on how to stop being a people-pleaser and stay true to yourself.
Stay True to Yourself & Stop People Pleasing
Get to Know the Real You
Sometimes when we’re people-pleasers, we become strangers to ourselves. When you stop putting other people’s needs above your own, you can reacquaint yourself with the most important person in your life — you! “Think back to the times when you haven’t been true to yourself and think why you got yourself in that icky situation,” says Yi-Hsian Godfrey, co-founder and CEO ofApiari.
“Are you a gold-star collector and took on the task so you could later be acknowledged and recognized? Or do you have FOMO — fear of missing out — on what can potentially be happening or said? Or maybe it’s guilt-driven because your kids gave you sad puppy eyes or you feel you haven’t spent enough time with your parents, partner, or friends?” When you know yourself; you have a better understanding of your motivation for the decisions you make, the actions you take, and the emotions that you feel.
Make Yourself Your Priority
Putting yourself first isn’t being selfish or self-absorbed; it’s actually crucial to your well-being, and an essential step in learning how to stay true to yourself. “If you’ve put others first so many times that being steadily true to yourself feels impossible, start making you number one,” saysBrittany Bouffard, LCSW, CYT. If you don’t make yourself a priority, who will?
Determine What You Believe In
If you’ve spent a lot of time agreeing with people to avoid conflict or any other reason, you may have lost sight of what you believe in and the personality traits that helped shape your character. “I think the real key to being true to oneself and stop being a people pleaser is to spend a lot of time in self-reflection and getting crystal clear on what your own values and goals are,” says writer and happiness coach,Sherry Richert Belul. “Knowing our intentions for our own lives — and being aware of how fleeting life is — helps us create a plan for living the best life we can.”
Clarify Your Values, Beliefs, and Desires
When you’re able to reacquaint yourself with the true you, it’s a good idea to go even deeper. What are you passionate about, where do you draw the line, and what pushes you to action? Think of this process as doing a character-study, only the character is you. “When it comes to staying true to who you are, I work with my clients to identify their core beliefs and desires because, once that foundation is set, it doesn’t matter what’s happening outside of your orbit — who you are and what you’re about will remain the same, “ says educator, writer, and personal development coachDiana Morris.
Work on Your Self-Confidence
The more you get to know yourself and the clearer you get on what’s important to you, the stronger your sense of self will become and it will be easier to stay true to yourself. “Uncovering and exploring what is most important to you brings a sense of clarity and confidence, “saysMandy RollinsCPCC, CTPC.Confidence comes from knowing who you areand feeling good about it.
Start With Baby Steps
It can be hard to stay true to yourself when you’ve spent a great deal of time people-pleasing. Getting started will be a process, so start with small achievable goals. Nita Sweeney, author of “Depression Hates a Moving Target,” suggests, “Start by sending back the salmon that is more well done than what you ordered. The small things turn into larger things which turn into things that eventually change your life.”Lifestyle changestake time, but they’re worth it.
Setting boundaries is something that you do for yourself. It’s saying this is my space, this is what I’ll allow, and this is what I won’t stand for. When your boundaries are clear, it’s easier for people to respect them and not try to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do.“Setting boundaries is a process,” says Laura Hunter, CEO ofLashLiner.“You don’t want to be reactive every time someone asks you for something. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of what’s important to you. Know what fits within your interests and where you have room to give,” she says.
Modify Your Self-Talk
Negative self-talk can reinforce your fears and negative behaviors. If you adjust your mindset to focus on your best personality traits or qualities, you develop through affirmations and positive self-talk; the negative self-talk will lose some of its influence on you and may almost entirely disappear.
Don’t Be Impulsive With Your Words
If you take a moment to think about what you’re going to say before you say it, you avoid saying something that may have adverse consequences, and you speak with integrity and honesty. You don’t have to agree to everything and can give a thoughtful response to a question without it blowing up.
Learn How to Say ‘No.’
No doesn’t mean” I don’t like you,” nor does it mean “I don’t care about you.” No helps you be honest without having to give a ton of excuses. If you don’t want to do something, the most straightforward way to decline is to say, “No.” It’s direct, and it doesn’t build up resentment. There’s a freedom in saying ‘no,’ and the more you say it, the better you’ll feel, and the easier it will get.
Give Yourself Permission
Don’t give your power away to other people. “Too often, we wait for others to give us approval or permission to do the things that make us happy,” says Adina Mahalli, MSW ofMaple Holistics. “Have you ever backed out of doing something that you really wanted to do because it wasn’t ‘cool’ or because your friends didn’t want to do it with you? In an attempt to stay true to yourself, don’t wait for others to give you permission, give it to yourself. Allow yourself to break the rules in order to stay true to who you are.”
Not Everyone Is Going to Like You
Not everyone will like you. You can people-please, agree to things you don’t want to do, or even pretend to be someone you’re not; it still won’t guarantee that everyone will like you. Take that pursuit-of-popularity energy and channel it into some self-love. Loving yourself is the act that’s going to sustain you throughout your life and help you to stay true to yourself.
Discover Makes You Happy
Now that you’re working on how to stay true to yourself, you can focus on what brings you joy. “Do things that make you genuinely smile,” saysJulia Kelley, Astrologer and Intuitive Coach. “Sometimes I think it’s easy to get caught in our heads wondering what actually makes me happy? or Why aren’t I happy? I’ve been stuck in my head more times than I can count. I’ve realized that sometimes all it takes for me to get out of my head is to do something that I know I enjoy. People can ‘remember’ who they are when they go do something that makes them genuinely smile.”
Do What Feels Right for You
Trust your intuitionand know that by knowing how to stay true to yourself, you’re going to make the right decisions — even if they don’t pan out the way you expect them too. Mistakes, misfires, and failures help us to grow. “We aren’t meant to stay the same, just like we aren’t meant to have just one self,” says writer and teacher, Emily Denbow Morrison, M.Ed. “The secret to remaining true to who you are is to keep evolving, keep redefining who you are as you respond to your life. When you fear growth, then by definition, what you really fear is life — because if you’re not growing, you’re certainly not living.”
People-pleasing is a difficult habit to break, but the result of understanding how to stay true to yourself is a great reward. There’s no one else like you on the planet, and that’s something that should be respected and celebrated. Be truthful, show yourself some respect, and love the person you are — not an idealized version that you think other people want you to be.