Are You a People Pleaser? How to Set Healthy Boundaries

As human beings, we’re all looking for the same things: love, connection, honesty, respect. In our quest for these things, we sometimes put our own needs aside and fall into self-defeating people-pleasing behaviors. 

Healthy relationships require balance and mutual respect. But when you continually compromise your own desires to bolster someone else's comfort level, it can put your emotional and mental well-being at risk. Establishing personal boundaries can help you maintain balanced, respectful, and satisfying relationships with others. 

People-pleasing: Why some do it so well

People-pleasing is a complex pattern of self-sacrificing behaviors often rooted in a person’s emotional and psychological makeup and past experiences. This is especially true when someone has had their own needs and emotions belittled or disregarded by past caregivers or others. 

Sometimes, people-pleasing can be a red flag for dependent personality disorder. It can also be a cultural side-effect, with some cultures encouraging self-sacrifice, particularly in romantic relationships. 

Many become people-pleasers when they feel their value is tied to their ability to make others happy. Many use it to avoid rejection or conflict. They find themselves saying “yes” to everyone else’s needs but their own. People-pleasers often find themselves in codependent relationships where they feel disrespected and yet keep putting themselves on the back burner. 

Read: Codependency: What Is It? Am I Codependent?

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to look at some of your own people-pleasing tendencies and consider setting some healthy emotional boundaries. 

Do you sacrifice yourself to please others?

Do you have an overwhelming need to make others happy, even at the expense of your own happiness or needs? Do you have a hard time saying no? Do you agree to things because you want to avoid disagreement or sacrifice your own time and energy to keep everything around you on an even keel? 

You deserve to have your own opinions, feelings, and needs met. But you might be a people-pleaser if you: 

  • Overextend yourself, agreeing to do things even when you’re exhausted or need downtime
  • Put aside your own interests and hobbies to accommodate others
  • Suppress your own opinions and feelings to avoid conflict
  • Place others’ needs before your own

It’s not selfish to prioritize yourself. Your needs and feelings are just as valid as anyone else’s. But first, you have to believe you're worthy, and you must actively set the wheels in motion. 

How to set appropriate boundaries with others

Balanced relationships require each person’s needs and preferences to be considered and respected.  But setting boundaries can feel foreign to you if it is not something you’ve implemented in your life. 

You get to choose. Even if you’re feeling obligated, you have the power to strike a balance. While you want to honor a partner’s needs, your own health and well-being fully deserve consideration. You get to create the framework under which you’re willing to compromise.

Understand your priorities. You can’t develop healthy boundaries unless you understand what types of boundaries you want and need. If you have relied on everyone else’s needs and wishes to form your self-value, you have had little time and space to consider what you want. Being aware of your own goals, interests, and values allows you to prioritize them in balance within the context of your relationships. 

Practice saying no. When you’re a people-pleaser, people around you often expect you to dance to their needs. And, if you’re afraid of creating conflict, disappointing them, or otherwise rocking the boat, you’ll continue to put yourself last. Saying no doesn't have to be abrupt or aggressive. You can frame it in a way that allows the other person to know you love and appreciate the time spent with them, but you won’t be able to do it this time. After a while, it will come easier for you, and you’ll likely enjoy a self-esteem boost by taking a stand.

There are many types of boundaries we employ in the different relationships we have. Are you clear on your emotional boundaries? Physical boundaries? Sexual boundaries? Professional boundaries? Each type of boundary deserves your serious consideration.

Block out time for yourself. It’s okay to want alone time for yourself. Focusing on things that interest you makes you a happier and healthier person. Get used to prioritizing time for yourself by scheduling it and keeping the appointment. Practice time for self-care, and chances are that others around you will begin to respect it, too.

Get outside help. If you’ve been a people-pleaser all your life, taking your own needs seriously won’t be easy or intuitive. Understanding how and why you prioritize others and put yourself last can be helpful. Getting the help of a therapist or support group can give you some clarity and offer tools you can use to practice assertiveness and balance in your relationships. 

Read: Tips for Boosting Your Mental Health

An unhealthy relationship with yourself can lead to unhealthy relationships with others. When you take back your power and establish clear boundaries, you may realize that your marital relationship no longer fulfills the same emotional needs it once did. Are you at a crossroads? Let us help. Our caring staff will guide you as you examine our online divorce options and make important life decisions. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to learn more.

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.