Setting Yourself Free: Breaking Away from People-Pleasing: Understanding the Causes and Embracing Change

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I was recently working with a Mum who described herself as a ‘people pleaser’ & was worried that she was passing that on to her daughter.

A people-pleaser is a person who puts others needs ahead of their own. This type of person is highly attuned to others and often seen as agreeable, helpful, and kind, but people-pleasers can also have trouble advocating for themselves, which can lead to a harmful pattern of self-sacrifice or self-neglect.

So as I coached her, I asked her some reflective questions to ponder, to help her gain more insight & ways to make small changes that would empower her & therefore her daughter, too over time.

Being a people pleaser is a common trait that stems from various underlying factors.

In this article I’ll explore the causes of people-pleasing behaviour & provide practical tips & I’ll ask you some of the coaching questions I ask my 1-2-1 clients on how to break free from this pattern, fostering a healthier and more authentic way of living.

Click here to book a session with me so we can work through this together if you would like to move away from being a people pleaser & feel more valued, heard and understood and less anxious.

Understanding the Causes:

Desire for Approval:

People pleasers often seek external validation to boost their self-worth. The desire for approval can be rooted in childhood experiences or societal expectations, driving you to prioritise others’ needs over your own.

Fear of Rejection:

Fear of rejection can be a powerful motivator for people-pleasing behaviour. The need to fit in or avoid conflict may lead people to constantly seek affirmation, even at the expense of their own well-being.

Low Self-Esteem:

Low self-esteem plays a significant role in people-pleasing tendencies. People with low confidence may believe their worth is tied to others’ approval, perpetuating a cycle of seeking external validation.

Lack of Boundaries:

People pleasers often struggle to set and maintain boundaries. This can result from a fear of disappointing others or an inability to prioritise personal needs over the desires of those around them.

What to Do to Change:


Take time to reflect on your people-pleasing tendencies. Understand the root causes and patterns in your behaviour. Self-awareness is the first step toward positive change.

Set Boundaries:

Practice setting clear boundaries to protect your time and well-being. Learn to say “no” when necessary, and communicate your limits assertively yet respectfully.


Start by saying no to small things – here are some tips and scripts to help.

Express Gratitude:

“I appreciate your invitation, but I currently have other commitments. Thank you for thinking of me.”

Use a Soft No:

“I would love to, but unfortunately, I’m not able to commit to that right now. I hope you understand.”

Blame External Factors:

“I have a prior engagement that day and won’t be able to make it. Thanks for understanding.”

Offer Alternatives:

“I can’t participate this time, but I hope it goes well. If there’s another opportunity, please keep me in the loop.”

Be Honest Yet Gentle:

“I value your invitation, but I need to focus on some personal priorities at the moment. I hope you understand.”

Express Regret:

“I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to join. I appreciate the invitation, and I hope it’s a fantastic event.”

Set Boundaries:

“I’ve committed to balancing my schedule more effectively, so I won’t be able to take on additional tasks. Thank you for understanding.”

Use “I” Statements:

“I need to decline this time as I have other commitments. I hope you have a great [event/activity].”

Be Appreciative:

“Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to participate. I hope it turns out to be a wonderful [event/activity].”

Keep it Simple:

“I have to pass on this one, but I appreciate your understanding. Let’s catch up soon.”


Build Self-Confidence:

Work on boosting your self-esteem by acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments. Focus on developing a positive self-image independent of external validation.

Practice Assertiveness:

Cultivate assertiveness skills to express your thoughts and opinions openly. Communicate your needs while respecting the perspectives of others. This empowers you to navigate relationships authentically.

Prioritise Self-Care:

Dedicate time to activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Taking care of your own needs enhances overall well-being, making it easier to resist the urge to constantly please others.

Learn to Say “No”:

Practice saying “no” when a request conflicts with your priorities or values. Remember that setting boundaries is a crucial aspect of maintaining healthy relationships.

Seek Support:

Share your journey with friends, family, or a therapist. Having a support system can provide encouragement, guidance, and a different perspective on your people-pleasing tendencies.

Breaking free from people-pleasing is a transformative journey that takes time & involves self-awareness, boundary-setting, and prioritising your own well-being.

By understanding the root causes and implementing practical strategies, you can embrace your authenticity, build your confidence, and cultivate healthier relationships.

Remember, it’s okay to prioritise yourself and your needs – this is the foundation for living a more fulfilling and genuine life.

Get a pen and a piece of paper or write in your journal and take your time to reflect and ‘pause to ponder’ my coaching questions to help you find your own answers and what works for you.


What specific situations trigger your people-pleasing tendencies?

How do you feel when you engage in people-pleasing behaviour, and what thoughts accompany those feelings?

Can you identify any recurring patterns or themes in your past experiences related to people-pleasing?

Setting Boundaries:

What challenges do you face when it comes to setting and maintaining boundaries in your personal and professional life?

Can you recall a recent situation where you wished you had set clearer boundaries? What could you do differently next time?

Building Self-Confidence:

What are some of your strengths and accomplishments that you can celebrate and build upon?

How might your life change if you focused on cultivating a positive self-image independent of external validation?

Practicing Assertiveness:

In what areas of your life do you find it most challenging to assert your needs or opinions?

What specific communication skills or strategies can you develop to express yourself more assertively in various situations?

Prioritising Self-Care:

What activities bring you genuine joy and relaxation? How often do you engage in these activities?

Are there any self-care practices that you would like to incorporate into your routine to enhance your overall well-being?

Learning to Say “No”:

Can you recall a recent situation where you felt compelled to say “yes” despite wanting to say “no”? What were the underlying reasons?

How might your life improve if you became more comfortable saying “no” when necessary?

Seeking Support:

Who in your life can serve as a supportive ally on your journey to overcome people-pleasing tendencies?

What specific aspects of your people-pleasing behaviour would you like to discuss with a friend, family member, therapist or parenting coach?

These coaching questions aim to deepen self-awareness, prompt reflection, and empower you to take proactive steps toward breaking free from people-pleasing habits.

I hope you found this helpful and get in touch if you’d like to work this through 1-2-1  with me

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