Confessions of a People Pleaser

I hate saying “no”. I hate disappointing people. I hate not being able to give people exactly what they want.

Too often my inbox, my voicemail, and all the other spots where I can get incoming messages (of which there are TOO MANY), are clogged with people I need to get back with and share some inevitable, but less than desirable, news.

But you know what I realized this morning when a kind woman who I said “no” to recognized me for my responsiveness?

I realized that I am lame. I realized that I just need to buck up, get over myself, and come to terms with the fact that I can’t be everything to everybody. I realized that I need to be honest…honesty is my word of the year after all.

It is not fair to leave others waiting because of my selfish desire to be a perfect little people pleaser. Most people would appreciate any answer, even if it is not the one they originally hoped for.

Anyone else have trouble delivering “bad” news?

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Lindsey has a sincere love for her precious dogs Molly and Maisy, a good red wine and the Delta Sky Club.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Trust me. You are definitely not alone. My whole life has been about trying to make others happy. It wasn’t until the last few years that I learned the power just giving an answer. It actually happened when I used to see cars. If I wasn’t careful customers would take all my time up doing silly things. It got to the point where I didn’t have time to see new vehicles because all my prior sales were taking all my time.

  • Justin

    totally with you! I am a people pleaser as well!

  • Lindsey,
    Isn’t it ironic that the fear of saying no is what makes things worse…when that’s what we’re trying to avoid in the first place?! Great post.

    Josh Hood

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  • Absolutely know where you’re coming from. Guilty as charged.

  • Thanks for posting this, Lindsey. I’m a recovering people pleaser, too; and I have to remind myself every day that it is OK to say “no” to certain people and situations. (Some days are better than others…I’m very much a work in progress).

  • Anonymous

    This is certainly true. I have struggled with saying the word no all of my life. I was raised to be a co-dependent. But, I can officially say I am a recovering co-dependent. 🙂

    Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend taught me about boundaries and using my “no” muscle. It actually feels great when you use it a couple times.

    Go get em!

  • I totally agree with lame part. We are lame and we need to get over ourselves. I’ve realized that once I realize that I can totally move on! Thanks for reminding me 🙂 lots of love

  • I think more of us suffer from this than we like to admit. I mean, who doesn’t want to be liked? By everybody? It adds significant stress, and it’s something that I “give up” on almost weekly…then find myself in the exact same, people-pleasing stress. Not a fun cycle.

  • Sometimes I give in to the demands because at that moment it seems easier to not say no. Not saying no, however, can be much harder in the long term.

  • I remember when I was young, my dad would discipline me and say “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.” The beauty of speaking truth and not “pleasing people” with silence – or words is that it builds the pleasers confidence and it frees the recipient to take the truth and do something with it – possibly to the benefit of both parties involved. The parenting role is very much the same – pleasing your kids does not make them confident, respectable folks.

  • Mgraham

    I’m pretty bad at this but the best advice I’ve ever been given is, “No is a complete sentence.” 🙂

  • Thanks for the reminder that “its not fair to leave someone waiting”! Boy am I guilty of this. I’ll delay answering because I’m sitting around trying to figure out how to do what I was asked when there is just NO WAY I can. I need to get over myself too! No is a complete sentence. No is a complete sentence. No is a complete sentence. Lord help me remember that.

  • I’m a people pleaser, but I’ve learned to say no. I had to or I would lose my sanity. I can’t be all things to all people and God doesn’t want me to be either. So I completely identify. Love your honesty Lindsey!

  • Amanda

    Oh, yes. I am digging myself out of some holes right now for this very reason. But I had a victory last night! You are not alone. Have you read Approval Addiction by Joyce Meyer? I read it a few years ago and it was all over my toes.

    • Two comments about that book. Adding it to my ever-growing “books I need to read” list.

  • I am right there with you! I rarely say no, because I don’t want to let anyone down. I will also realize I’m not really needed and someone else will inevitably step up… always a hard lesson to learn.

    • Yes, I think fear of not being needed is at play too…

  • yeah, it’s really hard not to want to be a people pleaser. I think that we can become so misguided it that, though. Sometimes we can become so people pleasing that we get lost and forget who we really are. The immediacy of the response when we are pleasing to someone can be deceptive as we can just as easily be disappointing in the very next minute.

  • I don’t like to give “bad” news…I don’t like saying “no.” However, there are many times I have to say no, and I do it now.

    You nailed that not saying no is landing in the pitfall of being a people pleaser. I know too well what it’s like to live in that trap – and the very person who brought this to my attention was Joyce Meyer when I read her book “Approval Addiction”. It was later confirmed years later when I read “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend.

    Since learning to say no, yes – I do experience many people who come to have a problem with me. One person actually ended a friendship over the one time I finally told her no (she became used to me always saying yes) – because I sincerely just couldn’t fulfill the request she was making. She took it very personally, even though it wasn’t, and we haven’t spoken in over a year now.

    I just have had to, and I still have to continue to, remind myself that (like you said) I can’t be everything to everyone. I am only one person – and one person with her own set of responsibilities to accomplish in a certain amount of time. So are you too…so don’t beat yourself up too much over saying no. It is healthy when you know you need to say no.

  • I hate delivering bad news but have found that sometimes when I do, I get more respect because I was the only one that was honest with them.

  • Anonymous

    It took me a few years ago to realize I couldn’t be all things to all people and when I began saying no…wow, such freedom!

  • I definitely am a people pleaser at times. It is so hard to deliver bad news to people. It helps when I realize that people pleasing doesn’t always = love. Like you said, honesty is the word, gentle honesty, even if it’s going to hurt.

  • Carol York

    This may not be applicable to the “bad news” you have to deliver, but it helped me when I was a Support rep for our company. I drew it on a piece of card board and cut it out and taped it to my monitor.

    Can, Can’t, Why, Future

    Here’s what I CAN do for you.
    Here’s what I CAN’T do for you.
    Here’s WHY I can’t do it.
    Here’s what can be done in the FUTURE to avoid the issue at hand.

  • Guest

    maybe the recipient’s life doesn’t hang on your ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ so let Jesus be Jesus to them, then you’re free to just be human.

  • So long as you’re not harming anyone, don’t worry. The only one we have to aim to please is God.

    That^^ is the first thing that came to my head when I read your blog post.

    And I could add to it, but really, He’s the only one I’m willing to break my back to satisfy these days.

  • I really needed to read this today. I am horrible at saying no, and therefore will exhaust myself trying to be all things to all people. I cannot do that anymore. I need PPA… Rehab. There are people close to me whom I have asked quite plainly, please help me not overcommit myself. This post, along with Randy Elrod’s today, are great reminders to me to keep focused on this issue.

  • Lindsey, thanks for the great reminder. I just had a situation this week where I received a request on Monday asking for my help this Friday, and I needed to say “no” but didn’t want to. So…I put off saying “no” until today (Wed.). Then I also had to apologize for the slow response. Like you said, “It is not fair to leave others waiting because of my selfish desire to be a perfect little people pleaser.” Next time I will try to “get over myself” and not keep others waiting. Really appreciate your perspective on this issue.

  • I can so relate. No is the most beautiful word sometimes…

  • I tend to not have a problem with being too much of a people pleaser; my problem tends to be more on the other side of the spectrum. I need to balance out a bit more.