PEOPLE PLEASING: How to Set Boundaries When You’re a People Pleaser

PEOPLE PLEASING: How to Set Boundaries When You’re a People Pleaser people pleasing: how to set boundaries when you’re a people pleaser
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

People-pleasing is all about trying to make other people happy, and it’s something that can often lead you into a toxic relationship. As I mentioned in a previous article, a people-pleaser will find it really hard to set and uphold boundaries because the key word in upholding all boundaries is saying “No.”

When you say no, you may upset some faces and even ‘hurt’ them in a way, which is not on the agenda of a people-pleaser who aims to make everyone happy. People-pleasing and setting boundaries are extreme opposites because with people-pleasing, you say “Yes” to others and “No” to yourself, while with boundary-setting, you say “Yes” to yourself and “No” to others.

So, it’s more like water and oil; it doesn’t go well for someone who’s used to people-pleasing to set and uphold boundaries. That’s why I always advocate for addressing the root cause of people-pleasing so that you can deeply understand that you are your first priority, and your boundaries become an automatic aspect of your being. However, not all of us can address the root cause due to limitations in the help we receive or other legitimate reasons. Today, I will share with you three practical tips you can use to help you set boundaries when you’re struggling with chronic people-pleasing.

1. Pause and Analyze the Situation

One key aspect of people-pleasing is always overthinking that we can do it all. Now, let’s put ourselves in this position of trying to make everyone happy and truly see how far we can go. The default for every people-pleaser is to always blame themselves or take up responsibility even without giving it a second thought when someone close to them is unhappy.

It’s just a compulsive response or feeling of, “If they’re unhappy, it must be something I’ve done.” So, you are not even giving yourself the time to analyze the realism of what you’re supposed to do to make them happy. That’s where you need to “pause” and even journal about what you can control and realistically do in that situation.

It’s more about being mindful of what you can possibly do and what you cannot, and with this, you really scrutinize it. The mind tends to exaggerate and present worst-case scenarios, but once you bring everything to light, you’ll realize that there are only a few things you can do to ‘make them happy.’

A question you can ask yourself here is, “What can I really do in this situation?” It’s about being aware that your people-pleasing mind wants to position you as the one responsible for making others unhappy. By accepting the challenge and analyzing the situation, you understand your limits, even if you cannot say No; at least, you’ll now see that you were blowing it out of proportion without even looking.

2. “Let me Think About it” or “I’ll get back to you”

Another thing you can do to manage your people-pleasing tendencies is to respond with phrases that buy you time when someone violates your boundaries. Since saying “No” is challenging, you can respond with “Let me think about it” or “I’ll get back to you.” This way, you haven’t said “No,” and you haven’t said “Yes” either.

However, you’ve avoided the usual situations where you find yourself overwhelmed with requests you cannot handle. This tactic is especially useful when the consequences of that decision significantly impact your life.

You might feel guilty or think you should have said yes, but taking time to think offers you the opportunity to go back to the first point and genuinely evaluate if you can manage that request. It’s about giving yourself time without making the other party ‘feel bad’ and without your automatic “yes” slipping out.

3. Start Saying “No Thanks” to Small Requests

Setting boundaries and saying “No” can be uncomfortable, especially when you feel your reason is not “valid.” Specifically, a people-pleaser might sometimes say no but only after providing numerous justifications for their decision.

As a people-pleaser, start small by saying no without overexplaining your reasons. Practice this with situations that don’t threaten your people-pleasing identity. For instance, say “no thanks” when a stranger offers to buy you coffee and then sit with the uncomfortable feeling. Gradually, you’ll get used to saying “no thanks,” and you’ll find fewer things landing on your plate. You’ll realize that it’s not as hard as you thought.


Living life as a people-pleaser is not easy; people will exploit you to meet their needs, and you’ll exploit yourself to serve others’ needs. It greatly depletes and drains you to the point where you have nothing to give even to those accustomed to you trying to make them happy.

You can start by saying no to small requests or giving yourself time before assuming that you’re the cause of their ‘unhappiness.’ I hope these tips will assist you as you work to address this people-pleasing behavior once and for all.

One last point to remember is that people-pleasing is not your personality or “just who you are”; it is a survival response developed in the past to stay safe in chaotic environments.

To address it permanently, deal with your past wounds. Learning about coping mechanisms is a temporary measure; strive to free yourself from that stuck identity for good.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns (in less than 2 months) , then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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