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Stop Being a People-Pleaser to Reach Your Goals Faster

By Karin Freeland

Do you often find yourself saying yes to things you don't really want to do? Do you prioritize other people's needs and desires over your own? Do you agree to things hoping it will make people like you more? If so, there’s a good chance you’re a people-pleaser. And as you’ll see in this blog, contrary to the name, people-pleasing rarely leads to anyone being pleased. 

In my opinion, the real tragedy of people-pleasing is that it can also hinder your progress toward achieving your own goals.

It’s helpful to start by looking at where this behavior is coming from in the first place. The genesis of people-pleasing is different for everyone, but the reasons typically fall under one of the following categories: 

  • Fear of Rejection – These are often deeply engrained worries of being dismissed, excluded, or even abandoned going back to our ancestral roots. As Dr. Rebecca Heiss covers in her book Instinct, we have a fear of being kicked out of the tribe. Sure, if that happened in 2000 B.C., you would likely die without the protection of the group. However, today, rejection has a far smaller impact on our lives.  

  • Desire for Approval – This motivator is focused on seeking validation, praise, or positive feedback from others to boost one's self-esteem or sense of worth. Unlike fear of rejection, which focuses on avoiding negative outcomes, the desire for approval revolves around gaining affirmation and acceptance from others.

It’s helpful to figure out where you think this behavior stems from in your life so you can more effectively address it. 

Now, you might still be wondering why people-pleasing is so detrimental to your success. Besides the fact that you’re sacrificing your own time, energy, and goals, there are a few less obvious traps this habit can lead to. 

  • Burnout: When you’re afraid to say no, your calendar fills up really quickly. By constantly depleting your time and energy for others, you’re at higher risk of experiencing burnout. Not only are you being physically overtaxed, but potentially emotionally and mentally as well. Your performance may begin to suffer, impacting you in other areas of your life, such as your career or marriage.  

  • Loss of Identity: When you don’t have time for your own passion and goals, you begin to lose your self-identity. Your time and energy are finite resources, and every moment spent fulfilling others' wishes is a moment taken away from working toward your own dreams. For example, if you’re saying yes out of a fear of approval you may take on work you dislike in hopes of a promotion or other award. By repeatedly trying to convince yourself it’s what you want, over time, you will begin to question your real desires.    

  • Resentment: I don’t think I have to tell anyone this but resentment can strain your relationships and rob you of the joy of showing up authentically. As this feeling builds up inside, your frustration reaches a boiling point, which could explode at any moment. For example, if you’re saying yes out of a fear of rejection you may go along with activities that you don’t enjoy and then end up being negative every time you engage in the activity with the group because you realize how much you’re neglecting your own needs. Remember how I said people-pleasing rarely leads to anyone being happy? In this example, you’re not happy and neither are the ones you were trying to please in the first place.   

Several of my life coaching clients have described these scenarios playing out in their life. But they didn’t know how to stop it from happening. Does that sound like your situation? Not to worry. That’s where my tips and expertise come in to help you shift your thinking and inspire your actions! 

  • Prioritize Your Needs: Begin by identifying your long-term goals and create an actionable plan to achieve them. Stay committed to your vision, even when faced with distractions or external pressure. You’ll feel more comfortable with my next tip knowing you have something important and meaningful to work on.

  •  Say No: You really can do this. No is a complete sentence. Once you say no, there is no further explanation needed. I was recently working with a client who was planning a few days solo to explore the city ahead of a business meeting. A colleague asked if she could join her, and I received a frantic message about how to handle the situation. After we talked about this very tip, she was able to confidently go back to her colleague and decline her politely and firmly by simply saying “no.” Her solo trip remained firmly intact and she had a wonderful time.

  • Seek Support – It’s okay to ask for help if these patterns feel too hard to overcome on your own. Professional support can provide valuable guidance and encouragement. Support doesn’t have to cost money though. It’s often just as helpful to surround yourself with people who respect and support your goals.  

  • Start Small – I’d encourage you to avoid feeling like you have to cure every single people-pleasing tendency overnight. That’s probably impossible anyway. Start by committing to one small change that will make a big impact. Decline a party invite or keep your calendar free one weekend. Say no to a project at work or let that call from a friend who wants to talk every afternoon go to voicemail. As you get stronger, the other changes will be easier to make.

We were all given a purpose and I can promise you it wasn’t to cast your dreams aside and be a people-pleaser. Armed with these tips, you’ll be able to reach your goals faster because you’re focused on what truly matters to YOU.

Karin Freeland is a certified Life Reinvention Coach focused on helping women transform their lives and achieve their dreams by using the lessons she learned in her 15 years in the corporate sector. Award-winning author of “Grab Life by the Dreams “and podcast host of “Rock Your Reinvention,” learn more about her and her company Karin Freeland Coaching & Consulting, LLC at

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