How To Break Free From People-Pleasing

I’m a recovering people pleaser.

I went out of my way to help others, often at my own expense.

I’m also an introvert. Setting boundaries and speaking up isn’t something that comes naturally to me. 

The day I realised something had to change was when I found myself sitting on an office floor, sniffing the armpits of men’s shirts that had been worn.

A people pleaser is someone who goes out of their way to make others happy. They try incredibly hard to make everything right, often at the expense of their own time or resources. 

If you resonate with the below list, you may be a people pleaser:

  • You can’t say no.
  • You say “sorry” regularly.
  • You need others to like you.
  • You don’t have your own opinion.
  • You feel responsible for other people’s emotions.
  • You will offer to help someone, even if you are busy.

You want everyone around you to be happy. It almost becomes an addiction.

It may start with small things. 

You tend to say “sorry” before you ask a question. You shoulder the responsibility for organising three friend’s birthday parties. You can’t deal with the confrontation of telling a coworker they stole your idea, so you let it go.

Then one day, you look at your calendar and your to-do list and realise that everything in there is for someone else.

You realise that you are bending over backwards for everyone else in your life.

There is nothing left for… you.

That is what led to my situation of being sat on an office floor, surrounded by shirts. 

I just couldn’t say no. 

Everyone else’s needs and requests were more important than mine.

And it was destroying any sense of self-worth or self-confidence I had.

However, when you hit rock bottom, the only way is up.

A brief health scare sparked thoughts about how I really wanted to spend my time.

How I wanted to feel waking up on a day full of blissful space for me-time. Or to go to bed being so proud of accomplishing a personal goal I had set.

No one is going to do this for you. 

You are the only one who can design your life.

And it starts with boundaries.

It starts with you realising that you are enough. You are enough as the person you are, without needing validation from others.

How I began to break free from people-pleasing

If I could say yes to the small things, then I sure as hell could say no to them. The next time someone asked me for a small favour—”Hey Daisy, could you go and pick up my dry cleaning on your lunch break?”—I said no. 

If I could agree with someone else’s opinion, then I sure as hell could express my own opinion. The next time I had a conversation with someone, I took a stand for something I believed in.

If I could apologise for every single event that went wrong, then I sure as hell could… not. If it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t apologise. (Expressing sympathy for a loved one going through a tough time is a different story). 

Each step I took helped me gain more confidence in my ability to trust myself.

I told myself twenty, thirty, forty times a day that I was enough. 

I started to rely on internal validation instead of external validation. 

I stopped saying “I can’t” and replaced it with “I don’t” to establish clear boundaries.

I realised that I had confused people-pleasing with simple kindness. 

I could still be there for my friends and colleagues when I needed to. I also didn’t have to put my life on hold to constantly help them.

People-pleasing isn’t inherently negative. It’s when you disregard any sense of who you are and prioritise everyone else.

When I realised that I could still show kindness when I meant it (instead of feeling like I had to do it). By putting myself first, my world changed. 

I could take care of the important people in my life. Which includes myself. 

The realisation that we are not responsible for other people’s lives is incredibly liberating. 

I’m a recovering people pleaser, and I’m glad.

Glad to know I value myself.

Glad to prioritise my needs and wants.

Glad to be there for the important people in my life.

I’m a recovering people pleaser, and you can be one too. 

Daisy Simonis is the Founder of Empowered Introverts, a site dedicated to helping introverts supercharge their people skills (without changing who they are). Introvert? Discover what type you are (Social, Thinking, Anxious, Restrained) from this 1-minute quiz here


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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