Social Anxiety: Tips to Help You Stop Being a People Pleaser

Health Writer

The main symptoms of  social anxiety disorder include an intense anxiety when in social situations, to the point you might  avoid social situations. But social anxiety disorder can also cause you to become a chronic people-pleaser, spending all your time trying to meet everyone else's needs and making them happy.  If you put your needs first, you worry that others will see you as selfish and uncaring. You worry that other people won't like you.

People-pleasing, however, can have detrimental effects on your health and well-being. You might sacrifice your own needs, both physically and emotionally, because you don't want to say "no." You might lose sleep trying to meet everyone's demands. You might overeat or avoid eating because of stress. You probably have higher levels of anxiety. If you aren't sure if you are a people-pleaser, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel guilty if you can't help out when someone asks?
  • Do you worry that you are letting the other person down or that the other person will be disappointed in you?
  • Do you agree to help even if it will be a burden for you or your family? Do you agree even if you don't have the time or resources?
  • Do you often feel stressed because of the time you spend helping others?
  • Do  you agree to help to avoid a confrontation?
  • Do you worry that others will see you as selfish if you don't agree to help?
  • Do you worry that others won't like you if you don't agree to help?
  • Do you ever feel angry or resentful about being asked to help or because you are helping?

Answering yes to several of these questions might indicate that you are a people-pleaser.

If you are a chronic people-pleaser, there is help. Talk with your therapist about  steps you can take to be more assertive. In the meantime, the following are some tips to make sure your needs are being met.

Remember you always have a choice. While it might seem like you should say "yes" to whatever request is being made, you always have a choice. You have the right to say "no" if the request is unreasonable, unfair, if you don't have time or you simply don't want to do it.

Understand your own priorities.  Each of us has priorities in life. You have your own family, work, your home, yourself. These priorities should come first in your life. It might help to make a list of your priorities and refer to it before giving an answer. If giving in to other's requests takes away from your own priorities, it might be time to say "no" and put your energy into what is important to you.

Make your standard answer, "I will get back to you."  This answer gives you time to think about each request before giving in to it, for example, if you are inundated with requests to volunteer for school activities, take on extra work or do favors for friends, answer each request with "I will get back to you" and then take time to decide if this will fit with your priorities and your schedule. If not, respond with a "Sorry, not this time."

Reflect on why you are saying "yes" before doing so.  You might want to ask yourself:

  • Why am I saying yes?
  • What, if anything, will me or my family need to sacrifice for me to do this?
  • Am I going to resent helping?
  • Am I saying yes because I want this person to like me?

Make sure your needs are met before taking on other people's needs.  Getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, spending time with family are all important. Remember that when you take care of yourself, you will be better prepared, physically and emotionally, to take care of others. Don't forgo your own needs.

For more information:

Five Myths About Social Anxiety Disorder

Living with Social Anxiety Disorder

How to Ease Social Anxiety: Don't Put So Much Pressure on Yourself

Taking Steps to Overcome Social Anxiety