Experts Reveal 3 Little Ways To Put Yourself First If You're Usually A People-Pleaser

Ever since I can remember, my number one priority was to keep the peace. It’s like my goal in life is to keep my relationships stable, my parents proud, and my teachers/supervisors impressed. With that much pressure on a person's shoulders, it’s amazing to me that I can even find a few hours to spend on nothing but myself. Sound familiar? If it does, you, like me, probably need to establish some little ways to put yourself first pronto because, as admirable as it may be to do what you can to make others happy, patience is a virtue, and you’re bound to lose it leading the lifestyle of a constant people-pleaser.

According to Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, a people-pleaser is someone who “sacrifices their interests in favor of, and in place of their own desires and wishes.” Now, from my understanding, that basically means living the life of a people-pleaser is two-fold: You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. When you're a people-pleaser and you fail to actually please other people for whatever reason, your self-esteem tends to take a hit: You feel like you’ve done something horribly wrong, even if it's not really a big deal to anyone else. But then, on the other side of that, in choosing to put others before yourself, you are, in a way, failing yourself, because your happiness is put on hold for the sake of other people. I realize that probably came off as a rant, but TBH, Glatter agrees.

“The sacrifice of your own happiness creates a negative feedback loop whereby you keep trying to achieve happiness, but at the expense of making other people happy and content,” he tells Elite Daily. “Meanwhile, you lose control of your own wants and needs, and can’t achieve the happiness you ultimately desire.” In other words, this kind of dynamic is pretty similar to the whole, “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself” scenario. How can you make someone else happy if you don’t even know how to satisfy yourself? If that sounds like a pretty toxic cycle to you, that’s because it is.

See, the phrase "everything in moderation" doesn’t just apply to food. The amount of time and energy you spend trying to please others should be kept in moderation, too. Think of it this way: If you never consider anyone else’s emotions but yours, then you risk hurting the feelings of someone you care about. But if you only think about everyone else and never take your own well-being into consideration, you sacrifice your own happiness. Therefore, it’s best to land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum because, if you lean more toward the latter, according to Psychology Today, you might start to feel paranoid over the possibility outshining others, take on more responsibility than you can handle, and/or ending up caving into social pressure to do things you might not otherwise want to do.

But I know what you must be thinking, because I've been there, too (many times): How do you put yourself first if you've always been a people-pleaser? Here are a few expert tips to help you out.

Learn How To Say No And Mean It

According to Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, a tell-tale sign that someone is a people-pleaser is their inability to say no and actually stand their ground. Trust me, I know from experience, and especially when someone asks for a favor to my face, it's unbelievably hard for me to turn them down. But here's the thing: You and I are only human, and there's only so much of us to spare, and while it may be great that you have the kind of heart that genuinely wants to lend a hand wherever and whenever one is needed, you just can't do it all — which, BTW, is totally OK.

Forshee tells Elite Daily that even though the word “no” tends to have a negative connotation when someone is asking for your help, it's not selfish to turn someone down if your plate is already overflowing, or even if you just don't have the energy to spare. "If we say yes to everything, we would not have any time or energy left to focus on ourselves," she adds, so you have to be able to identify what you can handle, and who is worth your time and energy.

But if you, like me, struggle with saying "no" out of fear of how the other person might react, Forshee says you have to try to take emotions and unnecessary pressures out of the equation. Think about how much time and energy you have to spare, and if it doesn't work for you, then so be it.

Check In With Yourself Regularly

Before committing to anything — more responsibility at the office, extracurricular activities, even plans with friends — it's important that you first and foremost take a step back and really consider your own well-being. How are you feeling physically? How about mentally? Are you exhausted from the to-dos already getting checked off your daily list? When was the last time you went to bed at a reasonable hour, or watched your favorite TV show? Try not to think about declining an offer as saying "no" to someone else; instead, reframe your mindset to realize you're actually saying "yes" to yourself.

"We can't give what we don't have, and that includes our time, energy, and resources," Shannon Thomas, an award-winning therapist and survivor of psychological abuse, tells Elite Daily over email. To make sure you aren't overexerting yourself, Thomas suggests taking a moment to reflect on whether or not you've really met your own needs for the day. If the answer is no, it's probably a sign you need to shift your attention back to yourself.

Spoil Yourself From Time To Time

As a people-pleaser, you've done a great job taking care of others, but it's about time you started treating yourself the same way. Think of it as a pat on the back, because you deserve to spend a little extra time making yourself feel special, too, Dr. Lindsey Elmore, a pharmacist and wellness expert, tells Elite Daily. "Whether [you treat yourself] to a really nice haircut, manicure/pedicure, catch up with friends, bring home fresh flowers, or even simply take a few moments out of the day to care for yourself," Elmore says, just remember it's not selfish to spend time on yourself. Find something that makes you happy, and in the words of Nike, just do it.