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12 Signs of People Pleasing (and How They Harm Your Mental Health)

A people pleaser is someone who habitually puts others’ needs and desires ahead of their own, often to the detriment of their own well-being.


Recognizing the signs of being a people pleaser can be the first step toward understanding and changing this behaviour, and ultimately boosting self-worth and mental well-being.


12 signs of people pleasing


While people-pleasing behaviour is coloured by our own experiences and environments, there are some common factors and signs for all people-pleasers. It’s not a tick-all-the-boxes experience – few people will struggle with every single one of the signs below.


But the signs below cover the common behaviours and tendencies of people who struggle to set personal boundaries out of fear of rejection or conflict – aka, people pleasers.


  1. Difficulty saying no: You often struggle to refuse requests or decline invitations, even when you’re overextended or uninterested.
  2. Excessive apologising: You tend to apologise frequently, even for things that are not your fault or beyond your control; this typically stems from a fear of disapproval or a desire to be seen as accommodating.
  3. Overcommitting: You often take on more than you can handle because you find it difficult to turn down tasks or opportunities to help others. Over time, this can lead to stress and burnout.
  4. Avoiding conflict: You go to great lengths to avoid disagreements or confrontations, often at the cost of your own preferences or beliefs. You might feel this is a part of your easy-going personality, but you may also feel vague resentment or exhaustion towards others who make the decisions.
  5. Lacking personal boundaries: You may have blurred or weak personal boundaries, allowing others to impose on you time and energy.
  6. Struggling with low self-esteem: You may derive your self-worth in part or wholly from others’ approval and validation. Perhaps you believe people will only like you or care about you if you are useful to them.
  7. Seeking validation: Your self-esteem may heavily rely on approval and validation from others. This may leave you vulnerable to being manipulated or being taken for granted.
  8. Neglecting self-care: You may prioritise others’ requests to such an extent that you neglect your own needs, including health (mental and physical), hobbies and leisure, and personal growth.
  9. Feeling responsible for others’ emotions: You often feel it’s your fault if someone else is unhappy or frustrated, or you may take on responsibility to make sure everyone else is happy. Often, this requires sacrificing your own happiness or self-care.
  10. Difficulty accepting when people don’t like you: You may spend time ruminating or dwelling on past situations which might have caused the other person’s dislike and considering how you could have acted differently to make them like you. Or perhaps you feel worried and nervous about your next meeting and plan ways of winning them over.
  11. Difficulty expressing personal needs or desires: You may suppress your own needs and desires, fearing that asserting yourself might upset others. You may tell yourself the things you want or need are not that big of a deal, or excuse others for not meeting your needs or desires.
  12. Feeling guilty when prioritising yourself: On the rare occasions when you do put your needs or wishes first, you may feel intense guilt or anxiety about being perceived as selfish. Perhaps you keep reminding yourself it’s okay to be doing what you’re doing, or you cut short your activity.

Why you might be people-pleasing


People-pleasing behaviours often originate in childhood. Children who receive approval from their caregivers based on their achievements or compliance may learn to associate their self-worth with pleasing others; this approval may have looked like consistent praise for being flexible or easy-going, or punishment for not adhering to a caregiver’s plans. 


Sometimes, negative childhood experiences with peer groups may contribute to people-pleasing behaviour later in life. Essentially, people-pleasing is a coping mechanism, a pattern of behaviour that helped us to access the most love and support available to us in childhood.


As people-pleasing tendencies develop, they can be further reinforced by societal and cultural expectations that emphasise self-sacrifice and conformity over individual needs and desires.


Such forces during a person’s formative years can lead to difficulty saying ‘no’ in specific or various contexts in adulthood. Ultimately, people-pleasing is a struggle to set boundaries that protect your own well-being.


How people-pleasing affects mental health


The constant need to please others can lead to significant mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. People pleasers might suppress their emotions and ignore their needs, leading to emotional exhaustion and resentment over time. The fear of rejection or conflict keeps them in a cycle of seeking validation from others, which can be both draining and unsustainable.


Recognizing these signs in oneself or others can be an important step in beginning to set healthier boundaries and adopt a more balanced approach to interpersonal relationships.




    • Deng, Y., Wang, S., Leng, L., Chen, H., Yang, T., & Liu, X. (2019). Pleasing or withdrawing: Differences between dependent and self-critical depression in psychosocial functioning following rejection. Personality and Individual Differences, 140, 4–9.
    • Tawwab, N. G. (2021). Set boundaries, find peace: A guide to reclaiming yourself. Little, Brown Book Group.


Raksha Rajesh (M.Sc., M.Phil., CRR No. A80195) is a clinical psychologist licensed by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). She has 6+ years of experience in helping people from diverse backgrounds build skills to understand and manage their emotions.

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