Stop People-Pleasing and Find Happiness Within

Are you someone who enjoys making other people happy? There’s something so satisfying about doing good and receiving acknowledgment for it. However, sometimes we can go overboard and develop a habit of overextending ourselves to make others happy.

This habit of prioritizing others’ needs over our own and saying ‘yes’ when we want to say ‘no’ not only prevents us from living authentically but also leads to losing touch with who we truly are. So why are some people hard-wired to people-please?


The Root of People-Pleasing

Several factors contribute to people-pleasing. For some, doing things for others provides a dopamine hit, creating a momentary sense of euphoria. Like any other addiction, people-pleasing can become a compulsive behavior, driven by an impulsive “yes” to others’ invitations and requests. This is often linked to approval-seeking behavior, both symptoms of underlying low self-esteem and self-worth.

I remember being about five years old, getting dropped off at my classmate’s house where her mom babysat me. No matter how much of a “good girl” I tried to be, I always felt like her mom was mad or disapproving of me, as if I was just “wrong” for being there.

To this day, I don’t understand why I felt that way, and it might not have even been true. When you’re young, it’s easy to create stories and meanings from your experiences. Without the full context, these stories can run your life at a subconscious level.

For those who have always struggled with the “I’m not good enough” complex, this internal (and often subconscious) dialogue can keep you from truly pursuing your desires. Instead, there will be an underlying need to prove your worth to yourself and the world by seeking external validation. This behavior often stems from a significant childhood event where you decided how to behave to gain love, acceptance, and validation. Let’s take a closer look.


The 3 Big Decisions

Three major decisions made early in life set the stage for how you would approach relationships, your career, and other areas of your life.

  1. Who you needed to be to be approved of and loved. This decision was about how to avoid problems and be accepted.
  2. How you cope with shortcomings. This decision addressed perceived inadequacies.
  3. Who you need to become in this world to be successful. This decision determines who you should emulate to be successful and independent.

For this article, we will focus on the first decision. This decision, made in childhood, usually occurs in a moment when you feel there is something wrong with being your complete and real self. For example, if you were being loud and rambunctious and a parent harshly told you to “stop being childish and grow up,” you might decide that to be loved and accepted, you must act in a way that is not your authentic self but rather how others want you to be.

When I began to believe at five years old that “there must be something wrong with me” and “I’m not good enough,” the decision I made was that to be loved and accepted, I had to be perfect. Yes, perfectionism is a branch of people-pleasing and approval-seeking. It’s all part of being something for others rather than being your authentic self.

It’s important to recognize the difference between performing an act of kindness out of genuine goodwill (altruism) and doing something to gain something from someone (dependency). People-pleasing and seeking approval from others leaves you with a bottomless bucket that can never be filled. This is toxic, as you’ll find that whatever you do is never enough. The void remains a void.


Finding Happiness from Within

What does it mean to find happiness from within? What does that look like?

1. Living Authentically: Be and act in a way that is true to you. Share your thoughts tastefully, find work that excites you, be intentional with whom you spend your time, regularly say “No” to things and people who are not a priority, and stand your ground for what you believe in, even if it means being the only one.

2. Abstinence: Practice patience with yourself. Hold yourself back from taking on roles or tasks just to please or gain approval from someone else. Instead, trust your thoughts, judgment, opinions, and ideas. This is all part of connecting to yourself through your intuition.

3. Practice Self-Acceptance and Self-Compassion: These are pillars of deep self-love. Become your own best friend through loving self-conversation. Practice this in journaling exercises with your inner child and speak kindly to yourself during moments of failure or loss.

4. Set Clear Boundaries: Especially with those who have emotional or psychological control over you. You have the right to say no. You are not responsible for others’ reactions to you asserting your boundaries. If you are in an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, seek help from trusted individuals or organizations.

5. Have a Bigger WHY (a Mission): Find something you’re passionate about to create happiness and deep fulfillment. Whether it’s volunteering, helping wildlife, or inspiring others, ensure your mission is meaningful and strive to grow in that direction.

One of the greatest journeys you can embark on is moving from dependency on others for happiness to creating fulfillment from within.

I’ve created a worksheet that guides you through these questions. Download that worksheet here.

Visualize It!

A powerful exercise to transition from dependency to independence is a walking visualization. Imagine starting on one side of a bridge as a dependent person (people-pleasing, approval-seeking, external validation) and with each step across the bridge, moving towards being someone who gets fulfillment from within. By the time you reach the other side, you’ll have stepped into living and being WHOLE!

Try this exercise next time you’re walking. Create a start point and an endpoint, with the unwanted behavior on one end and the desired behavior on the other end.


Embracing the journey from people-pleasing to finding happiness within is a transformative process that requires self-awareness, patience, and dedication. By understanding the root causes of our behaviors and making conscious decisions to live authentically, we can break free from the cycle of seeking external validation. Practicing self-acceptance, setting clear boundaries, and finding a meaningful mission can lead to a life of genuine fulfillment and inner peace.

Remember, the most profound happiness comes from honoring your true self and living a life that resonates with your deepest values and aspirations. As you take these steps, you will discover the immense power and joy that come from being your authentic self, creating a life you love from within.


1 Comment

  1. Justin

    This is great, Anita. I printed it and highlighted a few things!

    You have some beautiful thoughts here.

    Keep the posts coming! I would love to see one every week, even if it’s a shorter one I feel like I’ll gain value. This is a great reminder for some foundational principles of self-love and mindfulness.

    Thanks again.

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