What causes us to prioritize the needs of others over our own?

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Imagine it’s Friday at 5 p.m. You’re at work and you’ve completed your last task of the day, and suddenly you get a notification from your boss on Slack or Microsoft Teams or whatever corporate platform is propelling you to operate as your most productive self-and they ask you to stay later to finish up an additional assignment. You feel a sharp pain in your stomach, and your mind starts racing-what about my friends’ event? What about my yoga session? You start typing, and the words that come to your mind are “no,” but instead you type, “Absolutely, sure thing!” 


I often hear from my clients about their struggles with putting the needs of others above their own. I know this might be hard to take in, but this is a clear sign that you might be a people-pleaser. Maybe you’re trying your best to make everyone happy, but the hard truth is that this is often the result of some trauma that you might have experienced in the past from saying no or not feeling heard or respected. It’s important to remember that pleasing everyone isn’t always possible, and it’s okay to put yourself first. People-pleasing is a common symptom of perfectionism and can be detrimental to a person’s mental health. It is important to be aware of the causes and to take steps to address the issue. Doing so will help us lead healthier and more fulfilling lives and allow us to regain control. 


Consider the alternative to trying to please everyone. How much happier would life be for you if you took back control of your time and started advocating for yourself? Let’s dive into what this could look like. 


Below is a breakdown of some of the causes of prioritizing others over yourself, as well as helpful ways to address this issue: 


Typical reasons for being a people pleaser


  • Fear of abandonment: You frequently prioritize the needs of others over your own because you are afraid of being “abandoned” by friends or family. 
  • Low self-esteem: You may have low self-esteem or you may believe you are not worthy of having your own needs met​​ or that you are not capable of doing so. 
  • Not wanting to disappoint others: You may prioritize the needs of others because you don’t want to disappoint them. You may feel like you do not have a choice, and you want to avoid being judged or rejected by others. If you don’t take care of others’ needs, it might cause you to feel guilty or worthless. 
  • Problems with assertiveness: You might have a fear of conflict which can cause you to prioritize the needs of others over your own. You may feel like it is more important to keep the peace than to stand up for yourself.
  • Expectations from others: Maybe you feel that you should prioritize the needs of others over your own, because of pressure from family, friends, a boss, or even society as a whole


It can be difficult to recover from these causes, but there are some helpful steps that can be taken. 


How to recover from being a people pleaser and regain control of your life


  • Connection: Connect with supportive people who understand you and will help you work through this issue.
  • Assertiveness: By practicing being assertive and leaning into your truth, you can gain confidence in your ability to stand up for yourself and your needs. Start practicing with friends or family members who feel “safe”. 
  • Self-care: Make time for activities that bring you joy, and practice not feeling guilty for experiencing that joy. You are worthy of joy and easy experiences.
  • Boundaries: Last but not least, learn how to set and maintain boundaries; this is essential for protecting your own needs. This could be as easy as logging off, taking a deep breath, and enjoying your day.  


If you’re ready to take the first step toward healing from perfectionism and people-pleasing, please reach out today. I’d love to help you on your journey.




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Hey There!

My name is Jenet Dove. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor and I help my clients, especially women begin their journey in healing towards balance and peace. 


Are you ready to kick perfectionism to the curb?

Book an appointment with Jenet today and start on the path to a softer life.

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