You Can’t Please Everyone in Life

Are you a Yes Man or Woman who seeks approval from others by always agreeing to do what they ask of you?

Don’t answer that. If you’re reading this article, we already can tell.

While you may be able to see how your behavior follows the typical Yes Man/Woman narrative, let’s dig a little deeper as to what that means.

Is It Always Bad to Please Everyone?

No. Some situations require you to do so. If you have a highly sociable job or are attending a networking event, you’re going to do everything in your power to make people like you. That’s expected.

You can try to please everyone for a short period of time for such situations because you’re not people pleasing for unhealthy reasons. If you are, that’s when you should stop people pleasing — but it’s hard to realize that’s the underlying motivation.

What Does Unhealthy People Pleasing Look Like?

Some people are moderately agreeable. They’ll say yes to opportunities they wouldn’t do otherwise, but they can say no to things they don’t have the time, energy, or smallest desire to do. Moderately agreeable people can handle mild conflict from saying no in such situations.

However, other folks will do anything to avoid conflict, no matter how minuscule. These people are uncomfortable with the idea of disappointing someone, fear conflict, and try to avoid doing both as much as possible.

Check and see if the following traits sound like you.

Common traits of wanting to please everyone:

  • Unable to say no when someone asks you to do something.
  • Constantly wondering what other people think about you.
  • Using others’ opinions of you to feel confident in yourself.
  • Feeling intense shame or disgust with yourself when you do let someone down.
  • Stretching yourself too thin or going to extreme circumstances to please people.

While everyone is unique, wanting to please everyone comes down to this: a fear of conflict that’s induced by low self-confidence.

Examples of People Pleasing

People pleasing comes in many shapes and sizes, but there are five common threads:

  • Conflict evasive: You will do anything to prevent or avoid conflict. This is the person who steps into arguments between family members to diffuse the situation or who does whatever is asked of them because they can’t say no.

For example, Jenna really wants to go to sleep early tonight, but she told her boss she’d

write an extra report for the job. She knows she’s capable of writing the report and has

the time, but it’s an inconvenience to her because she couldn’t say no and make

someone else do it.

  • Docile: You find it easier to go along with what other people think, want, and feel rather than rocking the boat. If you have a dissenting opinion, you hold your tongue to keep up the group cohesion.

Whether intentional or not, you rarely find yourself going against the consensus of the group you’re in, whether it’s with one friend, your social group, your organization, or your society.

For example, Dave really wants to dye his hair blue, but he knows he’ll get made fun of by the kids at his school. He doesn’t want others to say anything to him, so he stays mainstream and doesn’t dye his hair.

  • Nurturing: Even if it doesn’t cause a conflict, you will go out of your way to make sure someone doesn’t feel uncomfortable. You read people well and are attuned to social faux pas that could make someone uneasy.

For example, let’s say you’re in a group with your friends, and another one of your friends, Emily, comes up to say hi. Emily doesn’t know your group of friends, so rather than carrying on your conversation, you introduce Emily to your friends to make sure she doesn’t feel left out.

By doing constantly worrying about what other people think and feel, you give your wants and needs less attention.

  • Overpleaser: You find out what makes people happy then provide it for them. You want people to pre-emptively like you, so you use gifts and kindness to win their favor.

We see overpleasers as the prototypical brown noser, the guy at the job who’s always buying the boss a coffee or complimenting the boss on their good looks. The overpleaser can come off as a manipulative sort who wants to buy someone’s favor, or they can be the person who uses niceness as their most visible likable trait.

  • Absorbing: The most extreme form of people pleasing, you meld your identity into someone else’s. So if someone enjoys different hobbies, hold different beliefs, or behave differently from you, you will take on these characteristics to win their approval.

The absorbing type of people pleasing is seen often in media. The popular 2017 movie Ladybird, for instance, follows this trend. And pretty much every middle-schooler follows a merging people pleasing personality when they want to fit into the “popular crowd.”

You might find yourself having a mix of common people pleasing traits or following one to a T. While every personality type is different, there are positive and negative aspects to having a people pleasing personality.

Benefits of a People Pleasing Personality

The biggest benefit to wanting to please everyone is that you typically gain a high reputation among your peers from doing so — to some degree. Whether it’s at home, school, or a job, the people surrounding you will be impressed at the extent you succeed in whatever job you’re in.

Let’s say you’re a student at college. Your teachers will admire your high test scores and your classmates will think you’re smart and want to spend time with you. Because you’re pleasing everyone, everyone thinks highly of you.

You might get some good letters of recommendation or a good set of study buddies in class. But these achievements will feel empty because you’re casting too broad of a net and spreading yourself too thin.

While there are definitely benefits to pleasing everyone, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Negatives of People Pleasing


First and foremost, you’ll feel drained at the end of each day because you expend too much energy for others but not enough for yourself.

Pleasing everyone is unsustainable. You’re a human, not a robot, and you need to eventually replenish your energy reserves. This is especially true if you’re losing sleep, eating less, or forgoing spending time with yourself because you’re trying to please everyone.

If you found yourself staying up at night to finish a business project because you don’t want to let your boss down, this applies to you.


Because you’re spending your energy unsustainably, you put yourself at risk for burnout. Burnout can make you lose the high reputation you built up.

You’ll feel so burnt out from pleasing everyone that you’ll eventually let down the people you tried to please.

For example, Steve is a student and a people pleaser. He does well at the beginning of the semester, but he spread himself too thin trying to please his friends, roommates, and teachers. He gains their favor at first, but he falters halfway through his term.

He does worse on essays and tests, his once punctual assignments are turned in late, and he eventually just stops going to class because he was so tired of life. He’s not proud of his behavior, but he had to take care of himself first before they took care of other people.

Have you ever acted like Steve? Or more tellingly, did you want to act like Steve but couldn’t because you pushed through your burnout at the expense of your mental or physical health? Either way, you’re a victim of the burnout epidemic due to your people-pleasing nature.


People pleasing makes you more likely to be taken advantage of. When others sense that you’re willing to do what others tell you to do, they’ll usurp your time, money, space, and other precious aspects of your life for their own benefit.

We can see this in an employee asking you to do some of their projects while they goof off on the job. We also see this in partners who ask you to pay for all the dates, and perhaps even their bills as well.

Because you lack the confidence to stand up for yourself, your passivity traps you to your constantly saying “yes” to whatever they ask you to do.

Loss of Self-Expression

People pleasing takes a toll on how well you can express yourself in two ways:

  • How people see you is different from how you see yourself. For example, let’s say you were born a woman but want to present yourself more masculinely, but you live in a place where people would disapprove of such gender nonconformity. By trying to please everyone, you keep your true self hidden for the sake of other people’s fleeting thoughts of you.
  • Because you’re devoting an exorbitant amount of your time to other people, have less time to take on the tasks that would urge your growth. Further, people pleasing involves wanting everyone to get along, but such a desire is unavoidable. By avoiding conflict, you avoid hard situations that would spur self-discovery and growth.

TL;DR: Pros and Cons of Pleasing Everyone


  • High achievement because you please your friends, family, school, job, etc.
  • People admire and respect you for your efforts.


  • Pleasing everyone isn’t sustainable and eventually leads to burnout.
  • You disappoint the people who respected you because you inevitably let them down.
  • People don’t respect you because you don’t respect yourself.
  • You get taken advantage of.
  • You suppress your emotions for the sake of others.
  • You’re too passive and can’t stand up for your wants or beliefs.
  • You let the things that are important to you slip away to fulfill other people’s desires.
  • You feel trapped by your inability to say no.

Having a desire to please everyone can have positive benefits, but the ugly side of people pleasing easily wrecks the good parts.

If your people pleasing personality makes you feel trapped, let’s dive into how you can remedy your situation.

Why Can’t You Say No?

To begin understanding your people pleasing personality, understand its causes.

What is it about saying no to someone that your fear? Is it the fear of rejection? Fear of disappointing that person? Fear of losing social standings?

Fear is the emotion that the brain is most primed to respond to. It’s in the reptilian part of our brains that confuses the minor fears we feel today — like potential social rejection from disagreeing with someone — to the evolutionary fears our prehistoric ancestors were right to avoid, such as predators with large, scary teeth.

There can be a fear cause, but also a cognitive cause as well. Researchers from the University of Queensland scanned the brains of 40 participants as they responded to different statements meant to draw out different levels of a willingness to agree.

When participants who were opposed to disagreeing faced statements that made them want to disagree, their brain flashed in two areas: the anterior insula and the medial prefrontal cortex.

These parts of the brain have been closely associated with cognitive dissonance or the mental distress caused when you believe one thing but do the other.

The brain likes certainty and avoids contradiction like it avoids pain. So people pleasing may be caused by avoiding cognitive dissonance and the pain of disagreement. This is especially true if you see yourself as an agreeable person — you don’t want to do anything to break that image.

People pleasing may seem like a deeply ingrained mental condition for you, but if people can overcome their fear of snakes and public speaking, you can overcome your discomfort toward disagreement.

To do so, you’ll have to not only have to stop running away from disagreement but tackle the self-esteem issues that spur your cognitive dissonance.

Stop Avoiding Disagreement

The best way to get over a fear is to desensitize yourself to your fear. Those afraid of public speaking force themselves to give a speech in front of a friend, two friends, a crowd of friends, a crowd of strangers before delivering a speech to an audience. By working your way up to the fear, you take its power away.

The same goes for getting rid of whatever fear underlies your people-pleasing tendencies, though you’ll have to go about it differently.

Using the Internet

You can go on the internet to get into disagreements with people if you can’t muster up the courage to do so in person. You don’t have to go full troll, but psychologists say that people behave more freely on the internet because of the perceived anonymity and obscurity.

Creating an internet persona to disagree with people gets you in the habit of disagreeing with people in real life. As long as you’re not overly vitriolic, mildly disagreeing with people won’t cause any bodily harm to you, and your brain will eventually stop freaking out at something that isn’t a physical problem.

Seek Disagreement in Real Life

Ask your friends to debate with you on a polarized topic and pick a side. If you can hold your ground against your friend rather than dropping your opinion and taking their side, you’ll build confidence in yourself and learn to handle benign conflict.

This tactic would be best if you’re a conflict evasive people pleaser, but wouldn’t be so good if you’re docile, nurturing, merging, or overpleasing. For those, you’ll have to tackle a deeper issue: low self-confidence.

Increasing Low Self-Confidence

Low self-confidence is the root of people pleasing. Because you don’t believe in yourself, you need other people’s beliefs to inform your opinion of yourself.

This is why people nurturing people pleasers act obsequiously toward others, as constantly caring about other people’s comfort makes you forget to care for yourself.

Over pleasing makes everyone like you for being nice, which takes the focus off your looks, behavior, sense of humor, and other things you could be self-conscious about.

Merging is the biggest indicator of low self-confidence. You’re completely erasing your identity and replacing it with someone else’s.

Low self-confidence impacts us all, and there’s no quick and lasting way to increase it. However, slow change is lasting change.

Here are some tips to improve self-confidence:

  • Journal your awesomeness. Every morning or night, write down one thing about yourself that you like. Even if it’s just the shape of your fingernails, slowly build on the small aspects and work up to big. These features can be physical, mental, merit-based, etc.
  • Take care of your body. Only put high-quality food in your stomach. When you eat like crap, you’re going to feel like crap. And since you are what you eat, you’re going to think you’re crap too. Eat healthy, exercise, and overall respect the body that houses you.
  • Practice setting boundaries. Boundaries are requests you make from others to not do certain things. For example, tell your boss that you won’t check your email past a certain time in the day.

If you set that boundary, you’re telling your boss and yourself that you have needs that deserve to be upheld. Even if it’s as small as not checking your email past a certain time, you’re doing what you want, not what someone else wants.

  • Mind your posture. If you’re sitting up or standing, always pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. Having good posture directly impacts not only how you view yourself but how others view you. When you stand up straight, you feel better about yourself and others view you as more confident too, which further feeds your self-esteem.
  • Keep only positivity around you. If you surround yourself with people who talk down to you and make you feel bad, of course this is going to lower your self-confidence. But negativity affects you in subtler ways.

Even if the negativity isn’t directed toward you, just being around negative people can lower your self-confidence. It reinforces that you tolerate those who say mean things and bring the energy down. Positivity begets more positivity, so try to surround yourself with it as much as possible.

  • Build positive habits. Anyone who’s tried keeping a New Year’s resolution knows maintaining a habit is hard, but that’s precisely why it’s so fulfilling when you do.

If your habit is to go to the gym, start small and work your way up to longer and more frequent gym visits. Not only are you benefitting from the habit itself — going to the gym — but gaining confidence that you can overcome hard tasks by maintaining and keeping a habit.

  • Forgive yourself. Don’t get too caught up on your mistakes. Ruminating on what you did wrong only builds a negative feedback loop in your mind.

Focusing on a growth mindset, rather than a punishment one, when it comes to mistakes allows you to realize that you are the person you are because you grew from them. Confidence is owning your imperfections and imperfect past, not bashing yourself for having them.

When you lose your fear of disagreement and conflict, you’ll find yourself moving through the world on lighter feet. And when you build confidence in yourself, each step will be powerful and deliberate.

You won’t feel the urge to constantly please everyone anymore, and there is lots to learn when you do so.

What You Learn When You Stop Pleasing Everyone

Your Mental Health Improves

Even if they don’t mean any maliciousness behind their requests from you, you’ll still resent the people who you try to please. You’ll feel mad at them for asking things from you, and you’ll hate yourself for your inability to say no.

The anxiety, fear, and resentment you have toward yourself and others disappear the less you try to please everyone. You’ll find yourself much happier when you stop.

You’re Free to Do What You Want

When you’re not constantly doing what another person asked of you, you have more time in your day to do what you want to do.

This is especially true for conflict avoidant people pleasers. Avoiding conflict means you’re not inserting yourself into conflict mediation or finishing certain obligations because you couldn’t say no to them. Having less external responsibilities frees you up to do hobbies, learn the habits, or chat with the people you’ve been meaning to.

You are More Connected With Yourself

Without other people’s opinions pulling you in different directions, you form a firm opinion about yourself based on your beliefs about you, not another person’s.

Nurturing, docile, over pleasing, and absorbing people pleasers especially resonate with this notion. When you’re not assimilating yourself and performing the wants and desires of those around you, you only have yourself to deal with.

Spending time alone with yourself can be scary if you don’t like the person you are — that’s why you sought validation from others. But connecting with yourself is crucial to pushing past people pleasing and gaining high self-confidence.

You Care About Pleasing Only the Most Important People in Your Life

People pleasing is like being a hoarder. Hoarders keep a lot of stuff around their house because throwing an item away makes them uncomfortable. A people pleaser, conversely,  keeps a lot of people in their life because they’re too uncomfortable to cut people out who don’t improve their lives.

When you cut out unnecessary or toxic people, you focus on those you truly cherish. The same goes with material possessions — which is why the Netflix show with Marie Kondo gained such traction.

She forces people to keep the things that spark joy in their life. With you and your people-pleasing obligations, only surround yourself with those who bring you the most happiness. Forget the rest.

You Respect Yourself More

Nothing is more demeaning than letting others walk all over you. When you stop trying to please everyone, you gain the confidence to say no, to set boundaries, and to let your desires take up space. By being so firm about what you need, you gain respect in yourself and in the eyes of other people.

Such respect has a cascading effect on your life. People see you as more trustworthy and likable because they know you’re not simply parroting the wants and desires of others.

Second, you’ll draw in a higher quality crowd of people. It won’t be people who want to take advantage of your inability to say no or strong desire to appease others. Since you respect yourself, you’ll attract other respectable people.

In Conclusion

People pleasing is sought after in certain contexts, but it leads to a definitive truth in all others: you can’t please everyone, nor should you try. It burdens your physical and mental health, and makes your life worse.

But with enough hard work and dedication to respecting yourself, seeking disagreement, and increasing your self-confidence, you’ll gain the confidence to say no to others.

If you find yourself unable to disagree with others, take heed of the tips in this article to set yourself onto a better path in life. When you stop trying to please everyone, every aspect of your life will improve. But feel free to disagree.

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