If you’ve ever been called a people pleaser or been accused of being needy, you may be engaging in a form of codependent behaviour created by an underlying pattern of dysfunctional thinking.

In a co-dependent relationship, a person restricts his or her behaviour for the purpose of controlling the behaviour or emotional reaction of another person.

Even if it’s not in their own best interest or long-term well-being, someone who is needy or a people pleaser will behave this way to obtain the other person’s approval and/or love.

This desire to please can become excessive and if there is an underlying thought that you ‘need to please the other person’ or ‘need his or her love and approval’, the relationship is no longer intler-depdent and becomes one of codependency.

How to stop people pleasing

One way to end excessive people pleasing and focus on others is to become more self-directed — to make choices which lead to outcomes that serve your own best interests. Engaging in a healthy balance between interest in others and yourself does not mean to the exclusion of taking care of yourself.

What does it mean to be self-directed?

Someone who is self directed manoeuvres between the interests of self and others easily because the the choices that are made are based upon what is in the long-term interest of the person living with the outcome of that choice.

By having a balance between the self and others in relationships, and what is referred to as a ‘self-directed stance’, means you can have a more tension-free and relaxed approach towards others’ approval or disapproval. By maintaining this balance and focusing more on yourself, you can work towards ending people pleasing behaviour and the resulting unhealthy relationships and your own unhappiness at sacrificing your wants and needs at the cost of another’s.

4 Steps to become more self-directed

1.     Realize you can please people some of the time, but not all the time.

2.     Don’t harness your sense of self to another’s approval, which can be fickle — they may be pleased with you one day, and then not the next.

3.     Understand that what feels good in the short-term (social approval) may compromise your long-term well-being and best interests.

4.     Know that it takes time to develop a healthy sense of self and self-directed stance. By spending your efforts to keep and win the approval and love of someone else, you’re not developing yourself. Work on your decision-making abilities and trust yourself to make the right choices — for you.

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