The Hidden Costs of People-Pleasing

In a world where the expectation to say “yes” often overshadows the power of a well-intentioned “no,” many women find themselves trapped in the relentless cycle of people-pleasing. This behavior, deeply rooted in the desire for love, acceptance, and respect, often comes at a high cost.

We live in a world that rewards us for neglecting our own needs.  We are praised for how much we can cram into a day or how much we can get done.  We are admired for how we can “ do it all” and handling everything “like a boss.” 

People-pleasing is more than a social inconvenience; it’s a health hazard. Bessel van der Kolk, in his book “The Body Keeps the Score,” poignantly captures this truth: “Our bodies remember, even if we try to ignore it.” This hit me because, it can be so easy to “push through”, hustle harder, and ignore our body’s “check engine light”. Eventually, it can all come to a dangerous head, like it did for me when I ended up in the hospital for 4 days.

The Physical Toll

I’ve seen many of my clients suffer from physical, mental, and emotional issues due to neglecting their own needs to replenish themselves. I’ve seen:

  • Gradual weight gain that has been creeping up over the years
  • Aches & pains in the body that seem to appear without an apparent cause
  • GI issues, bloating, discomfort, and slugging digestion
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and waking up feeling exhausted
  • Feelings of overwhelm, low energy, and mental fog making it difficult to focus and make decisions
  • Strained relationships due to the emotional, physical, and mental stress

The Cycle of Neglect

Ignoring these signs often exacerbates the situation, creating a destructive cycle. The more a woman neglects her needs, the more her self-esteem diminishes, leading to increased anxiety and a deeper dive into people-pleasing and self sabotaging behaviors.

Breaking free from this cycle requires intentional action and a commitment to self-care.

Here are 5 simple strategies that you can start to incorporate to help you start to flex your self pleasing muscle.

  1. See your doctor. Schedule your routine medical and dental check ups, get blood work, and bring a list of any concerns that you have to discuss with your doctor.
  2. Say “No” to one thing every day. Start with something small, like declining a piece of gum that someone offers you, if you don’t actually want the gum. Then build up to bigger things like declining to attend a happy hour at a bar that you hate going to because it would cause you to skip your morning workout the next day.
  3. Limit morning phone time. Refrain from looking at emails, news, or social media first thing in the morning. Instead, spend a few minutes enjoying a warm beverage in silence, journaling about things you’re grateful for, or taking a quick walk. Your phone is a major source of input – other people’s needs and priorities – and it can suck you in before you even get a chance to check in with yourself.
  4. Prioritize Eating during your Meals. This may sounds like a no-brainer, but if you are working while eating your lunch or watching TV while eating dinner, you are missing a chance to really slow down and be in the moment.
  5. Seek Support. When we are so used to showing up for others, we forget that others can show up for us. Ask for help when you need it. Delegate tasks to others. Hire a coach (I’m taking on new clients, FYI, click here to book a discovery call). See a therapist. Do whatever you need to hold yourself accountable to taking better care of yourself.

Prioritizing your own health and well-being is not selfish; it’s necessary. It is important that you believe that worth is not defined by what you do, what you produce, or how much you sacrifice yourself.

Allison Tibbs is coaching a female client