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There’s a fine line between helping others and being a people pleaser, and mistaking one for the other can be hugely detrimental. When we put others’ needs before our own, we deplete our energy, which can lead to depression, physical illness, and overwhelm.

People-pleasing can also become so ingrained that it creates a victim mentality: People who give too much are susceptible to being taken advantage of, and then resentment sets in.

If you’ve felt that resentment, you might think it’s directed at others. Yet underneath, it is resentment toward yourself for giving away your power. If you’re a people pleaser, chances are good that that behavior stems from your own insecurities. We can seek completion and a sense of self-worth in our ability to take care of others.

Becoming aware of this behavior is the first step to healing it. If you think you’re someone who overly people pleases, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I trying to get by overly giving?
  • What would happen if I stopped putting others first?

Answer these questions honestly and fearlessly and see what feelings come up for you. As you review your answers, you’ll come to find that hidden beneath your desire to serve others is a deep desire to feel good enough. Getting truthful with yourself about your need to people please will help you begin the process of changing the behavior.

Next, become conscious of putting yourself first.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a contemporary wellness pioneer, says, “If you don’t fill up your own cup first, you’ll have nothing to give.”

Self-indulgence is a radical act of self-care. At least once this week, do something kind for yourself. Cook yourself a meal, take yourself on a date, or otherwise splurge in some way. (You don’t have to spend money. Bubble baths and movie marathons count.) This may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but it’s important to create a new pattern of taking care of YOU first.

Finally, start to create clear boundaries. If you’re a people pleaser, it’s likely that folks have come to expect a lot from you. As you move into a new phase of your development, it’s imperative that you begin to establish boundaries that feel comfortable for you. Simply start sharing with your friends and family members your desire to take care of yourself first. Letting others in on your shifts will help them help you.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with helping others, but your own physical, mental, and emotional health must come first. Cheers to you!


Featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday as a next generation thought leader, Gabrielle Bernstein is making her mark. Gabrielle is the New York Times Bestselling Author of the book May Cause Miracles—A 40-day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness. Her earlier titles include Add More ~ing to Your Life—A Hip Guide to Happiness—and Spirit Junkie—A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles (published by Random House). Gabrielle is also the founder of the social networking site HerFuture.com for women to inspire, empower, and connect.

*Photo Credit: Tekke via Compfight cc