People Pleasing

Release yourself from fear, obligation, and guilt

Find it hard to say “no” without feeling guilty?

Not sure how to care about others without it costing you?

Are you worried if you don’t do things for people, they won’t stick around?

If you feel like life is mostly about other people and not you, then you might be struggling with people pleasing (also known as codependency or caretaking).

As a people pleaser we live by a set of unspoken rules:

  • Don’t be selfish
  • Don’t rock the boat
  • Don’t make anyone angry
  • Don’t stand out or have an opinion
  • Above all else – be kind and take care of people

What happens when we live by these rules?


  • Living in a constant state of go-go-go, do-it-all-myself mode
  • Pressure to keep up with everyone’s needs and issues
  • Overwhelm due to overscheduling


  • Feeling lost
  • Hopelessness that things will ever change
  • Burdened by carrying the emotional weight of other’s problems


  • Silent resentment held inside
  • Increased irritability (only with people that are “safe”)
  • Road rage


These symptoms can create physical issues such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Increased eating or drinking to escape
  • Digestive issues
  • Muscle tension and headaches

This list might be hard to read, but the reality is – the accumulation of caring for others takes a toll on us.

Its automatic. As pleasers we make sure everyone is taken care of…all the time. We “handle” things and cheerlead our friends while we silently struggle to manage our own lives.

Our relationships aren’t reciprocal and we feel hurt and angry. But as pleasers, we don’t feel we have an option to express irritation or hurt. We hold it in to preserve the relationship, as well as our image of being a “good” person.

Why do we do this?!

Because we place a high value on connection, and we believe any form of conflict will break our connection with the people important to us. Family dynamics play a huge part in teaching us we need to care for others first. Not getting the care we needed as kids, we learned to “suck it up” and say we were “fine”. We learned to be self-sufficient and independent as a result.

The desire to be there for people is admirable, but we can find ourselves rescuing and enabling people instead of truly caring for them. Our energy can be so focused on others that we almost act like their parents! This can be especially true in relationships with friends or loved ones that are in active addiction; drinking, gambling, porn, etc.

It’s a struggle to live our lives navigating around others. Training ourselves to function by adapting and adjusting to other’s needs and holding all that responsibility is taxing and it builds  silent resentment that eats away at us.

I know you would like to change the automatic pattern of saying “yes”.

I know you would like to stop signing up for countless commitments.

I know you are tired of always having to be “on” and “kind” and “helpful”. 

How do I know? Because I am recovering from people pleasing myself. And I LOVE working with clients who want to experience the relief of having “no” be a complete sentence. (My first “NO” blog here!)

Here’s how counseling for people pleasing can help:

You can move from scrambling to prove you are a “good” person to recognizing your worth, setting boundaries and letting “I’m sorry, I can’t” be enough.

You can move from allowing fear, obligation and guilt drive your decisions, to confidently making choices based on your values and needs.

You can move from letting things slide, “Oh, that’s okay, its fine” to telling the truth without worrying you’re hurting someone’s feelings.

By the time we pursue counseling we are depleted. Our relationships aren’t satisfying because we aren’t being real with people. Even though we don’t want to be so self-sacrificing, we are afraid of being alone. And we have been this way for so long we can’t imagine how it could be any different.

That’s where I come in!

What I love about working with people pleasers is that coming into counseling means they are asking for help! Whoa! It never occurs to most of us to reach out when we are hurting. Getting really sick or hurting ourselves are the only ways we slow down the fast train of caretaking.

In counseling, you don’t have to be careful about what you say. You don’t have to play the part anymore. Showing up means you are no longer putting yourself on the back burner to attend to other people’s needs.

That time is all for you!

So, what does counseling for people pleasing look like?

Mindfulness is my foundational approach. It allows us to slow down and notice how our whole mind-body system is affected by going above and beyond. Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to our individual signals and cues so that we can become more responsive versus reactive.

I focus on the qualities of Compassion, Clarity, Curiosity and Calm as a way of learning to care for ourselves first. Learning to discern anxiety from intuition is vital. As well as exploring our values and preferences as opposed to bending and contorting to others.

While slowing down is a key piece, it’s not just the caretaking behaviors we explore. Internal Family Systems as well as Emotional Intelligence practices help us get to the heart of the matter; WHY we do what we do and HOW to untangle the well-worn patterns and maintain the changes.

Here are some easy steps to get started on your counseling journey!

  1. Contact me, Vicki B. Smith, LPC – this is the quickest way here.
  2. Set up a short 5-10 minute phone call to discuss logistics and I can answer any questions.
  3. Start finding your own limits and voice so you can reclaim your time and energy in order to live the life you desire!

Counseling for codependency isn’t the only service I offer in my Atlanta office. Other mental health services Vicki B Smith, LPC provides include generalized anxiety treatment, counseling for burnout, imposter syndrome, counseling for perfectionism as well as mindfulness meditation training classes.

peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.


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