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Breaking Up with People Pleasing

By Christine Coyle | May 27, 2022

Breaking Up with People Pleasing

Have you ever heard of the term “sociotropy?” I hadn’t. Even as a mental health professional this was a new term to me.

“Sociotropy is characterized as an excessive investment in interpersonal relationships.”

In other words, if this describes your personality, you may identify as more of a people pleaser, have difficulty setting boundaries, and/or advocating for yourself. Are you raising your hand?! Because I am!

It took me until I was in graduate school to recognize that my personality leaned towards people pleaser and that the role I often took in my family system was as peacekeeper. Awareness is the first step to making a change. It took me even more time to recognize how to break that pattern and live a more authentic life without fearing that my boundaries will upset someone.

It took me almost 40 years to recognize the need for better boundaries. What does that look like you ask? It means saying no without feeling guilty, ashamed, or afraid. It means paying attention to your own needs rather than ignoring them in order to make other people more comfortable. It means making time to take care of ourselves to avoid walking through life with discomfort.

Boundaries are the limits and rules that people set for themselves in relationships. Someone with healthy boundaries can say “no” when they want to, and they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships. If you didn’t grow up with boundaries and/or boundaries were not modeled for you, learning to set them as an adult will take time and may lead to uncomfortable feelings. Learning to sit with those feelings can be challenging. 

Boundaries may sound like:

“I am not comfortable with this conversation.”

“I am not available to help with that.”

“I’m not sure. I will need some time to think about it.”

“I can help, but not right now.”

A boundary can also simply be one word: “No.” And no further explanation is needed. 

An important piece of information with regards to boundaries – a boundary is not wrong even if someone doesn’t agree with you or accept your boundary. Identifying the need for a boundary, deciding what it will look like, setting the boundary, and sticking to it are all individual steps towards increasing self-care and decreasing the tendency to people please. Everyday presents a new opportunity for practice. And I’ll be working on it right alongside you.


This blog was written by Christine Coyle, LCSW-C
Owner of Anchored Hope Therapy, LLC

About The Author

Christine Coyle

This blog was written by Christine Coyle, LCSW-C, the co-founder of Anchored Hope Therapy, LLC. Christine believes that building therapeutic rapport and creating a collaborative relationship are among the most important aspects of therapy. A client working with her may not jump right into what is traditionally considered “therapy” but instead, we will spend time working towards a mutual understanding of what works best for them. She allows clients to decide if the environment she has created feels safe for them to heal. Her goal with clients is to provide them with time and space to find their voice, identify boundaries that work for them, and to heal from the challenges they may be facing.