Overcoming people-pleasing

Written By: Amanda Savage Brown, Ph.D., LCSW

Do any of these “inside experiences” hold you back from having fulfilling, healthy relationships?

  • A high level of empathy that entraps you in how the other person may feel if you do (or don’t do) whatever you think they want
  • Fear of missing out and going along to get along
  • Feeling guilty when you say no or fearful to disagree
  • Lack of awareness of your inner life where you don’t quite know what you want, think, or feel
  • Heightened sensitivity to your own emotions that leave you feeling overwhelmed, shut down, and unable to “think on your feet” and communicate clearly
  • Unhelpful beliefs about what you deserve, how you should treat others, or how you should be treated by others​

If you have these experiences going on inside you, you may engage in a behavior known as people-pleasing.


  • appear very kind, agreeable, and easy to be around
  • rarely say no
  • behave like the people around them
  • experience extreme concern if someone is angry with them
  • apologize quickly and often
  • get taken advantage of because of their confusion over being kind vs. being the kind of person they want to be
  • take on a lot of responsibilities and can feel responsible for other’s well-being 
  • almost always put other’s desires above their own

How I help people improve their relationships with others

 My therapeutic approach for people-pleasing is drawn from two highly effective mindfulness-based behavioral therapies: acceptance and commitment therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).  I have trained for hundreds of hours with experts in each modality, have led many DBT skills groups that foster interpersonal effectiveness, and have helped countless clients learn how to let themselves matter too

Together we work to help you learn new ways to interact with others and free you from unhelpful relationship patterns.

Depending on your needs, we will use the following to help you overcome people-pleasing, codependency, or other relationship difficulties:

  • ​Mindfulness Skills: These are attention-training skills that help direct your attention to the present moment, without judgment and with curiosity. I will teach you skills to help you catch when your unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, and emotions are fueling your behavior toward others, and to increase your self-awareness of what you want, think, and feel.  Once you are better able to stay in the present and notice your thoughts and feelings, you will have more choices in how you respond to others.
  • Acceptance and Change skills:  These help you to stop being controlled by your fear over how others may treat you if you are no longer living to please and take care of them. These skills also help you discern where your responsibilities to yourself, and others, begin and end. Once you have learned the self-care and compassion needed to respond to your discomfort of disappointing or disagreeing with others, you will have the freedom to act according to what matters to you and behave like the person you most want to be in relationships.   
  • Behavior prevention skills: For you to experience life on your own terms, you will need to learn how to stop your unhelpful people-pleasing or codependent behaviors. You will need to gain experience of NOT doing certain things and seeing how life turns out when you let yourself matter too. You will need to experiment with discontinuing unhelpful behaviors like always saying yes, pretending to agree when you don’t, not sharing your opinion, or rescuing someone you care about from the consequences of their own actions.  
  • Interpersonal effectiveness and other skills training as-needed: If you have lived your life struggling with people-pleasing, codependency, or other difficult relationship patterns, you have put a lot of energy into what others want, think, and feel.  As you learn to also discern your own needs and desires, you may need skills training in other important areas like decision-making, goal setting, action planning, time management, saying no, delegating, asking for help, and setting boundaries.  ​

If you are drained by people-pleasing or feel trapped by codependency, my therapy and coaching services can help you break free of these relationship patterns. If it’s hard for you to let yourself matter too, please reach out.  Helping women overcome people-pleasing is one of my life’s passions and it would be my honor to help reclaim you from this unhelpful and complex behavior.


Amanda Savage Brown, PhD, LCSW, is a self-acceptance counselor & coach. She uses the research-backed approaches from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help adults reclaim their wellbeing from adverse childhood experiences, other trauma, grief, loss, and people-pleasing through mindful self-acceptance and values-guided change. 

She explanted in 2018, recovered from breast implant illness, and specializes in helping women find their way before, during, and after breast implant removal.

She is the author of Busting Free, the award-winning self-help book for women whose life journey includes breast implants.

Learn more at amandasavagebrown.com and follow her on FB and IG @dr.amandasavagebrown

Disclaimer: All information shared in these blog posts is educational and should not be used as a substitute for therapy or taken as therapeutic guidance.

© 2023 Amanda Savage Brown

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