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Boundaries and People Pleasing

After having worked as a Registered Nurse for 8 years, I decided to become a counselling therapist so that I could help people heal more than the physical alone. Having gone through my own healing journey, I discovered that while talk therapy alone is very helpful, it had limitations. This led me to learn Heart Centered Hypnotherapy, Holy Fire Reiki, Somatic Experiencing, Breathwork and Intuitive Readings, so that I could combine the mind, body and spirit to healing.

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Boundaries and People Pleasing

People pleasing can often stem from having lived through experiences where it was safer to take care of others than to take care of personal needs and wants. It can also be from not having support while having emotions and experiences. From a nervous system perspective, what can happen is that it will go into freeze, by freezing personal experiences and emotions, and becoming hyper aware of the other person’s emotions and needs. From there, one might make sure that the other person calms down or does not get angry to assure their safety, even if it means putting their needs second. In fact, if you think about it, if somebody is angry, and throwing things, there might not be room to have personal needs and wants. Instead, it might be safer to notice what the other person is going through and help them calm down from their activated emotional state.

This is a very functional state to stay alive, as taking care of the caregiver who dangerous can keep us safe. And if this occurs in childhood, it’s a very functional and adaptive way to survive, but can become disruptive in adulthood when it’s time to state personal needs or boundaries. In fact, when in relationship, the energy might leave your body and go towards the other person where you become more aware of what they want and feel, than what you want and feel. You can lose touch with your reality, and instead are very aware of the reality of the other person. Furthermore, when a behaviour kept you safe in the past, your body will remember and do the same thing event if it doesn’t rationally makes sense in the new situation.

That is why sometimes, when someone is doing something that you do not like, it can feel easier to shut your feelings down and say nothing. In fact, if in the past, saying something aggravated the situation, it can feel very unsafe to speak up. Furthermore, it may feel that it’s easier to stay upset and say nothing than say something, as it can create the possibility that the other person might react in a way that is uncomfortable for you. Therefore, it can create a false sense of control, by trying to control and manage something that is outside of ourselves to feel better. Speaking up and having boundaries can also activate the fear of rejection or abandonment, as the internal belief might be that the other person will leave if I upset them.

In order to work through this, understanding and healing the source of this issue can start to bring changes to relationships. In addition, it might be helpful to understand how the people pleasing tendencies show up in your life. This can happen by reflecting how you behave in relationships, and how you feel when in relationship. You can even do this by putting an alarm on a watch every 30 minutes to remind yourself to check how you are feeling. Then, being present to your experience and regulating your own nervous system through something like somatic therapy, can help start bring change to the experience. Understanding alone may not change how you act while in a relationship, because your survival responses will come online and your logical thinking can go offline.

The way that somatic therapy can help with this is to increase the awareness of what is going on inside when in relationship. It helps connect to the present experience, such as physiological responses, emotions and bodily sensations. This can also help connect to behaviours that occur in response to it. Furthermore, the by becoming aware of one’s experiences while in relationship, it can help identify needs so that they can stated. It can assist individuals in regulating their nervous system and managing stress and anxiety. In fact, this can be crucial for people-pleasers who often experience high levels of stress due to the need for approval. By learning self-regulation skills, individuals can decrease their reactivity, make conscious choices, and respond authentically instead of automatically trying to please others. This would include setting boundaries. By learning grounding tools, one can learn to then manage themselves rather than manage what the other is experiencing to stay calm.

Becoming aware of bodily experience can also assist in building self acceptance, as it encourages individuals to cultivate a compassionate and accepting attitude toward themselves. This is important as it can help people-pleasers shift their focus from seeking validation externally to cultivating self-validation and self-acceptance. In addition, individuals can tap into their authentic selves and develop a stronger sense of empowerment. This can support people-pleasing tendencies to change by expressing themselves more honestly and assertively, rather than conforming to others' expectations. Nonetheless, it’s important to first become aware of personal experiences, since without awareness, one might not know that their boundaries have been crossed.


Some quick regulating tools that might help is to notice sensations in your feet when standing or sitting (cold, solid, more weight in one foot over the other, etc.). Another is to step in the bathroom and put cold water on the neck. The importance is also to notice the sensation there. Sometimes, other senses might be online, such as sight, smell, touch or hearing. If your sight is available, you can look at something that feels soothing and focus on the details of them. When it comes to hearing, you can listen to closest, farthest, loudest, quietest sounds that you can hear. Sometimes, you can imagine that a person with strong boundaries would be beside you helping you out. Sometimes, some might work better than others. You can play around with them and see which calms the nervous system down.


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