6 People-Pleasing Behaviors to Avoid During the Holidays

While the holidays can be a time of great joy and conviviality, they are often a recipe for disaster for people-pleasers, who suffer from low self-esteem and a strong need to maintain approval from others. Fraught with obligation and expectation, the holidays are a time when people-pleasers are particularly challenged because it is virtually impossible to be all things to multiple people.



Remember, truly giving doesn’t involve any motive beyond the joy of giving to another person, and it should not come at the expense of your own well-being. Click To Tweet

Making decisions on having guests overnight, traveling to see family, gathering during the ongoing pandemic, spending money on gifts, determining which foods to prepare, and how much to do are stressful in and of themselves, but overwhelming if you are trying to keep everyone happy.


People pleasers generally have low self-worth and a strong propensity to tend to the needs of others before their own.  Driven by the need for approval, they also tend to give too much, be very agreeable, are frequently apologetic, have very little time for themselves, and dislike conflict.

These behaviors all come at a price, of course. Research shows that when those who suffer from low self-esteem seek external validation in what they do, the consequences can be stress, aggression, and/or addictive behaviors, among other negative consequences in relationships.

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to fall into the people-pleasing trap this holiday season.  After gleaning the best of what mental health experts have advised, here’s a list of behaviors to avoid.


1. Giving to Earn Approval

Giving is a wonderful thing to do during the holidays, and it often makes us feel good to do it. However, people-pleasers, who tend to give too much in search of approval, need to be vigilant about this tendency. Remember, truly giving doesn’t involve any motive beyond the joy of giving to another person, and it should not come at the expense of your own well-being.

Before deciding to give your time or money, question your desire to give. For example, if you take out approval seeking, do you truly want to give? If so, do you have the time or resources to give? Can you give without harming yourself? And last, will it bring you enjoyment to give? Check in with your body and see how it feels. If you feel uneasy, that may be an indicator that you are not up for the task. Listen to it!

2. Helping Without Being Asked

People pleasers help too much, and often offer help without being asked. It may stem from a belief that people only care about you when you’re useful. Consider abstaining from volunteering your help for anything without discussing it first with another person—such as a trusted friend, spiritual advisor, or therapist—who has an understanding of your people-pleasing tendencies. There’s so much expectation during the holidays to help others and volunteer, which are indeed meaningful ways to celebrate the season. However, as a person who struggles with self-esteem, you may jump into helping someone or something at considerable expense to yourself. Pause before you volunteer to help. Ask yourself, did they ask? If so, run through some of the questions mentioned above to determine if it’s okay for you.

3. Saying “Yes” When You Should Say “No”

This is what psychiatrist and Amen Clinics founder Dr. Daniel Amen calls a “Bad Habit Dragon.”  Saying yes to everything overwhelms people and can make them bitter and chronically stressed. Like many bad habits, it is associated with low PFC activity, which limits forethought. When someone asks you to do something, you reflexively say yes without thinking through all the consequences and end up so busy you don’t have time for family and other priorities.

People pleasers have a difficult time being authentic. This holiday, you can do it differently. Make a decision to be true to how you really feel. It can be tricky to know what that is at first. If you are continually resentful after agreeing to do something, it’s a strong indicator that you said yes when you wanted to say no.

It is extremely hard for a people pleaser to risk the disapproval of others and say no, so be gentle if you struggle with this. If you continually say yes when you mean no, it sends a signal to others that their needs come before your own and that can cause problems.  Others may start taking advantage of you. And that’s the last thing you need at this time of year.

Give yourself plenty of room, time, and space to practice saying “no” to things you are pretty certain you don’t want to do. If you feel guilty, that’s a sign that you actually took care of your own needs over someone else’s!

4. Apologizing for Everything

People pleasing involves a readiness to take on the blame, even when what happened has nothing to do with you. A people pleaser will over-apologize for everything, even things that are beyond their control. Whenever there’s an event especially a family one, things inevitably go wrong. Watch yourself and how many times you say “sorry” at a holiday gathering or event, especially if there are any problems. Consciously practice refraining from apologizing for everybody and everything. Perhaps experiment with going to the opposite extreme and try not to apologize for anything unless you are 100% certain you need to.

5. Avoiding Disagreements or Conflict

People pleasers often fear anger, which makes sense. Anger suggests disapproval. If your goal is to keep other people happy and have a good opinion of you, anger means you’ve failed at pleasing them. What’s worse, you might rush to apologize or do whatever you think will make them happy, even when they’re not angry at you.

Break the people-pleasing habit by consciously sitting with the discomfort you experience when someone is upset. Breathe. Don’t rush in to fix it or volunteer to help. This goes for conflict that doesn’t involve you as well. It’s not your job to fix it to make others think well of you. Trust that they can sort out their upset without your input. This may help you conserve loads of energy.

6. Packing Your Schedule

Last, avoid the temptation to pack your schedule this time of year. People pleasers often don’t prioritize time to just be or do things that they personally enjoy, especially at this time of year.

Schedule your holiday with yourself in mind. After taking care of responsibilities (such as work, household duties, and childcare) and family festivities, what time is left for you? Do you have time for relaxation, hobbies you enjoy, or holiday activities you love? Make sure you block out time that is about you.

Busting People-Pleasing

Mental health experts believe that underneath the intense need to please and care for others is a fear of rejection and/or fear of failure. Your people-pleasing may be a sign that you need the help of a professional to address what’s driving the behavior. Without help, the deep need to please others can lead to your own self-neglect, exhaustion, passive-aggressive behavior, a feeling of resentment, lack of enjoyment in life, stress, anxiety, and depression, to name a few of the negative consequences.

People-pleasing that is associated with anxiety or depression and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. excellent advice!

    Comment by Doug Morris — September 30, 2023 @ 4:42 PM

  2. excellent post!

    Comment by Doug Morris — October 1, 2023 @ 12:53 AM

  3. I needed to hear this because it is something that I struggle with every single day of my life. Thank you for the great advice! 🙂

    Comment by Jessica Lyon — November 10, 2023 @ 6:24 AM

  4. Loved the info

    Comment by Tammy Rangel — November 10, 2023 @ 7:03 AM

  5. Thank you, for that great article, guilty as charged! Always apologizing, even when it has nothing to do with me. I am currently in therapy, to work on this! I learned a lot, thank you!

    Comment by Deborah Ruyf — November 10, 2023 @ 8:15 AM

  6. How do you help people in Edmonton, Alberta, CA?

    Comment by Eva Muschket — November 10, 2023 @ 8:25 AM

  7. Very helpful. Thank you!

    Comment by Amy Zelle — November 10, 2023 @ 1:38 PM

  8. I wish I was given this advice 30 years ago! It would have changed the course of my life! However, learning later is better than never learning! Thank goodness I am close to 60 and have finally got this down, but it never hurts to get a tune up! 😉

    Comment by Suzanne RN — November 10, 2023 @ 2:41 PM

  9. Very good reminder, I’m in a recovery 12 steps program

    Comment by Mona — November 11, 2023 @ 2:14 PM

  10. Loved your article…..fits me to a tee…and right before the holidays PERFECT!

    Comment by Jane ! ok parshall — November 11, 2023 @ 11:55 PM

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