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  • Lori Carol Maloy

Break Free from People Pleasing and Discover Your Self Worth

Updated: Feb 28

Article by Lori Carol Maloy

woman feeling sad

Are you a doer? Are you someone who never takes time for yourself? Are you always working and people pleasing? Do you fix, keep the peace, work too hard, self-sacrifice by saying yes more than no, and yet you feel you are not enough?

Who hasn’t seen the most beautiful girl who hates certain things about herself. She secretly wishes she could have curly hair instead of straight, a tall body instead of short, a different job, degree, or career; one that might bring her more usefulness, meaning, and diminish those feelings of being unworthy.

Sometimes our partners, loved ones, friends, and family can exasperate the hole inside of us by tapping into our insecurities and pushing our buttons causing us to feel that we are not enough.

They might criticize or push us to do more, be more, sacrifice more. We do it. Unfortunately, others know that if something is to get done and done right, they find the busiest person, and they will do it! These are the doers, fixers, the empaths.

These struggles can continue throughout life, tapping into the deeper core of the psyche and become debilitating over time.

Maybe you feel unfilled at the end of it all, even exhausted, but saying no fills you with enormous guilt and shame. What if you could do something about it? Would you go for it?

I’m not good enough

So why do doers keeping saying yes with such little pay-off? This feel-good flutter does quiet the inside voices that tell us we are nothing unless we are serving others. But the flutter lasts only moments, then the emptiness surfaces again.

What is this “I’m never enough” phenomenon, and why do we push ourselves constantly to be more, do more, and sacrifice more?

According to an article by Karyl McBride in Psychology Today, the past plays a huge role in how we behave in the present and in how we see ourselves.

If not dealt with, critical voices and experiences from the past will dictate how we see and treat ourselves, and how we see and respond to others.

For example, children of alcoholics, those with parents who had mental health problems, and those with parents who were emotionally unavailable, learned skewed coping strategies. These parents modeled maladaptive ways of relating and seeing the world to their children. Due to grief and loss through death or divorce, these parents unknowingly instilled in the child the maladaptive belief that they could not get their needs met.

These parents unknowingly, many times without malice, instilled negative core beliefs about the self and taught these children how to relate to others, and how relationships work.

Children are sponges. Human beings will adapt and learn in order to survive.

People-Pleasing and Unmet Needs

Doers, pleasers, and fixers do not always know or acknowledge that they feel unloved, unaccepted, or that they have lingering unmet needs from childhood. Some might recognize these needs and desires, but do not know where they stem from.

Many of us compartmentalize these unmet needs, pushing them farther into the recesses of our psyche. Many attempt to redo the past and try to meet needs through other means, such as pleasing, doing, overachieving, and through substance use or other addictions.

An underlying core belief can exist: “I am not worthy of love, therefore, if I do enough, be enough, and strive enough, I can be enough; thus, I am lovable.” Yet these superficial attempts rarely, if ever, satisfy or dispel the original unmet need.

Negative core beliefs cause us to repeat the same destructive behaviors again and again. Learn to recognize low self-worth:

Signs of low self-worth

  • Unable to say no to others without guilt and shame.

  • Enabling others.

  • Work addictions and busyness.

  • Defining yourself by success, job title, or duties.

  • Pleasing others.

  • Critical of yourself.

  • Being overly sensitive to criticism.

  • Avoidance strategies in social situations.

  • Having imposter syndrome or feeling that if someone really knew you, they would not care for you.

  • Feelings that you will disappear or die if you are not needed or cannot assist another.

  • Difficulty with being alone or sitting with your emotions.

  • Needing the affirmation, thank you, and praise of others.

  • Being the fixer.

  • Attempts at control.

  • Experiencing anger when others show little or not enough appreciation of your efforts.

I’m exhausted and angry

Many times, your efforts may go unnoticed. You might feel frustrated, exhausted, or even angry and resentful. During these times, you might lash out.

After all, you seem to be doing everything. At times, no one may have even asked for your help; you volunteered. When others are not picking up the slack, you do it all. Then you feel angry and resentful because they do not appreciate all you do.


Do you want change? Answer this question first. If you really do, an awareness of what is really going on inside you is the next step. This can be the most difficult part in the process.

When you change, others have no choice but to change. Be aware that you may not like these changes to relationship dynamics.

Feelings are uncomfortable. Dealing with the past is even more difficult. To fix the present, you must go back to the place you so want to forget — and you may have forgotten many memories.

Find someone you can talk to; a therapist, family, or a friend. Hopefully, you find an empath (this is getting more and more difficult these days). Watch out for those covert narcissists. These are more difficult to spot.

Negative Core Beliefs

Identifying critical events or words from the past takes work and careful investigation. But the negative thoughts you believe about yourself came from somewhere in your past. Maybe a teacher, parent, uncle, sibling or from a spouse or partner. A long-time friend may have teased, criticized and put you down continually, but you let it ride.

Others around you may have acted in a manner that caused you to build these false perceptions about yourself by verbal abuse.

Words and phrases like:

  • Suck it up, you baby.

  • You’re stupid

  • Unworthy

  • You never get anything right

  • You’re lazy

  • This is all your fault

  • You aren’t this or that

  • You always fail — you don’t try hard enough

Even unsaid words can create negative core beliefs when people’s actions signal a silent message:

  • He leaves you for another woman (I’m not enough), thus confirming those early criticisms and beliefs.

  • Experiencing repeated tragedies and losses (I’m unable to get my needs met; I am not worthy of happiness), thus confirming early childhood perceptions when you could not get your physical, emotional, or psychological needs met.

  • You are robbed, attacked, or assaulted (I’m unable to keep myself safe), thus confirming early childhood trauma, abandonment, and loss experiences and feelings of being unsafe.

Over time, these critical words become our own narrative: thoughts we believe about ourselves. We become our own punisher, our own dream slayer.

And so, we strive to be enough by going through the motions of self-sacrifice and self-abasement.

We punish ourselves through self-sabotage, proving to ourselves again and again that we are not enough. To compensate, we volunteer, enable, fix other people’s problems, remarry blindly in hopes of gaining the love, respect, and attention we never received as a child.

The past is the past

What ever happened in the past cannot be undone; These events existed in the past and you are not back there any longer.

Sadly, the pain from the past did happen and must be acknowledged, seen, and grieved through. This is a painful and difficult process. Not a process many want to endure without addictions, distraction, and avoidance.

The Traumatic Cycle

Is it any wonder people cycle in and out of marriage and relationships? Trauma creates inside of us a desire to utilize avoidance strategies such as alcohol and substance use, distractions, and other addictive strategies.

We also attempt to recreate and redo the past through toxic relationships and faulty actions in the present.

Most of us do not want to journey backward through the pain to heal the wounds. We mistakenly believe what happens today is all about today. We are wrong.

But if you want real change, you must journey back and care for your inner child in a way that only you can do. You must explore where the negative narratives originated from.

As Beth Moore explains, you must find out “Who told you that?” Once truth is identified and grieved through, then you can reprocess and separate from those maladaptive beliefs about yourself.

Change can happen now. You do not have to remain locked inside your past.

New Narratives

It’s time to write new narratives about who you are:

  • “I am good enough.”

  • “I am able to meet my own needs.”

  • “I am worthy of love.”

  • “I am enough just as I am.”

These are only a few of the many healthy narratives that can be realized. Old negative core beliefs must be fleshed out, killed, and buried: those critical words that immobilize us and keep us stuck.

You are enough!

Know that you do not have to become what someone else wants you to be in order to obtain love. You are enough. Self-care begins with taking care of you first.

Jesus said to love others as ourselves. How can we love others when we do not love ourselves. Think about this.

Even Jesus slipped away from the crowd and took time for Himself; he nurtured his prayer life, implemented self-care, and became restored daily.

It is okay to just be, to say no, to be yourself. You are beautifully and wonderfully made.

Knowing this in your head is not the same as believing it in your heart and walking it out.

Walking out your new and more adaptive core beliefs takes a soul-journey of faith; a journey that takes you deep into the heart of who you really are. In this place you will learn: Who Told me that?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well- Psalm 139:13–16 (NIV)

You are enough. Each of us is. We just have to take the journey, deal with and bury the past, then reclaim our future.

It’s time to say “No More! I am enough!”

Join my newsletter and learn more about how to make positive changes in your life.

Blessings and joy, Lori

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Forest Sunrays
knives up book club
Lori Carol Maloy, Author

Retired Therapist Goes Rogue

Thriller Writer Having Fun Reviewing Thrillers & Mysteries

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