The Burnout-People Pleasing Connection

This blog post outlines what is burnout, the signs and symptoms of it, as well are what people pleasing is. and how they are connected. It finishes with strategies for treatment of burnout and people pleasing.


Kaylee Procter


man covering face with both hands while sitting on bench
man covering face with both hands while sitting on bench

As a licensed therapist, I often come across clients who are experiencing burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress and overwork. It can leave individuals feeling drained, overwhelmed, and unable to cope with the demands of their daily lives.

In this blog post, we will explore what burnout is, delve into the concept of people pleasing, and discuss how these two are interconnected.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is not simply feeling tired or stressed. It is a chronic condition that can have serious consequences on a person's well-being and overall quality of life. It typically occurs when individuals experience excessive stress for an extended period, without adequate rest or support to recover.

Burnout can look/feel like:

  • Feeling exhausted and drained, both physically and emotionally

  • Losing interest or motivation in activities that were once enjoyable

  • Experiencing frequent physical ailments, such as headaches or stomachaches

  • Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Feeling detached or disconnected from others

  • Experiencing increased irritability or cynicism

It is important to note that burnout can affect anyone, regardless of their profession or personal circumstances. Whether you are a high-achieving professional, a stay-at-home parent, or a student, the risk of burnout is real!

Understanding People Pleasing

Now, let's turn our attention to people pleasing. People pleasing is a behavioural pattern characterized by a strong desire to please others, often at the expense of one's own needs and well-being. People pleasers tend to prioritize the needs and expectations of others over their own, seeking validation and approval from external sources.

For more on this topic, click here.

Some common traits of people pleasers include:

  • Difficulty saying "no" and setting boundaries

  • Feeling anxious or guilty when they do assert themselves

  • Constantly seeking approval and validation from others

  • Putting others' needs before their own

  • Feeling responsible for others' happiness

While there is nothing wrong with wanting to help and support others, people pleasing becomes problematic when it becomes a compulsive behaviour that neglects one's own well-being. This example of being on an airplane explains it perfectly: to be able to help other's to the best of your ability, you need to put your oxygen mask on first before their's. If we put theirs on first, we run the risk of harming ourselves, which ultimately results in us not being able to help them.

The Connection Between Burnout and People Pleasing

So, how are burnout and people pleasing related? The connection lies in the tendency of people pleasers to overextend themselves and neglect their own needs. People pleasers often find it difficult to say "no" and set boundaries, leading to an accumulation of stress and responsibilities.

When individuals consistently prioritize the needs of others over their own, they are more likely to experience chronic stress and exhaustion. This constant state of giving without receiving adequate self-care can eventually lead to burnout.

Furthermore, people pleasers often rely on external validation and approval to feel worthy and valued. This reliance on others' opinions can create a never-ending cycle of seeking validation, which can be emotionally draining and contribute to feelings of burnout.

It is important for people pleasers to recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to prioritize their own well-being. Learning to set boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking support from loved ones or a therapist can be instrumental in preventing burnout and promoting overall mental health.

Tips for Combating Burnout and People Pleasing

If you find yourself struggling with burnout and people pleasing, here are some tips to help you break the cycle:

  1. Practice self-care: Prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Set aside time for yourself, whether it's taking a walk, reading a book, or indulging in a hobby.

  2. Set boundaries: Learn to say "no" when necessary and set clear boundaries with others. Remember that it is okay to prioritize your own needs and well-being. This is especially important in a work setting, as overextending yourself often leads to burnout.

  3. Ask for help: This can be a tricky one, as many of us struggle to ask for help. However, you don't have to face this alone. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, family doctor, or a therapist who can provide guidance and support. Sometimes, having someone to talk to can make a world of difference. A family doctor may be able to explore options with you for treating burnout from a medical perspective or the possibility of taking a break from work or school to recharge. A therapist can help you explore what has contributed to your people pleasing and burnout and strategies to alleviate suffering.

  4. Be gentle with yourself: Set realistic goals and practice self-compassion when you need a break. Often times we can be hard on ourselves when we are not "going above and beyond," pleasing everyone, or are comparing ourselves against others. Remind yourself that everyone needs a break at times, whether we take one or not.

  5. Self-Reflect: Reflect on why you feel the need to constantly please others. Explore any underlying beliefs or fears that may be driving this behaviour and work towards cultivating self-acceptance and self-worth. This can be helpful to explore with a therapist.

  6. Practice assertiveness: Learn to express your needs and opinions in a respectful and assertive manner. This can help you communicate your boundaries effectively and reduce feelings of resentment or overwhelm.

Remember, it is not selfish to prioritize your own well-being. Taking care of yourself allows you to show up as your best self for others and lead a more fulfilling life.

Burnout and people pleasing are two interconnected concepts that can have a significant impact on one's mental health and overall well-being. By understanding the signs and causes of burnout, as well as the patterns of people pleasing, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent burnout and prioritize their own needs. Remember, self-care and self-compassion are essential in maintaining a healthy balance in life.

You're probably wondering, "does burnout go away?" The answer is yes, with appropriate professional support you can tackle burnout and the factors that lead you to experience it in the first place! Therapy for burnout, as well as therapy for people pleasing, is something that Tri Lotus Psychotherapy offers. If you'd like to learn more, reach out to book a complimentary introductory call to ask any questions you may have and see how I can help.