Want to Stop People Pleasing, Indecisiveness, Perfectionism, or Controlling? 

Understand stress response

Want to Stop People Pleasing, Indecisiveness, Perfectionism, or Controlling? 

First recognize your actions as proactive behaviours.

Stress is the body’s automatic response to a perceived threat. When our brain picks up on a possible threat, it tries to keep us safe. The physical response is instinctive – fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. 

As we grow up, our brain learns about threats and how to keep us safe.

As children, we may learn that saying “no” and having boundaries is risky – so people pleasing becomes instinctive. We may come to understand that there is never a “right” decision and voicing any opinion is risky – we stay stuck in “analysis paralysis” as a result.

Our adult brain has been conditioned to perceive our childhood threats. 

So while saying “no” to the extra project you really don’t have time for, making a decision, giving people autonomy, and making mistakes may help you become a better leader, your brain fights hard to keep you from doing those things – thinking it’s keeping you safe. 

Changing our behaviour requires us first to change our thinking, especially when it comes to automatic stress responses. Therefore, awareness can be a helpful first step for moving away from behaviours that aren’t serving you.

Here are some common stress-response (protective) behaviours:


  • People pleasing
  • Little to no boundaries
  • Easily exploited
  • Not speaking up for self
  • Flattering others
  • Lack of identity


  • Spaced out, brain fog
  • Feeling stuck
  • Difficult making decisions
  • Difficulty taking action
  • Isolating and numbing
  • Low or no motivation


  • Angry, explosive outbursts
  • Controlling
  • Demanding
  • Demeaning
  • Entitlement
  • Bullying


  • Panic and worrying
  • Can’t sit still or relax
  • Hiding out, avoiding
  • Working compulsively
  • Perfectionism
  • Over-achieving
Fight Flight Freeze Fawn