I understand your situation quite well. I, too, was a people pleaser who built my self-esteem on the images I believed I was planting in the minds of everyone with whom I had a relationship: that I was strong, confident, wise--the person everyone went to for help and advice.
What I didn't realize was that in doing this I became unable to set appropriate boundaries with others (eg-say "no") because that meant risking them seeing me in a less-than-flattering light. Even though I remained unconscious of this limitation, that was okay because I felt strong enough to handle helping all the people I was helping. But even the strongest people have limits. Also, I lost sight of what my
needs were being so focused on meeting the needs of others. I call this the "good guy contract": I will help you, be nice to you, acquiesce to all your requests, and in return you will like me and view me as strong and confident and wise. Until I learned to derive my self-esteem wholly internally, I was at the mercy of the opinion of everyone around me.
Does any of this sound familiar?
AlexL Happiness in this World