I have to admit, I will rarely ever admit to this in person. I consider myself a very strong, independent woman, and I “don’t need anyone’s approval.” But when I’m really honest (UGH, this pains me) I’m a recovering people-pleaser. There, I said it.
It was definitely worse in my younger ages. I cared SO much what other people thought of me, constantly. I wanted to be liked…by everyone. And at the end of the day, it was EXHAUSTING.
It’s funny because I know it’s still a thing for me now because all of the women I truly admire are the kind of women that just really don’t care. I love when women will say anything, the blunt women who say what you were thinking. I’m like wow, I want to be more like her, and while I’m definitely like that in many settings, if I’m in a particular one where I want to really be liked, then the old me shows up and says, “LIKE ME!!!!” I struggle the most with it when it comes to work – and it’s not so much a desire to be liked, but a fear of failure. I am one of those people who go reeling if I mess up. I have to be awesome at my job, seen as fully competent or I WILL DIE, therefore falling back into the people-pleasing category. Ugh.
One of my biggest prayers when I was pregnant with Kennedy was that she would love and surrender to Jesus at an early age, and then be SO grounded in who she is in Him that she will never care what others think of her. I prayed she would be that anomaly little girl who leads when others follow, who defends the weak and stands strong in the face of…well, whatever middle school girls face. I want her to be bold and fierce, and most of all I think, because those are the things I want to be myself. I spent too many years worrying about what other people thought, and I don’t want to waste another minute of my life on it.
I’ve decided that, in my opinion, this is most commonly a girl problem. WHY do we care so much about pleasing others?! Why do we feel like we can’t say no, that we have to be seen as perfect moms, perfect friends, beautiful, kick-A workers…the women who can do it all. Why is it that when I encounter other women who I perceive to have better qualities than myself I immediately feel less than or compare myself….and end up lacking every time?
If God made each of us uniquely perfect, fearfully and wonderfully made, then why can’t we all just be ourselves and love each other for it? Why can’t we all just admit, I really love you, but that’s just not something I have time to do. Why is the word, “NO” such a foreign language to us recovering people-pleasers?! Why is the fear of rejection or fear of failure so crippling to people like us if we truly have no one to please but God? The need to please others through work or life, leaves us feeling exhausted and well…lonely.
A lonely place to be. The need to constantly PLEASE leaves us projecting false identities, sides of ourselves that are not true to ourselves. So, we end up striving to be this other person. And you know what we are left with? No close friends that really know the real us, so we feel lonely. If all of these people really knew the real me, they wouldn’t like it. Well, that’s crap. I bet when people do know the real you, they don’t notice the areas you are lacking. They notice that you are a REAL person with flaws just like they have, and therefore you become a much more relatable person. I am constantly wishing I had more friends that I would be completely authentic and free with, without comparing, pleasing or striving for acceptance with.
A weak place to be. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.” When we are just trying to please others, we aren’t acting out of the power we were given from the Holy Spirit. We are just afraid to say “No” and end up getting taken advantage of sometimes. Jesus was a leader, but his definition of leadership was being a servant. But don’t discount the fact that He did not care what anyone thought except His Father in Heaven, and neither should we. Serve because we are strong and confident in who we are IN HIM, not because we are afraid of what others will think of us. I have a friend who is one of the most talented and genuine people I know, but for years, and out of fear of what others will think of her, has hidden those gifts God has given her. God gave us our personalities, our experiences, gifts and talents to be USED by Him for His kingdom, not to make other people like us OR to be hidden out of fear. You have the power of the God of the universe, so what can man do to you?!
Fear of Failure or Rejection. Hey, newsflash, we are all flawed, and we are all mess up. We all make mistakes, and doesn’t that just make us that much more relatable? If we’re all jacked up and a mess then we should be free to love others more freely, to go deeper in relationships than just the surface or a Facebook friendship status. We were meant for community, and not the fake, polite kind, but REAL community, like family kind of community, where you’re real, you know each other’s flaws and mistakes and yet love each other anyway because you know your own short-comings all too well. You love each other through the good and bad and hold each other up when the other is weak. That’s real life, that’s real friendship, and that’s the real community that God intended for us.
Authenticity. Live FREELY in His love and grace. This is one of my favorite phrases and also a phrase I couldn’t wrap my mind around so I prayed about it for a YEAR. What He revealed to me about it was this: I don’t have to hide. I don’t have to put on a mask or pretend I have it all together. I don’t even have to pretend to like you (I’m sure I do though so don’t worry). I can be who God made me to be in all of my glorious mess, because God loves me and that’s all that really matters. Authenticity is contagious and people gravitate to it. Being you is probably the best thing you can do for yourself if you actually want real, deep-abiding friendships in this life. Every single person on the planet is flawed, and while others are strong where we are weak, that should make us love and need each other more, not put on false super hero costumes to prove we are awesome.
At the end of the day, I’m sure I’ll always struggle with this desire to be liked or please people. But, every day I’m going to pray for the Holy Spirit to instill a peace and joy in me so much that I feel so complete in Him I don’t feel the need to put on a performance for anyone else’s approval. I believe God wants to set us free from this “disease” and help us come ALIVE in Him. I believe the first step to recovering from this people-pleasing syndrome is diving in deeper in your relationship with Jesus. The deeper we go in Him, the less we need love and approval from others. And then, because God IS LOVE, we are free and unbridled to ACTUALLY love and serve others like He did out of a humbly confident heart. That’s what I want, and I pray that for you too!
I’ll leave you with this quote that my friend posted the other day that literally stopped me in my tracks. (Thank you, Kelly)
“We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.” – Lysa TerKeurst