I am a chronic but recovering people pleaser.
When I was little, I was devastated when I got in trouble for running in the hall. For goodness sake, I still remember it 18 years later! In kindergarten I took a test with a broken piece of lead from my pencil, because I didn’t want to raise my hand and tell my teacher I broke it. In middle school, I wanted to look and dress like the most popular girls in school. I obsessed over my grades and my reputation. In high school, I never broke the rules to avoid disappointing anyone. I never admitted that I didn’t understand my own faith, because I wanted everyone to think I knew everything. When I lost my perfect grades, I got my first taste of life without the constant pressure to be perfect. That was only the beginning, though. I still had a long road of breaking this people-pleasing attitude ahead of me.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make people happy, especially those you love and respect. However, when that desire begins to outweigh the desire to please God, it becomes an unhealthy habit. I have found that my need to please people is at its worst when I’m not seeking my worth in Jesus. If I forget what Jesus says about me, it’s only natural to search for that somewhere else. The problem is that finding my worth in perfection or other people’s opinions is not a firm foundation, because I am not perfect and I can not please everyone. That’s okay, because Jesus says this is the truth:
I am made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
I am an adopted and wanted child of God (Ephesians 1:5).
I am chosen, special, and set apart (1 Peter 2:9).
I am a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
I was created exactly as God wanted me to be (Psalm 139:13-14).
And so much more…
Dear fellow people pleaser, when you listen to what the world says about you rather than what God says about you, you will never experience true abundant life. There will always be someone cutting you down, saying you’re not enough, or reminding you of your past. When you allow cracks to form in your true identity, shame will creep in and take hold of your heart. That is not abundant life.
I’m still learning how to overcome this overwhelming need for approval, acceptance, perfection, popularity, you name it. I have learned to ask myself a few questions when I feel discouraged, ashamed, or defeated because of other people’s opinions.
- Does God say this is true about me? If the answer is no, cast that comment or criticism into the lies pile and leave it there. God speaks only truth.
- Would God condemn me for this? Trick question, because the answer here is always no! Romans 8:1 says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God does, however, desire for us to live righteous and upright lives for our own good.
- Is this sucking joy and abundance out of my life? If you’re doing something only to please others but it’s sucking the life out of you, set it aside. Anything that takes away from your relationship with Jesus is not worth it. (Of course, there will always be things we have to do that aren’t necessarily enjoyable. This is for people who feel like they have to say “yes” to everything, even if they don’t really want to!)
- This may be true about me, but does God really consider it a problem? Let’s say someone tells you that you talk too loud. That might be true, but is it something to get hung up on and worry over? No, because God doesn’t care if you talk too loud! Just let those worries go. You are who you are. This one is a little tricky, though, because there are issues in our lives that God would consider a problem. If you’re not sure, take this question to Scripture or a wise mentor.
If the need to make everyone happy has caused you anxiety or stress, consider asking yourself these questions when those people-pleasing thoughts arise. It just isn’t possible to please everyone or be perfect, so lay that desire at the feet of Jesus. Make it your priority to please God first, and he will grow and shape you into exactly the person he wants you to be.