I used to be a huge people pleaser. Bent over backward to be as agreeable as humanly possible and still people wouldn’t like me. All I ever wanted was acceptance, and the harder I tried, the less I got it. Constantly doing what I thought was expected of me, saying what I thought people wanted to hear. It was exhausting work.
It was all I could do to control the thoughts of others. I was filled to the brim with wondering, “What do they think of me?”
When one realizes that people pleasing stems from pride, there is an explosion. To have ever thought that I had the ability to control what other people thought of me. How utterly preposterous. There is no such thing as control. There is barely control of self which can only be done in the strength of the Holy Spirit. And then what about me? What about me staying true to the woman that God created me to be? You can’t truly love who you are and be a people pleaser, it’s counterintuitive. And then there is the pride. The pride that makes people’s thoughts and feelings about you your god. The pride that says everything will be okay once you are loved and accepted by everyone—which will never happen. Proverbs says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” And tumbling is what I went. Tripping all over myself trying to be whatever I thought was socially acceptable.
What about God? Yes, Him, the one who sent his son to die for me. What about pleasing him? Oh, he wasn’t a priority. Pleasing a God that I couldn’t see and had way too many abstract qualities was not at the forefront of my mind. He was, however, who I consulted when things didn’t go right.
I used to be one of those people who found purpose in their work. My ability to perform my job—and perform it well—was tantamount with my self-worth. I sought validation, fulfillment, and acceptance from my job title, compensation, and performance. One day I made a mistake at work—which is inevitable—and I got so down on myself you would have thought it was the end of the world. I went home that evening severely disappointed. That night I gave myself the equivalent of a pep talk, and came in to work the next morning with new resolve: I would prove myself to my managers if it was the last thing I did. When I walked in the office, I can’t explain it other than to say, I heard a voice say, “Look up.” Translation- I felt the Lord was saying, “Prove it to me.” Explosion! Why had that not occurred to me before? Why was I so hell-bent on proving my ability to my boss and his boss and his boss? But having knowledge does not guarantee flawless application. It took time before I fully understood that it is the Lord—and the Lord only—I am serving.
I don’t know how it happened, but when I turned 31, it was like a switch was flipped, a light turned on, an epiphany was reached: I don’t have to do this, and I’m not going to. I have firmly decided that my fealty is first and foremost to the Lord and that his thoughts are the only thoughts I need to ponder. Do I still find myself concerned with other people’s opinions? Sure. But it isn’t like it used to be. Making a mistake is no longer The End. When I find myself overwhelmed with an offense I have committed against someone, I pray about it, apologize to the person, and, then, I move on.
So, how do I stop people pleasing you ask? Look up. People pleasing will be the death of you. It has never worked for you before, and I can assure you, it won’t start now. I say try something new like serving the Lord with your whole heart. It will take time, but you’ll feel it. Everything falling into place—internally I mean—you’ll relax more; you won’t feel so obligated. When people turn and walk away, you won’t feel so responsible. When you love people, you’ll be able to do so honestly. When you commune with the Lord, you’ll be able to do so purely.
Ah, I look back on my people pleasing days, and I see a desperate girl. What I would do to have the opportunity to sit down and speak with her; let her know that she doesn’t have to do that. But there is no going back. The past is immutable, and, so I move forward newly resolved to serve only the Lord. I think you should too.