A friend messaged me after my YouTube devotional on overcoming people pleasing aired, saying that a woman she knows really benefitted from watching. I decided to film a more in-depth video, sharing the roots of this relational habit, while providing some steps she could take to help overcome people pleasing. Then I thought, “She’s not the only one who needs this.”
You might be saying, “Oh, yes! I definitely can use this!” … or, you may be thinking, “Nah, I don’t think I am a people pleaser.” Let’s take a look at a few common thoughts and approaches to life that people pleasers experience. Check out the following list to see if you relate.
Are You prone to People Pleasing?
- I don’t want to rock the boat.
- I either don’t share my opinion, or I coat it in sugar to make it easy to swallow.
- My behavior and words change to try to influence what others will think of me.
- I often say “yes” instead of “no” when I’m asked to do something, even if I have no time or energy for what I’m agreeing to do.
- Smoothing the waters when people get upset is my specialty.
- I put aside my own dreams or agenda to do what someone else asks me to do.
- I allow people to treat me in ways I would never treat someone else.
- People say I’m easy-going, but they don’t really know what’s going on inside of me.
- I find myself apologizing often, even when I didn’t do anything wrong.
- Other people’s praise or satisfaction makes my day.
- I don’t like it when someone is mad at me or disappointed in me.
If you resonate with any or all of these experiences, you are not alone. For years I lived trying to make everyone happy. I never wanted to let anyone down. It mattered deeply to me that people saw me as good, helpful, and agreeable. I wanted people to accept me. My deepest (unspoken) fear was that someone would dislike or reject me.
Busy Pleasing Others
I remember when I was dating my husband and he said, “Fifty percent of the people are going to like you no matter what, and fifty percent will not. Just go where the love is.” That floored me. I couldn’t take the idea that a huge number of people might not like me. Did you see what I did? Instead of delighting that half would adore me and stand with me through ups and downs, my mind went to focusing on those who didn’t think I was good enough.
This fear-based drive to please others kept me extremely busy. I talk about this more in my book, Slow Down, Mama: Intentional Living in a Hurried World. I mean, living to serve others means constantly doing hundreds of little things not determined by you or your priorities. Whew! No wonder you are exhausted, right?
Maybe your experience isn’t as radical as mine was. I hope not. Either way, I want to assure you there is hope. We don’t have to stay stuck in codependent patterns of obliging others while rejecting our own value and needs. We can heal and grow and find freedom. So, let’s get to it!
The Roots of People Pleasing
First, let’s talk about the roots of people pleasing. I go into this more fully in my six minute YouTube video if you want to check it out. There can be many reasons we cultivate unhealthy relational habits. Let’s talk about three here.
- Growing up in a “keep the peace” family.
- We have a peace-loving personality that avoids conflict by nature.
- A fear rejection drives us to try to keep everyone happy.
At the heart of people pleasing is often a root of fear. If we came from a family where people didn’t manage their emotions with self-control, we may have taken on the role of peace keeper to help stabilize the home. We learned to people please as an adaptation to an unhealthy environment. If our personality lends to this, that makes us even more prone to trying to keep everyone calm and content. Ultimately, a root of fear can develop below the surface. We aren’t even aware of how driven we are to avoid the pain of rejection. Looking at these roots can be uncomfortable, but when we do, we open the door to growth and change.
How do we Change?
So, what can we do? If we fall into habits of people pleasing, they can feel as normal as breathing. Changing those ways of relating seems like holding our breath forever – not even possible. Plus, in order to grow, we are going to have to set some boundaries, express ourselves, and say, “no.” That will rock boats. People won’t all like our answers. We may face conflict.
Don’t worry. You can ease out of people pleasing bit-by-bit. You don’t have to jump into the deep end of the pool and become the person who posts controversial topics on social media and tells everyone “not today,” to every request. Take your time. Go slowly into this, but do commit to stepping out of what you’ve been doing into some new habits that will free you from the trap of people pleasing.
First of all, you have already taken a big step by acknowledging this is a concern for you.
God’s Love is the Antidote to People Pleasing
The most powerful thing you can do now is to switch your focus from being preoccupied about what others think of you to what God thinks and feels about you. God loves you as though you were His favorite. He cherishes everything about you. He laid down His life to bring you to Himself. Jesus is calling you now – to abide in the deep, unconditional love He has for you.
The more you practice believing in and receiving God’s love, the less your heart will long for and need the approval of others around you. Being rooted and grounded in God’s love is the antidote for people pleasing. When your heart is filled with God’s love, there’s just no room for condemnation or fear!
If you want to explore the difference between Christian service and codependent people pleasing, and to think through the discrepancy between peace making and peace keeping, check out the YouTube video.
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