Sound familiar? If you’re a people pleaser it will.
Hi, my name is Bonnie and I’m a *recovering* people pleaser.
Confession is the first step to recovery, right?!
I actually DO mind
I say I’m awful at making decisions, but I’m actually quite capable if the process involves only myself. But throw in other people and suddenly making simple choices or having a preference feels uncomfortable at best and painstakingly difficult at worst.
If I’m asked what I would like to do in a particular situation, I usually know perfectly well the answer, but my verbal response is given based on what I think everybody else would like. And if I can’t gauge this, the best option is to allow someone else to make the decision so that I can’t be held responsible for anybody missing out on their preference.
The truth, of course, is that I do have my own preferences, likes and dislikes, things that make me tick and quirks that make me me. I just don’t always own up to them. And that sometimes means I have to eat an ice cream flavour I don’t really like (I know, #firstworldproblems).
But more seriously, a whole life-time of making decisions based on pleasing other people could steer my life in a direction it was never meant to go, and I definitely do mind that.
(For the record, I’d pick chocolate every time, and more often than not I’m up for a chick flick/rom-com, or something based on a true story. And it must have a happy ending!)
I find it hard to admit I have needs
If my goal is to keep everyone around me happy, I feel anxious when they’re not. So I focus on being and doing what I think people need and want from me, pushing my own needs to the back of my mind.
To admit I need or want something is scary, because it comes with the risk of inconveniencing someone or clashing with what they might like. And ultimately, I do not want to be the cause of the slightest discomfort, annoyance or inconvenience to anyone.
But by failing to express my own needs in the name of ‘keeping everyone happy’, I am actually sabotaging the very thing I’m working so hard to protect: intimate, heart-to-heart connection.
Intimate relationships require two individuals who have the ability to give and receive. A huge part of this is being able to communicate needs openly – people are not mind-readers and we need to understand each others’ needs if we are going to meet them!
I find deep joy and satisfaction when I am able to love people in a way that directly meets what their heart needs. To pretend I have no needs is not only ridiculous, but denies others this same joy.
In changing my goal from pleasing others to connection, I am beginning to find the bravery to communicate my needs, opening the way for intimate, life-giving relationships to flourish.
I just really want you to like me
It’s not hard to figure out what’s at the core of people pleasing. As much as I genuinely want to love people well, meet the needs of those around me and live selflessly, I also want to be liked.
Somewhere in my subconscious I think ‘As long as I can keep people happy, they won’t reject me. They’ll like me…there won’t be any excuse for them not to.’
So there you have it. A fear of rejection. And deeper than that, a fear of not being good enough, just as I am. That me, on my own, without striving to do the right thing to please people, is not enough to keep people’s love. I guess people pleasing is a way of trying to control people’s love toward us.
It’s an exhausting and anxiety producing way to live.
I’d rather please God than you
The more I see this people pleasing thing in myself, the more I want to break up with it. It’s exhausting, it silences the powerful voice God has given me, it leads to a lack of fulfilment in relationships, and it carries with it the danger of losing myself and forgetting the unique, individual purpose I was created for.
But you know what’s good about this struggle? God has a redemptive plan to turn it to strength (like he does with all of our struggles!).
I believe when this thing is put under the light of God’s redemptive power, it actually becomes a gift (maybe it was always meant to be a gift). It comes with a strong ability to discern what people around us are feeling. When this is met with kindness and compassion, it becomes a powerful way to display the love of God.
I can use this gift to include others, reach out to the ones who are often over-looked; respond to people’s needs and love people in specific, personal ways that remind them of their value.
For this struggle to become my strength, I need to dive head first into the truth that I am unconditionally loved, cherished and adored by my Father in Heaven. I live for an audience of one – God, and have his full approval.
The praises of people will not build or sustain me – they can only affirm what I already know to be true from the words my Father speaks to my heart. Therefore, I am not reliant on people’s approval or affirmation, and can boldly follow the path God leads me on, no apologies.
Bonnie loves all things old-fashioned, exploring new places, coffee with friends and being with her family. She is passionate about broken hearts and relationships being restored through the power of vulnerability and honesty with God and others. She is the founder and director of Jolly Good Events, a social enterprise reviving the days of town hall dances to bring the local community together and raise funds for poverty alleviation projects. Bonnie has a Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies and a Master of International Public Health.
Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html
Bonnie loves travelling to experience and understand new cultures, beautiful things (especially flowers), coffee with friends and being with her family. She deeply values authenticity and is passionate about building meaningful community where people feel a sense of belonging and genuine love. Bonnie Dowie’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bonnie-dowie.html