A Recovering People Pleaser

I kept asking God what I should write about this week and nothing was bubbling to the surface over the past few days. I feel much of my creativity has been sucked away by my overbearing news intake. I must admit, I’ve gone from a man who seldom watched television to one who is glued amidst this pandemic. The ripple effect to the economy has required me to pay substantially more attention than I’d like, given the slew of fresh headlines coming from all angles minute by minute, and the ensuing impact to my full time job. Finally something came to me after asking God again yesterday afternoon- a blog post solely attributed to me as a people pleaser– past and present.

You’d have to revisit some of my earliest posts from last summer to get the full grasp of my childhood wounds. What I can tell you is that I was conditioned to be a people pleaser at a very young age. I needed to please adults to ensure my safety. I needed to portray an external world that was often different from my internal one. Smiling, even when sad, was safer. Striving for perfection at school, playing sports and at home were the easiest routes to remain unseen, which was also safer. I learned early and often the benefit of understanding emotional intelligence. I learned how to read people, because if I didn’t read a situation correctly it often ended poorly for me. I developed a shell early on that carried into adulthood to avoid showing any emotional hurts or hangups. I developed defense mechanisms to avoid permitting anyone getting close enough to hurt me again. Yet something about me never changed, that PULL to never let others down. That horrible gut wrenching sensation when someone was upset with me, whether it was warranted or not. That desire to keep my external world peaceful and happy, regardless of any turmoil felt within.

Why write about people pleasing amidst this chaotic pandemic time? Simple- amidst turmoil many react from childlike places. I have to hold back the people pleaser within much more in an environment comprised of others’ panic and hostility, which has been much more prevalent these past few weeks (understandably). I have to remember that others having peace amidst this virus isn’t my responsibility, and would be impossible for me to shoulder. I have to remain steadfast that I am only responsible for my reaction to their reactions. Let’s take it back…

I learned some hard lessons over the past few years, one of which was the need to heal some early wounds which created a monster within- my people pleaser. To be clear- there is a major difference in showing grace, lending a hand, holding space for others and doing nice things verses being a full blown people pleaser. Anyone who gets that proverbial gut punch whenever someone is upset (assuming it’s always directed at us) knows what I mean. Anyone who misses a call and automatically fears the worst outcome can relate. Anyone who automatically reads most situations through a lens of worry and anxiety over logic and reason know the feeling. I spent the majority of my life living with a constant underlying anxiety until forced healing began a few years ago. The people pleaser could’ve killed me if changes weren’t made; a life trying to please everyone all the time can only lead to the destruction of self.

Imagine waking up every day and needing loved ones to express happiness in order to feel happy within. Imagine carrying the burdens of others when they don’t ask, or even when it’s not your place to do so. Imagine trying to fix anything and everything for everyone, simply to chase internal happiness. Imagine having your own triggers that impact the way you live daily life, yet also shouldering everyone else’s because you crave their positive attention. Imagine a life simply seeking one temporary pleasure after another because true JOY has been missing for longer than you care to admit. Imagine a life seeking applause from others as the your main barometer of self-worth. You’re imagining the everyday life of a people pleaser.

You’re imagining decades of my life…

A friend told me about a verse once and I’ve written about it before:

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” -Galatians 1:10

Umm, yeah- those are pretty powerful words written by the Apostle Paul. I think that verse should be flashed before every people pleaser multiple times each day as a reminder of our purpose, which is NOT constantly trying to please others. Being a people pleaser is a learned trait, typically during adolescence. This is an environmental behavior that if not corrected can create major headwinds in life. I lived this life for years without realizing that it wasn’t normal. I remember always assuming the worst in situations, with no real rationalization as to why. What an unfortunate roller coaster of daily emotions. I wouldn’t wish going back to my old skewed mindset around trying to perform and please others on anyone. I pray anyone else reading this who relates to what I’ve described above will take this post to heart. I pray you can OVERCOME your people pleaser parts and subsequently find more JOY in life.

I’m all about chasing JOY now. I’m all about SURRENDERING to God now. One way I SURRENDER is by asking God to help me remember that putting him first cannot coincide with people pleasing. Validation doesn’t come from others, it can TRULY only come from God. We are living in unprecedented times given what’s going on with COVID-19. People are constantly being triggered in their own ways. Emotions are running high. Often times a more selfish version arrises within our species when fear creeps in, and fear is running rampant. We all come from different backgrounds and therefore carry our own perspectives, wounds, and triggers into this current pandemic. I realize I cannot shoulder the responsibility of keeping those around me at peace amidst this crisis, or any other time for that matter. My job is to align with The Source of peace, who lives within me. More than ever I need to visit God’s shelter as this storm rages around the globe. My trigger of trying to please those around me must remain suppressed, which means extra work on my end in times like this. The verse above serves as an incredible reminder of my purpose- a relationship with God himself. All other purpose, all other direction, all things GOOD will flow from me serving Him first, not others.

God first, NOT people.

The people pleaser in me is slowly being SURRENDERED. I am a work in progress, and that’s okay. I realize this life is about the journey of recognizing my need for God, then making a choice to move toward Him, and ultimately deepening my relationship with Him over time. I’ve come to the conclusion that God comes first. I then submit that self-love comes next, as only when I love myself can I truly love anyone else. I also submit that the absence of self-love portrays a less than ideal connection with God, who created us in the first place. When blessed with a deepening love with God and myself, then I’m equipped to outwardly share love with a true servant’s heart. Nowhere in this journey do I accept the role of people pleasing, this role is conditioned, formed by the enemy, and results in emptiness.

God first, not people. Regardless of what’s going on in the world around us we can work to recover from triggers. Sometimes when chaos ensues we people pleasers crave making everything and everyone better. Yet a form of SURRENDERING is realizing that only God is big enough and capable enough to handle many things- including the world today. My job is trusting Him instead of trying to control, which is ultimately what people pleasing is.

One prominent condition of mine WAS being a people pleaser, yet not anymore. Are you triggered in some way by the current global pandemic? What bubbles up when you’re afraid or uncertain? Perhaps, you’re recovering from old wounds already? Here’s my advice- I bet God can help, as He is certainly helping me!

I SURRENDER this virus and all impact to God! -AMEN

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