“Hello, I’m Rachel and I am a recovering people pleaser.” I struggled with this for thirty years. Maybe struggle isn’t the word. Strived. I strived to please people for most of my life.

What is people pleasing? I define it as “tossing your life and feelings on the altar of ‘you matter more than me.'”

It will ruin years of your life if you don’t learn to readjust, because here’s the thing. You matter too!!

When you allow others to rule your relationships, your true self gets completely lost. It’s a huge doorway into your life for another person to step in and say, “I know what’s better for you then you do. I will control your life.” The other person rarely actually says that. Most of the time they are completely unaware that they are doing this. It can start out innocently. It is, “You are struggling in this. Here I can fix that. Let me tell you what’s best. Do what I advise. You need help here. No, you’re doing it wrong. That’s not the choice you need to make. What is wrong with you? You must be stupid.”

The other party responds with, “I am struggling. Why can’t I do this? But it doesn’t feel right like that. I’ll do it anyways because I love you and I don’t want you to leave. My gut says this, but I must be wrong. Why am I so stupid? What is wrong with me? I must need to do it like you said.” It’s just really easy to control a people pleaser, even if there is no vicious intent.

This could be in any type of relationship: parent/child, bff/bff, girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, pastor/congregant, boss/employee.

People Pleasing Attributes:

  • A tenderhearted, nurturing and helpful type of person that feels things deeply. For all of you helpful people that like to serve, cook, and take care of others, this can easily slip over into people pleasing if you aren’t careful!
  • Fear of Abandonment: I am scared to lose you. I will compromise to keep you happy and hope that you stay.
  • Avoiding conflict: I will yield to whatever you want because you are getting loud and angry. You get to trample on my needs and wants, because I would rather let you do that, and keep you happy, then lose you. (Goes back to that fear of abandonment)
  • Finds it difficult to say “no”: Was possibly taught that no was a disrespectful word. Saying “no” made the other person mad at you. “No” was the trigger word. No=anger=conflict=retreat=abandonment

God pleasing/ Healthy Self Attributes:

  • Serving and helping others is helpful in the right way and for a time, but never to the point of taking on the responsibility of someone else’s life.
  • I am never alone. No matter what happens, God will work this out for my good if I obey and trust Him. Even if I lose someone and it hurts, I will not die. I will be okay. It means they weren’t meant to walk this path with me. God will not withhold a good thing FOR me FROM me.
  • Healthy conflict is necessary and does not mean abandonment. Do not retreat from it. I repeat do NOT retreat! Stay calm and require honoring words and voice if the conversation is to continue.
  • No is not a bad word. Anyone who acts otherwise is trying to manipulate you.
  • You matter, but I matter too. A healthy relationship is both.
People Pleasing is such a prison. It moves you slowly down the road of not recognizing who you are anymore. You become a copy of another person.

Here is the kicker, the very people that are given permission to control your life and change who you are, typically don’t even love who THEY are. You become someone for them that they don’t even love (and they end up hating you too). It’s such a trap.

If you find yourself in this pattern, there are a couple of steps you can take to find freedom. Recognizing it is a huge first step. You can’t change anything that you don’t realize is happening. Do some soul searching to find out why you need to people please. Is it fear of abandonment, fear of abuse, the need to be loved? (Fear is a cruel dictator. Trust me, I know.) Once you are more aware of the issue, get outside help. Read the books. See a counselor. Talk to a pastor you trust.

Yes, it is hard to change a behavior, especially one that has been with you for decades. But replacing fear with God’s love and any lies with truth will get you there.

Freedom Fighter words:

  • My feelings and needs matter. I am loved.
  • I am only able to control myself.
  • I have no control over another’s behavior.
  • I do not control how anyone responds to a situation.
  • I do not control what they do or say about me.
  • I release them into the hands of God. I forgive them.
  • I will be authentically me no matter what others think.

Don’t quit going after freedom. If you want to live a life fully you and fully alive, you have to be free of people pleasing. You can do this! Fight Forward.

Need extra resources? Read, “Keep Your Love On,” “I Do Boundaries,” and “The Gifts of Imperfection.”

8 Comments

  1. I didn’t think you were writing a piece solely on ME! Uff. People-pleasing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. You hit the nail on the head with so many points. The one that has hit me the most was how we end up letting other people run our lives because of our people-pleasing. That happened with so many of my family relationships…and now those relationships are severed because I learned how to use my “voice” and not be controlled. I just never thought of it the way you explained it. I let them in…I opened that door. Such truth…Thank you for speaking on this. Sometimes (a lot of the time), we feel we’re alone in our feelings. You just showed me I’m not. Thank you for that…

    • You definitely aren’t alone! So many of us kind hearted people have struggled greatly in this. Hugs to you! I know it’s hard to lose people you love, even when you are doing what’s right for you.

  2. I’m a recovering people-pleaser, too. Mine was fear of conflict. I hate it! I have just started learning to not retreat, but it’s still hard! Love the title to this post!

  3. Thank you so much for this super helpful post! I too can struggle with people-pleasing. I felt really encouraged by your post. I know it’s a daily struggle and I liked how you talked about recognizing it as a first step. That is so important. Thank you for this post! I know it will help many!!

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