Hello – my name is Caitlyn and I am a recovering people-pleaser.
Meaning that my actions, if I am not careful, can easily be motivated by my desire to please others – or, more specifically, my desire to be liked by other people.
I can’t exactly pinpoint where the root of people-pleasing started in my life. I know that I have always been a hard-worker and grew up learning about the importance of staying true to my word, loving others well, and remaining loyal and forgiving – even in the toughest seasons. But in regard to explaining exactly where the idea of “loving others well” transitioned to “be what others want you to be so that you are liked by them” came from – I just don’t know. I don’t know where this somewhat toxic mentality started, but I do know that somedays I wish it would just end.
I’m writing this post because I am currently in a transition out of the draining people-pleasing mentality and into the (somewhat scarier) acceptance of who I am and who I was made to be around others. There is a huge difference between acting to please people and acting to please the Lord. People-pleasing is so tricky because it appears to be selfless, but is actually self-seeking.
So let’s unpack this a little bit, friends.
1. People love people-pleasers.
No, seriously. One of the reasons why it is so hard for me to break the habit of always looking to please other people is because other people love to be pleased. I guess you could say that a positive thing about the people-pleasing mentality is that other people usually like you if you are a people-pleaser. Why? Well, people-pleasers don’t say no. They will say yes until their hearts are worn and they have stress acne from their over commitments. They will say yes to make someone else happy even if it means sacrificing a little piece of themselves.
I’ve been there. It is the most insecure and exhausting place to be.
But other people love this about people-pleasers. People-pleasers will give you the shirt off their back, the shoes off their feet, and the gas out of their own vehicle. They will drop everything to help you. They are reliable. They are generous. They make you feel good when they are around because they have learned the art of telling other people exactly the things that they want to hear. They are likable and they would like to keep it that way.
2. People-Pleasers Don't Love Themselves.
I understand that this is an extremely bold statement to make, so let me make it more personal – when I am in people-pleaser mode, I do not love myself.
Heck, I barely even know myself when I am stuck in people-pleaser mode. I used to change who I was (and am still guilty of this at times) based on who I was around. This is the complete opposite of what I wanted to do – and I hated myself for doing it – but I felt like I had to act a little different around different crowds in order to be liked by those crowds.
When I am in people-pleasing mode, I feel like I never can measure up. News flash: it is impossible to please every single person on this earth. It is an act of self-sabotage to constantly concern myself with other’s opinions of who I am (especially when the people I am usually concerned about are those who don’t have any sort of mass impact on my life).
I matured out of some of my people-pleasing ways when I was in college, but have felt a fresh wave of all the people-pleasing strategies come back to me as I’ve entered into the young professional life. Making my residents at work happy is literally my job, and I have to be super careful about the way that I approach that enormous responsibility. Yes, I can do my best to add to their quality of life, but no – it is not my responsibility to please each of them with every decision I make. Becoming consumed with that goal will drain me and leave me feeling worthless because of placing my worth in the wrong area.
3. Isn't People-Pleasing A Good Thing?
Generosity, love, compassion, joy, selflessness – aren’t each of these attributes incredible things that most Christians strive for?
Yes – absolutely. These are fruits of the spirit that shine beautifully through the those who are truly the Lord’s followers (and through some people who do not follow Christ). But do not confuse genuine faith with good deeds that are rooted in a desire to be likable.
My people-pleasing attitude is rooted in insecurity. I have always been naturally shy and introverted – meaning that if you truly know me, then you have managed to crack the impossible shell that I tend to put around myself. Is this shell for protection? Am I scared of what others will think of me? Am I afraid of getting hurt? Probably a mixture of all these things, but this is how God created me and I am tired of being ashamed of that.
I used to be so consumed with the opinions of others. What will she think of me if I say ________? What will they do if I wear ________? If I try something new and it fails, what will ________ have to say about it? People-pleasing, people-pleasing, people-pleasing. Sometimes I would be so afraid of my actions upsetting other people that I would choose to not act at all. People-pleasing is not a good thing – even if the fruit of that attitude may appear good at first glance.
4. The God-Pleasing Mentality.
The Lord and I have wrestled with my people-pleasing struggle for a hot minute, y’all. He is teaching me every single day just how important it is for me to fix my eyes on His truth about who I am instead of other’s opinions of who they think I should be. He is the only one who truly knows my heart, my struggles, my intentions, my desires. He is the only one who can set my path straight.
The difference between people-pleasing and God-pleasing is that the people-pleasing mentality tells me to put my worth in other human’s affirmations or praise (woooo I still struggle with this) while the God-pleasing mentality tells me to seek to please my Heavenly Father without worry of what my neighbors may think or say. Yes, we are called to love other people the way Jesus loved, but we are not called to lose ourselves in an attempt to make everyone around us happy. Oh, how this convicts me – how I desire so deeply to be so consumed with the Lord’s affirmations that I don’t think twice about what other’s say of me.
I am definitely still in the process of choosing to glorify God even if that means I let a human brother or sister down. Sometimes I have to say no to the little things so that I can say yes to the bigger things that the Lord has in store for me. Sometimes I have to say no to pleasing others so that I can say yes to loving myself well. God is teaching me how to be okay with other people thinking that I am not doing the best because I say no sometimes. God is teaching me how to focus on Him when I feel like the world keeps saying that I could be doing more. Let’s kick this people-pleasing mentality in the butt, friends. God is waiting for us to fix our eyes on Him instead of others.
Here’s a little reminder that I want to start to tell myself in the morning –
“I was not put on this earth to please other people.
I was put on this earth to love my God with all my heart and to love others well.
The way I love may not make everyone happy, but it will glorify the Lord.
May I fix my focus on what He says about me today instead of worrying about what other’s may be thinking.”
Do you struggle with the people-pleasing mentality? I would love to hear about your favorite verses or strategies to help overcome this. Please drop a comment below:
You are beautiful, chosen, forgiven, and loved. You are uniquely and wonderfully made – the Lord knows this fully well. It’s time to start embracing it.
Present Over Perfect
I 10/10 recommend this book for any of you who may be struggling with saying no. It taught me so much about embracing imperfection and living a life I am proud of. You can find the book on Amazon here