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I love searching the Internet and diagnosing myself. A very dangerous pastime, I know! After reading, the article "15 Signs You're a People-Pleaser" by Psychology Today, I recognize that I have displayed ALL 15 at some point in my life and I’ve come to a life-changing realization.
Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m a recovering approval addict. Ok, that’s a lie. Let me try this again.
Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m addicted to your approval. Ok. This is more accurate according to my self-diagnosis using the Internet 😂
Oh wow! I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Now that it's out in the open, here is how I came to this realization.
At some point during my childhood, I developed an addiction to approval that has carried over into adulthood. There was no pivotal moment. It was just a series of events throughout my life. We learn very quickly as children that if we get good grades, make the team, help others, do everything that is expected, then people will be pleased with us. When they are pleased with us, we feel good and because it feels good we are inclined to keep working towards that feeling. Anne Hathaway said “There is something very addictive about people-pleasing. It’s a thought pattern and a habit that feels really, really, good until it becomes desperate.” When each of our decisions and actions is seeking that feeling, is when we know we are addicted to approval.
So how did I become a people-pleaser? I realized early on that my mother was not a very happy woman. Experiencing trauma in her own life caused her hurt and pain that led to unforgiveness that she wouldn’t surrender to God in exchange for healing. I just remember never doing anything right. I remember being overly corrected all the time and I could feel how annoyed and frustrated she was when we weren’t meeting her expectations. I remember my father trying to make her happy too. But no matter what we did, sadness, anger, and unforgiveness would always return to her life like an unwanted house guest. The rejection I felt as a child carried over into adulthood, rearing its ugly head when I least expected. Thank goodness for the continuous healing power of Jesus🙌🙌
Here is the thing about rejection. It never really is about you. The person inflicting the rejection is acting from a place of rejection themselves. The rejection my mother felt from her father was the same rejection, my grandfather felt from his mother. And there you have it, a pattern of rejection. We all have different responses to difficulties in our lives. My father, on the other hand, was a people-pleaser as well. Always trying to make her happy. Fear and anxiety led him to act the way he did because he had experienced rejection in his life. He never really elaborated on his story but he did tell me that as a kid, his biological father would leave for weeks and sometimes months at a time. Until one day he never came back. He told me he would wait, looking out the window of his apartment building hoping to see his father come home one day. His response to rejection was people-pleasing because people stay when they are pleased with you. Unfortunately, this is the lie we tell ourselves. Always trying to avoid conflict, he never wanted anyone to dislike him and it made it hard for him to say no.
Though these aren’t bad characteristics, when you do them all the time, they become detrimental in your life. You become so unbalanced that all you do is focus on the needs of others while neglecting your own. The rejection caused me to do what my dad did. It caused me to work harder, strive harder, and accomplish more but not necessarily for myself. I feared what people would think about me if I told them no. But if I’m really honest with myself and you, I still have that fear of disappointing others because, to a people-pleaser, their disappointment means personal rejection. My people-pleasing tendencies sometimes cause me to apologize for being who I am, just in case, who I am is not good enough for them.
You’re probably thinking, “But Jessica you’re a pastor!” Yes, I am. But no one is exempt from troubles and heartache. I live in a sinful world and we are all sinful people. But there is good news for me and you. We don’t have to worry because God came to overcome the world with all its troubles and heartache (John 16:33).
We all have a choice when we experience hurt, pain, rejection, and trauma. We either choose to live like a victim of that pain or we choose to walk in victory, knowing that with God’s help we can overcome. Growing up in church, I knew the power of God. I understood that there was a greater purpose for me and I loved the Lord. I never had to be convinced that there was a God or that He loved me. I wish my mother could have felt His love for her. It was hard for her to understand that He is a loving Father because her father was just the opposite. On the other hand, my father understood that though his biological father walked away from him, our Heavenly Father will NEVER leave us or forget us.
If you asked me, if I believe people-pleasing is a sin, I would say, yes. Why? Because the Bible says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24a, NLT). Either you love God OR you love the world. Either y
ou stand in your identity in Christ OR you stand on the identity the world has given you. Either you live your life to please Jesus OR you live your life to please the world. I love when Paul writes in Galatians 1:10 (NLT), “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.” Simply, he is saying “if I cared about pleasing people, then I wouldn't be serving God.” Isn’t that what we all should be saying?
So what has God been teaching me about breaking this addiction to people-pleasing?
He taught me that people didn’t die on the cross for my sins. Only Jesus did that. There is one relationship that is truly like no other. Since our relationship with Jesus is life-transforming, and there is no other like it, then why do we care about the opinions of others? They didn’t make the only sacrifice that matters.
Their opinion doesn’t affect where I spend eternity, therefore it doesn’t matter. Harsh? Well, we have to be to break this addiction.
He taught me to refuse to be defined by people. God knows who you are. He created you exactly the way you are. When we choose not to believe who God says we are, what we are really saying is that we don’t trust God. If you say we trust God, then we will walk confidently knowing who He created us to be. Claim what His Word says about you! Read the verses listed in the GOD’S TRUTH section below to begin telling yourself what God says about you every 👏single👏 day!
He taught me when I’m tempted to please people, surrender to Him. In her book, "Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction" Dawn Owens writes, “Even as a recovering addict, you will never be completely immune to the desire for approval from others. God has designed us all with a need for approval, but He allows us to choose whether we seek it from Him or from man” (Owens, 2018). For us to overcome our need for approval, we must surrender that desire to be a people-pleaser to God by acknowledging every👏 single👏 day that God is, and will always be, in control.
That’s really hard but that’s why the Bible says “Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him” (1 Chronicles 16: 11, NLT). The keyword is continually, at all times, without stopping, at every moment! That is the only way we can live in a world full of sin, is to constantly remain connected to the Father.
Take some time to reflect and journal about the questions below. Look up the verses and let God speak to you!
SHARE what God is doing in your life in the comments. If you LOVE this post, SHARE with your friends on social media!
GROWTH THROUGH SELF-REFLECTION
Do you desire for everyone to like you?
Are you afraid to say no, even when you don’t have the time or resources to complete the favor?
When you make a decision, do you ask 10 people for their advice before you make a decision?
What is driving you to please others?
Has your opinion about yourself been formed by other’s opinions of you?
What do you think about yourself?
What do you think God says about you?
Do you want to stop being a people-pleaser? Because if you don’t want to stop, then you will continue to be a slave to others.
If you want to stop being a people-pleaser, what are some things that you are doing now that are solely to make others happy?
How can you treat yourself better?
GOD’S TRUTH - Who you are in Christ
1 John 3: 3
Ephesians 1: 1, 6
John 1: 12
John 15: 14
Romans 8: 1, 17
1 Corinthians 6: 17, 19
I Corinthians 12: 27
Colossians 1: 14
Colossians 2: 10
Colossians 3: 12
2 Corinthians 5: 17
2 Corinthians 1: 21
2 Timothy 1: 7
2 Corinthians 6: 1
Ephesians 2: 6
John 15: 16
1 Peter 2: 5
2 Peter 1: 4
Hebrews 13: 5
Philippians 2: 1
James 1: 5