Self Portrait Series 12/52
Hi. I’m Abi, and I’m a people pleaser.
I know I’m not alone here. So many of us – especially those who come from traditional, morally conservative, religious upbringings – are people pleasers. My “disease to please” is in my blood; my parents, siblings, and even grandparents, ALL identify as people pleasers. And we’re all trying to break free from it. Because there’s no question that people pleasing is a flawed way to live.
Here’s why I’m desperate to ditch my people pleasing habit:
- It’s manipulative and dishonest.
- It keeps me from saying yes to the things that really drive me and make me a better person.
- It stops me from saying no to things that would disrupt my peace and edges out the space I have to offer service to others.
To be clear: I think there's a huge difference between being service-oriented and being a people pleaser.
Being service oriented = seeking to center your life on doing God’s will and creatively contributing to the greater good.
Being a people pleaser = thinking you know how others are seeing you and seeking their approval above all else.
I know at my core there’s a fine line between the two.
It's All About Intention
My highest self wants to offer help, add value, and enrich people's lives, motivated by love and the good feeling I get when I give freely. I want people to trust me and relate to me. I never want to hurt anyone. I want anyone who knows me to feel genuinely loved by me.
My selfish self, on the other hand, wants to give things to people so that they’ll think I’m great, so that I’ll look good on paper.
The trick is determining the difference, and that’s totally up to me and my integrity each time I have a choice before me. When a neighbor says, “Hey, Abi, can you watch my kids?” it's not just an automatic yes. The truly good thing to do in that moment is to assess whether a few hours of my time and care is something I’m able to offer to her freely, or if I'd only be saying yes so she would think I was a good neighbor. See the difference?
Here’s another example from today.
In 20 minutes, I have to go to an event. Do I want to go to this event?
No, I don't.
Am I going because the people that invited me are really nice and they're my friends and it would be great to see them?
Yes. But I’m really going because I’m a people pleaser.
I want these women to like me. I like them! I want them to know that I care about them. I'm showing up to their event, but I know in my gut that real love would look different than just attending their party. Real love from Abi to them would look like sending them a card or an email saying, “I really like you and think you’re awesome, here’s why.” Because time is expensive, and spending it at an event I don’t feel compelled to attend, feels wasteful to me. I know my friends aren’t asking me to waste my time, just like they wouldn’t ask me to waste any other resource on them.
We're In This Together
To be honest, I have a hunch that all of us are people pleasers at times – we all want something, right? There’s nothing wrong with saying yes to watching my neighbor’s kids because I know someday she’ll watch mine – that’s a fair trade! But in our heart of hearts, I think each of us knows that temptation to make ourselves small to the pressure of wanting to be liked, or not rocking the boat, or being seen as helpful, is different than showing up with integrity and being honest about what we can offer.
To be human is to want to connect with others - to deeply hope to be liked, to be loved, to be appreciated, to be trusted. But I know I don’t achieve that level of connection in my relationships when I just do whatever I think someone wants me to do.
There’s so much more to it, and I am really trying my best to break my habit of performing a task for someone so that they’ll like me or love me. When I live in people pleaser mode, I can feel myself giving away a little bit of my soul. It's going to be a challenging journey away from people pleasing. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But identifying the path I need to take forward to shed this unhealthy worldview is step one.
Love and heart-given service are my purpose in everything. I’d love to hear your experiences with overcoming people pleasing so I can borrow your wisdom. Please share!