7 Ways to Overcome Your People Pleasing Battles

My entry into people pleasing temptations began early in life. But I specifically remember the vortex of trying to make people happy pulling on me when I entered into pastoral leadership. Any pastor can tell you that the demand to people please in ministry can be intense. For most, it eats them alive. A small minority come out of the people pleasing vacuum emotionally healthy.

At every stage in ministry leadership, the need to please attacked in every way. In youth ministry, the need to please came about, not only with teens, but with well meaning parents. In music ministry, you are bombarded about everything from the style of music and volume of the sound system, to who should be lead singer and of course the color of the stage carpet.

People pleasing is an infectious disease that everyone has to confront. It impacts our marriages, friendships and every circle of relationship involvement, if we let it.

Don’t Be Mad at Me

I think the first round of people pleasing comes in with the thought of: hating the idea of people being mad at you. It hits at the core of most people’s hearts to think that someone doesn’t like who you are or a decision you have made. This discomfort taps into empty and insecure places, driving us to do things in attempts to fix situations, with the hopes that we can get people to “feel better” about us.

People pleasing will lead you to never rock the boat, speak your honest heart or at times, make solid decisions based on integrity, because avoiding making someone mad at you becomes the driving factor.

Those who people please, most likely never got unconditional love and acceptance in a fulfilling way, especially in formative years. Our self-esteem, which wasn’t built properly in childhood is now looking for validation out of making others happy. It leads us to become codependent in our relationships.

The OCD Component in People Pleasing

People pleasing is a habit that becomes an addiction, an obsessive force that can dictate your behaviors. In fact, because I struggled with OCD issues for years, how people felt about me became an obsessive subject that would not allow me to be at peace. If someone was not happy with me for any reason, I felt I needed to do something to fix that. If you are in any leadership capacity and you respond that way, it IS a recipe for disaster.

The obsession of people pleasing involves how much you think and ruminate over the relationship situation. The compulsion is the action you take to try and remedy it. Maybe you do extra things for a person, you may apologize a thousand times or you change your decisions relentlessly, based on what that other person would think of you. As a result you never speak about your needs or opinions, for fear you will get backlash.

Whatever your pathway, I think it’s important to recognize where you have become addicted to the need to please.

The Absence of Conflict Resolution

The driving force of people pleasing starts with insecure areas of your heart. But it becomes further chained by the fear of man and the fear of conflict.

People pleasing will continue to grow if we do not learn how to engage conflict resolution. It’s the arena that everyone runs from… like fear of the plague. But in order to put people pleasing behind you, there are times you will need to face conflict and allow it to grow you.

In those moments of conflict, you learn how to love people that are difficult but more importantly you have an opportunity to mature the issues of your heart and enhance how you do relationships.

Sadly, we often plateau at this point and we work to totally avoid any conflict. Which then creates more suspicion, division and unnecessary strife. 

Non People Pleasers Change the World

People who do not live to please others still have struggles, they just don’t feed the people pleasing monster. For a healthy overcoming believer, they learn to make what God says and thinks the highest value, even though it may be a struggle to drown out the people pleasing voice.

If you live to please people, you cannot love them the way God designed you to. Love does not always treat people the way they want. Many times, you have to speak the truth in love and loving someone may mean you need to lovingly confront. Loving decisions may not be what another person wants, but it is still the right thing to do.

To change the world, you have to rock the boat at times. There’s no way that Peter could stand up on the day of Pentecost and declare what he said if the people pleasing monster was a driving force. Jesus would never accomplish His mission if He was hyper-aware of what others thought of Him. He would not be able to look at the Pharisees and call them a “brood of vipers.”

I have learned that if I am afraid of you, I can’t love you the way God wants me too. I will become more preoccupied with keeping you happy, rather than being a vessel empowerment for your life.

Discerning People Pleasing in Your Life

I have an article that lays out some simple signs that you have people pleasing in your life.

Article Link: Ten Signs You Are a People Pleaser

Loss of Identity

People pleasers have a deep emptiness in who they are, so they seek to find peace by keeping people happy. They don’t know who they are, so they end up immersing themselves in the identity of helping others, doing for others and pleasing others.

They pride themselves in being a helper, but deep down inside, they are highly unfulfilled and empty. As a result of being disconnected from their identity, they have become lost in a sea of meeting the needs of someone else; often at the detriment to their own needs. You lose a sense of enjoyment and fulfillment, because you are in a slave mode. You lose who you are. Then at the end of the day, the absolute joy of life gets sucked out of you.

So what do we do to get ourselves free from people pleasing? Here are some important things to work through:

1. Recognizing Codependency

If you recognize any shred of people pleasing in your life, you will have to address the issue of codependency in your life. It is the virus that creeps up whenever we attach our sense of worth and love to another person. When codependency leads you into people pleasing, you put someone else’s desires and needs ahead of your own all the time. You lose the ability to share about your own needs. This can happen in marriage, friendship, business and church environments.

I didn’t realize how much I was codependent in certain relationships. It masked itself for so long, but recognizing it set my heart free to be myself, learn who I really was and be free in my decision making.

Codependency trains us to avoid conflict at every turn. The goal becomes, “don’t rock the boat.” Another person or group being upset with you hits you at the core of your identity. Remember, in your identity, there is a deep emptiness that needs to be fulfilled in God’s love and truth.

Not only can you heal people pleasing by driving out codependency. All your relationship patterns can be rebooted into healthy patterns.

2. Heal Your Parental Wounds

People pleasing trends begin in our parental relationships. There is usually a parent whose attention, affection and love you craved the most. So you had to “perform or become something” with an attempt to please that parent. You may have never received it or realized that is what you had to do for acceptance, so this people pleasing monster keeps traveling with you.

3. Recognize that People Pleasing Fuels Idolatry

Having an idol in your life means something is in the way of God being your source. People pleasing births a form of idolatry in our lives, because it makes what someone else thinks, more important that what God truly thinks about you.

You may need to renounce the idolatry that tunes you into a codependent connection to someone, where you look to what they think to fuel your self-worth.

4. Untangle from the Voice of Guilt

Guilt is a majorly BIG driving force when it comes to people-pleasing. It camouflages and counterfeits as though it IS the voice of discernment, the Holy Spirit or a good conscious. But it’s deception!

Most Christians follow the voice of guilt, which usually sounds like, “Well…I just feel bad.” The moment you take a healthy stand or make a decision to move into a healthier direction, guilt will pull you back into the old people pleasing patterns.

5. Re-establish where you look to receive love, approval and acceptance.

You have to rewire where you look to receive love. Acceptance, validation, affirmation and approval, all need to be fueled by what God says. The source of what  you look to needs to be taken off that person or crowd, to allow God to fill that place. This is where we have to dig deeper in our journey, tune into God’s Word and allow our hearts to lean into His love.

The good news is there is nothing we can do to make God love us more or less. In His world, there is no need to please, perform or live under constant pressure.

Video: Understanding Acceptance, Validation, Affirmation and Approval

6. Do business with the fear of man.

When the Bible says the “fear of man is a snare” (Prov. 29:25), God is teaching us that being worried about what people think or constantly being driven by what people think is a total trap. But this snare does not start suddenly. It sneaks in and builds its ammunition slowly. Then overtime, you can become overwhelmed by the fear factor in your life.

Recommended Resource: I Will Not Fear

Personally, I have gone through about 4-5 major stages of being delivered from the fear of man. At each level of growth in your life, you will have to face it. Those moments propelled me into new levels.

Keep in mind, when you get free of people pleasing, the goal is not to become a rude, obnoxious and disrespectful person. You fall into a whole new problem when you do that.

The greatest fruit is when you are no longer cluttered with the thoughts, perceptions and pulling of what everyone thinks. Your mind gets cleared up to think about other things as you take your peace and enter into the rest of God. You get more centered and grounded to follow what God says and live from His approval.

As you gain freedom, you are able to truly love people, because fear no longer becomes the dominant motivator in your life.

The freedom from people pleasing includes resting in the simplicity of God’s love for who you are as His child. Every day, this needs to be rehearsed and established in your heart, otherwise it can be easy for old people pleasing patterns to arise.

7. Starve the Impulse to Please

People pleasing is an addiction; a false way we strive to experience love and validation, but it’s a shallow and fruitless way to live, leaving us in a perpetual cycle of emptiness.

There will come a point in time where someone is not happy with you, they don’t agree with you or maybe they don’t even like you. But you will need to starve the compulsion to go do something to fix them, to make them see you in a better life. You have to let that go.

As you starve the compulsion to please others, you will need to let yourself learn what it means to be loved as a child of God. You don’t have to please others to be safe and loved.

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