By Theresa Boedeker
Are you a people pleaser? Perhaps you were raised to be one, or you received more benefits when you were. Have you thought about what motivates you to try and win the good approval of others and please them to your own detriment?
Were you raised to be a people pleaser?
I was raised to be a people pleaser.
Or more exactly, to please mom. And then to please others, because that made mom and the family look good.
I grew up with few boundaries when it came to pleasing others or saying no. I was taught to not be selfish. Die to self? Put others first; myself last?
This message for women was encouraged and praised by our cultish church.
But it didn’t lead to healthy boundaries, realistic self or life expectations, or a pattern of doing and earning that could be sustained.
Is there a good side to being a people pleaser?
People pleasing can be good. Who doesn’t like to do something that makes another person happy? Or be on the receiving end?
My daughter and her little cuties love scones. When I visit, I often make and bring scones. We take a midafternoon break and eat split scones piled high with whipped cream and jam.
Smiles break out on our faces and our hands and lips get sticky. Seeing them happy cheers my heart.
We serve a God who is not stingy. He delights in pleasing us and gives more good gifts than we deserve or can fathom. Gifts we don’t have to earn.
Shouldn’t we imitate him?
What’s behind being a people pleaser?
The problem with most people pleasing lies with the motivation:
- Fearing looking bad or experiencing people’s disapproval
- Wanting to be well regarded
- Desiring to fit in
- Feeling guilt or backed into a corner
- Not wanting to appear selfish
- Afraid to tell the truth
- Trying to avoid feelings of shame
- Thinking it’s your job to make others happy
- Not wanting to experience messy emotions from others
When guilt, shame, and fear are the underlying motivations for people pleasing, then our yeses are not helping them or ourselves.
If we say yes and then feel used, angry, and bitter this is not healthy for others or ourselves.
We need to be motivated by love.
God’s actions and decisions are motivated by love. He doesn’t give us everything we want, because he loves us and knows it would not be helpful to us.
He isn’t a genie granting our desires without thinking about the consequences for us and others.
God never tells us to love others to the exclusion of ourselves. Or love God to the exclusion of others. We are to be grounded in a trinity of love. Love for God, others, and ourselves.
Jesus did not seek the approval of others. He sought his father’s approval. He did not appease the religious leaders or disciples. His decisions, often seen as unfair and unpopular, were based upon love.
Being motivated by love makes all the difference.
Acting in love can also mean doing hard things.
Being motivated by love is not always easy or popular.
- It can be telling a loved one no because it would be enabling them.
- It can be setting boundaries and consequences that make you unpopular.
- It can be forcing yourself to keep your word or finish something you started.
- It can be serving someone because God tells you to do it.
- It can be making hard choices that keep you up at night.
When we are serving God over people and motivated by God’s approval over the approval of others, it is easier, because we have only one master. Not multiple masters we are trying to please.
Because Jesus focused on pleasing his Father, he didn’t feel the need to defend himself to the religious leaders, his disciples, and others. He was confident, not doubting himself. Their opinion held little value.
While we will never get to the point that we are not swayed by doubt, guilt, and fear, we can be swayed less when we are motivated by love and seeking God’s will and the best for ourselves and others.
We can learn to say yes and no, not based on fear, shame, guilt, or what the person will do and think, or how we want to appear to others, but instead based on love. Genuine love for them, ourselves, and God.
Being motivated by love releases us from the painful and unhealthy cage of pleasing people.
Wife Step: How can you be motivated by godly love instead of guilt, fear, and shame?
Theresa Boedeker has been married to her husband, her complete opposite, for over 30 years. They live in the Midwest and have two children, 15 years apart, and a few grandkids. Theresa daily hunts for humor and tries to bring forth laughter from others. She is passionate about helping women smash lies with God’s truth. Overcome shame. Learn to laugh at life and themselves. Notice God’s love and grace. And not be afraid of making mistakes. She unwraps life and faith at TheresaBoedeker.com. When she is not writing, she enjoys doing creative things like cooking, making jewelry, and taking photos of flowers (they never run from the picture).