Confessions of a Recovering People Pleaser

I’ll say it...I’ve been a people pleaser for as long as I can remember. In fact, there is not a moment of my life that I can think of where I have not wanted people to be happy with me. Now, that’s not a terrible thing, don’t get me wrong. Yet, people pleasing is something that has horrific effects on your mental health, and that is exactly what it got me, horrific results. 
A people pleaser is someone who cares a lot about whether other people like him or her, and always wants others to approve of his or her actions.

Through the years, more recent than distant, I’ve become what I call a “Recovering People Pleaser”. By that, I mean that I have realized the error of my ways, yet I still struggle with this more times than not. It’s not a switch you can just turn off. If we’re being honest, and if you know how I feel, you will agree that when you begin the process of self care and healing, it can seem, to you, selfish. I genuinely love people...a lot! I genuinely want the best for folks. This is one reason I neglected myself for so long, because the thought of making sure I was taken care of was so contrary to making sure everyone else was. The Bible even tells us to count others more significant than ourselves. Is there a way to do that while still making sure you are not allowing yourself to be abused, walked on, stressed out, and mistreated, and not becoming a door mat, a relentlessly depressed man, a woman who walks around with crippling anxiety, or a liar who has destroyed trust? Oh yeah, all while having the absolute best of intentions?!?

Confession 1: I allowed it. Yep, it was my own fault. All the pain that was caused because of my relentless pursuit of other people being happy with me was self inflicted. I’m learning the power and importance of personal boundaries in my current season of life. There’s a weird thing that happens when you have zero boundaries, and that is that you have zero respect...both from anyone else or for yourself. My pursuit of approval left me wide open. And all the abuse, stress, mistreatment, self denial, and everything else just got pushed down over and over, therefore causing me to erupt with this awful anger. Anger is another funny thing. My counselor told me just the other day that “anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well, and with kindness. Your anger is the part of you that loves you.” That stopped me in my tracks. Cause I could look back over YEARS of my life where I had taken out my anger on other people, and it was always right around the same time me as a person was being violated by someone I was trying to get approval from. So, where do boundaries belong? Right about the place where you start feeling that anger kick in. Right before that place where you allow yourself to be violated. Place the boundary. And then, protect and enforce those boundaries. The people we talk about at the end of this blog will love you for it.

Confession 2: I became it. I became this person that I didn’t even like. But, was I going to do anything about it? No, because “so and so” may have something to say or may not like it. First thing I became was anxious. I carried with me the fear that I would upset someone or mess up something. 99.9999999% of the time that anxiety was completely unfounded and unnecessary. And the other .00000001% of the time, the situation I found myself in was warranted and still didn’t need anxiety.

Then, I became a door mat. I’d do anything and everything for those I was trying to get approval from. My needs, thoughts, feelings, family, responsibilities, and everything else got put on the back burner, all the while everyone else’s were the main things.

That led me to become a liar. Why? Cause I could not stand anyone being upset or disappointed in me. So, my wife would ask me if I did something? My answer was yes, knowing good and well that I had not. Work buddies questioned me on something? Sure...let’s hide that too. Friends asked me to help them do something or with a project? YES! Knowing I was going to regret that “yes” later or I was already too overloaded with tasks and responsibilities. So what happens? I get found out. The truth comes out. I miss deadline after deadline because I over promised and under delivered. So, now, trust is broken. All the while, had I just said no, owned my mistake, told the truth, or just fessed up...then I may make someone a tad perturbed with me but I’d still have the ever so valuable trust. And that’s when I learned that integrity always wins.

Then the sheer lack of trust...well...that just flat out led me deeper into depression.

Confession 3: I was wrong. I was selfish. While my intentions I thought were good, they were still self serving. People pleasing was something I did to fill a hole. A hole inside of me that I didnt know how to fill. So why not fill it with what I love, right? I love people. So if people are happy with me, then therefore I find value and I find hope and I find fulfillment and I find joy, yet, because of what I became (mentioned above) that hole in me just got deeper and deeper and emptier and emptier. Notice the focus of that entire reality? Yeah, it was I and ME. Self serving NEVER works and NEVER fills the voids, no matter how selfless it may look. The present, wrapped a pretty bow, still is a lump of coal. My “good intentions”, to love people well, to help folks, to never say no, to always be available, to give, and give, and give, and give some more, got me nothing but separation from the ones who loved me for me.

BOOM! Wait, what did I just say? Did I just say that people loved me for me? People didn’t want anything from me? People didn’t need me? People didn’t give two craps about my issues or past or anything else? There were those few around me that didn’t expect ANYTHING out of me? Oh yeah, they were there. They were right there all along the way. But my People Pleasing just hurt them because they didn’t want my pleasing, they just wanted...wait for it…….me. And all they asked from me was for me to just be the me that God made me to be. Not the me that I thought people wanted me to be. The honest me. The fun me. The caring me. The vulnerable me. The genuine me. And today, those people far outweigh and exponentially outnumber anything that people pleasing ever got me. Funny how that works isn’t it?

-Trey
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