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For the People Pleasers

People pleasing.

Did you know that it is one of the most common behavioral patterns in people who can’t seem to manage and maintain a healthy lifestyle? People pleasers really do stand out from most people. They’re extremely nice. You can always depend on them to help out. They actually spend more of their time helping others than doing things for themselves. They are definitely someone most people would want in their lives

People pleasing stems from a history of relationships built around conditional love; perhaps from a parent or close ‘friend’. There are two mentalities that come with this. The first is Fear of Rejection. It’s a state of “If I do everything I can to make them happy, maybe they won’t leave me”. The second is Fear of Failure. This state of mind is one that says “If I mess up, they won’t love me anymore”. This typically spawns in those with overly critical parents. These false realities are both dark, and horrifying. 

Because of the constant stress and depletion that is put on your body by always helping other people, there are some pretty harsh consequences. 

The first is obvious: self-neglect. Self-neglect can be dangerous because of how it can not only affect your mental state, but also your physical body. Self-neglect can give you a false sense of justification for not going on that hiking trip that you know you would enjoy, or not sticking with your workout plan, or eating poorly to manage your busy schedule of helping other people. You tell yourself that it is OK you aren’t doing those things for yourself because you are helping out so many other people with their problems and, after all, that’s what people value in a friend. “No one would ever leave someone who is such a good friend” you might tell yourself. You can see how dangerous this can be.

The second is internal rage or passive aggression. This can reveal itself in several ways. Usually, it’s from a feeling of under appreciation. Say you have a friend who always comes to you for help. Over time, they stop thanking you for your help and start only talking to you when they need your help. They have you pegged as the ‘helpful friend’. They may never give you more than a ‘Thank you’ text. They have started taking advantage of your overly caring personality. This can leave you with strong feelings of anger and resentment. However, because of your fear of rejection, you may never make it known to them. It’s left bottled inside you, eating away at your patience little by little. It’s truly a vicious cycle.

The third is a lack of enjoyment from others and outside activities. Whenever you finally decide to give yourself time to go on that hiking trip, it’s hard to enjoy it because of the dozens of other things spinning around in your head that you have going on. Maybe your friends invite you out for dinner and you don’t seem excited or happy about being there with them. While you may genuinely be happy about being there, you don’t portray that same emotion. It can seem as if you’re being distant or that there are other places you would rather be. 

The last is an overwhelming sense of emptiness and sadness. It’s something we all experience in some way or another, and in some extreme or another. It’s scary and leaves you feeling vulnerable. In this situation, it is probably caused from stress by trying to solve everything for everyone else. This is a hard habit to break and a hard emotional state to escape from.

If you have a church background, people pleasing may seem pretty normal. The whole idea of putting others before yourself is a direct quote from the Bible. The church produces a lot of people pleasers. I was always taught growing up that if someone needed something, you help them with it. No questions asked. It was a sign of humility, something often praised in the church. It’s sometimes thought that if you were seen as someone who was always helping other people, they are less likely to think negatively about you. Like one good act would cancel out another not-so-good act. When you step back from it, it makes about as much sense as drinking a Diet Coke with a meal to cancel out the rest of the meal. It just doesn’t work that way. 

The primary teaching in Sunday school was “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This phrase was put on one of those laminated posters that you see all over classrooms. In the background of it was a bunch of teenagers on ladders painting a house. That image was burned into my mind. I want people to be nice to me, so I need to be nice to them. It makes sense. We tend to take it too far though, or maybe not far enough. We rely on our abilities alone. We don’t rejuvenate ourselves by taking time to focus just on ourselves. Jesus, the one who said that script that has been laminated and plastered all over Sunday school walls, took a lot of time for himself. There a several instances in the scriptures where we see Jesus take off by himself and pray, meditate, or just be alone. 

I do believe that helping people is a good way to live life. I find enjoyment out of helping people and I credit that, a lot, to my upbringing. That picture from Sunday school is often brought back to the surface in my head and it makes me ask if I have done something nice for someone else today. However, there was a teaching they left out in Sunday school. I was never told “to help others, you have to help yourself”. I, perhaps like some of you, learned this a little later in life. I’m still not sure I have completely figured it out. To help people fully, you have to be filled yourself, and be filled with the right thing. Giving is a good thing, but only when you allow yourself to be filled by the experience of giving. It’s funny how that’s the way God’s spirit works. We find ourselves full of it at times and we are ready to take on the world, but we get depleted, and maybe even bitter, after a short time of serving and giving. Do we actually give ourselves time to refuel?

It’s important for us to understand when to take time for ourselves. It’s great for us to help people, but when it replaces being able to help ourselves, it can be detrimental to our wellbeing. Sometimes, it’s fine to take a coffee break.

Breathe in. Breathe out. 

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