Confessions of a People Pleaser

I’m pretty in tune with what other people are feeling. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I can sense things about people. I don’t mean it to sound hokey or weird or like I’m some kind of psychic. It’s not like that. It’s more that I’m a sensitive person and I can read people well. Of course, I’ve been wrong before, but for the most part, I’m pretty good at reading the room.

This comes with pros and cons. The pros are pretty obvious. I can navigate conversations easily and sense people’s needs and how to help them. I know what not to say most of the time. It’s helpful when making decisions. It makes me more compassionate and empathetic. People often feel they can open up to me and it enables me to understand people on a deeper level.

But, being intuitive/discerning also has some cons. Or at least, it does for me, because I allow it to affect my behavior. Being so attuned to other people’s emotions is incredibly exhausting for me because I will adjust my behavior or my preferences or what I’m about to say based on what I feel someone else is thinking or feeling.

In my case, it often leads to people pleasing, which I probably don’t have to tell you, is incredibly exhausting because it’s not easy, or even possible, to please everyone. It means I don’t always say what I think or feel. Instead, I’ll give the answer the other person wants to hear, or, at least the answer I think they want to hear.

I’m realizing this habit I’ve created out of my own intuitiveness is stressful, draining, and unhealthy.

I used to think it was about being selfless, but it’s really not. It’s about avoiding my own uncomfortable feelings about not being able to please someone else, and, as I said above, you can’t always please everyone all the time, at least not without feeling the consequences of disappointing yourself. It will catch up with you.

It’s a balancing act for me because I feel uncomfortable if I stop the people pleasing behavior but I also feel uncomfortable if I continue with it. It’s a different kind of uncomfortable, but it’s uncomfortable nonetheless. If I don’t let my intuition or what I’m feeling from other people affect how I behave, I struggle with worrying about how they feel about me, how they feel in general, if I’ve disappointed them, if I made the right decision, etc. On the other hand, if I always let my behavior be dictated by the feelings of others, I struggle with resentment, pent up frustration, and feeling let down by everyone else.

This morning I was reading 2 Corinthians 1 and a verse stuck out to me, Verse 27: “You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “yes” when they really mean “no”?”

This verse wasn’t necessarily referring to people pleasing behaviors, but it struck a nerve with me. How often have I said “yes” because I know that’s what the other person wanted to hear even if it wasn’t true, or it wasn’t something I wanted to do? More often than I’d like to admit.

Please don’t misunderstand me. There are plenty of times we should be selfless and do the thing we don’t want to do. There are plenty of times where it’s the right thing to put other people’s needs before our own, probably most of the time, actually. But, that’s different than people pleasing. In mu experience, people pleasing sometimes leads to dishonesty and inauthenticity and exhaustion.

We were not placed on this earth to live for the approval of others, because you can strive and you can strive, and still not live up to other people’s standards. It is impossible to please everyone all the time.

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I’m currently in a season of life where I feel stretched very thin. Work is incredibly draining as I prepare for maternity leave. Training and teaching my temporary replacement has taken its toll. People have expected me to be available to them 24/7 for things. I’ve had to go into the office more than anyone else during the pandemic. I’ve often put in way more than the typical 40-50 hours per week. Our farm is also in its peak season as we harvest for markets and open on weekends to sell our produce and seasonal items. I’m often on my feet at 5am in the kitchen baking for customers and helping my husband and brother prepare for the crowd. Certain relationships have been tested and strained and caused me some sleepless nights. Not to mention, I am seven months pregnant trying to prepare for my first baby.

Needless to say, I feel stressed and tense and overwhelmed lately. I know everyone has busy lives and I don’t pretend that mine is anymore stressful than anyone else’s, but for me, I’m at my limit as far as things I can currently take on. I feel like a lot of people are relying on me and I don’t want to let anyone down.

It occurred to me that some of the stress, definitely not all of it, but some of the stress could probably be alleviated by setting some healthy boundaries and not worrying so much about how everyone else is going to react to my responses.

I just really need rest right now. Rest and quiet time to prepare my home and my heart for this baby who will be entering our lives in a few short months. So, as I read the Corinthians passage this morning I was convicted about my people pleasing tendencies. I feel the need to slow down so very deeply but I know that’s going to be hard for me, because in order to do that, I am going to have to be assertive and honest about how I’m feeling, even if that means letting my boss or my friends or even my family down sometimes. It means I’m going to have to say “no” to things and be ok with the repercussions and disappointment that come along with that answer.

We didn’t even really get into the close connection between people pleasing, sensitivity and anxiety, but I think it’s pretty obvious how the three can kind of go hand in hand.

This week I’m going to try to say no when I mean no and yes when I mean yes.

I’m reminding myself that, “what other people think of me is none of my business.”

2 thoughts on “Confessions of a People Pleaser

  1. Thanks for sharing…I could have written this post. We are very much alike so I understand what you are saying.

    We are in different seasons of life, being that you are in your first pregnancy and I am a grandmother, however, the struggle is similar.

    May God bless you with love, faith, and wisdom, and may He protect you and your family all through your lives. There will be ups and downs…always keep your eyes on Him, and He will guide you.
    Love and prayers, Bernadette


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