I’m a Pleaser, What Now?

So, you’ve read The Pleaser Love Style and leaned back, sighing, “That’s me.” Now what? What can you do if you recognize you’re a pleaser? Are you doomed to dreading conflict, agonizing over saying “No,” even when you really need to, and discovering at every age that you are still usually the giver in your relationships?

No. No, you’re not. You can maximize your strengths and work through your weaknesses with the power of the Holy Spirit to develop into a Secure Connector.

What’s At the Core?

The first step to becoming a secure connector is learning to recognize and notice what lies at your core. You may not have realized it, but at your core, you have a tangled bundle of anxiety that needs to be uncoiled and soothed. There is fear:

  • of making people angry.
  • of loved ones distancing themselves.
  • of not being able to keep the peace.
  • of other people forming a negative opinion of you.
  • of making a mistake.
  • of hurting someone’s feelings.
  • of making a bad impression.
  • of other people’s responses to you.

Since you’ve lived with high anxiety since childhood, you may not even be aware of it.

Consider Why You Are Here

It started with your imprint from trauma, from a critical or angry parent, from some form of sensed abandonment (divorce, illness, or death of a parent), or from an overprotecting parent. Read more about how you may have ended up with this imprint here.

Determine for yourself what situation might have impacted you in childhood to get you to this place.

  • Did you ever share difficult feelings, such as sadness, anger, or disappointment with your parents?
  • Have you shared with others since?
  • Do you currently have people close to you that you regularly share your difficult emotions with?
  • If not, who might you be able to deepen a friendship with in that way?

Consider What Makes You Anxious Now

Prayerfully consider what motivates you to give and give in now. Do you fear others will detach from you? Are you trying to avoid fanning into flame criticism or anger? What compels you to give in instead of saying “No” or confronting others?

As a pleaser myself, I’ve realized to my chagrin that much of my pleasing and caretaking of others was to try to make my world a little less chaotic, painful, or unpredictable. If the other person was okay, I faced less repercussions. What motivates your giving? Your giving in?

Learn What It Means to Receive

One of the hardest lessons I’ve desperately needed God to teach me was how to receive. I’m still terrible at it. I’m trying now to work through the terrible guilt I often feel when I have to ask for help or when others help me and I feel I have no way give something or be valuable in return.

How often do you ask for help? What are you comfortable asking for or receiving help with? What happens inside of you when someone compliments you, and how do you respond to the person?

If you’ve spent your energies focusing on the needs and feelings of others, you may not be offering yourself the same kind of compassion you lavish on others.

Practice Self Care

You may, like me, discover that you have not even be aware of many of your more difficult emotions. I had to first recognize my needs and wants before I could see ways I’ve been hurt when real needs haven’t been met and healthy wants have not been considered. Only then could I see in my soul anger and sadness so that I could begin to grieve my losses appropriately.

A good place to start is to take some time each day to recognize: your needs that day, your wants, and your own feelings. Be sure you are taking into account your real needs- for sleep, exercise, healthy meals, outlets for fun and relaxation, and connection. Are these being met? Are you over-committing to meet others’ needs or wants but are out of time to care for yourself?

Commit Time to Mutual Friendships. There will never be an end to people who will accept your endless giving but not return the favor. I woke up at the end of my last year of college and realized that I had not devoted necessary time to cultivating mutual friendships- you know, the ones that go in both directions with both people giving. I can’t tell you have much time I have poured into people that were not Safe People while neglecting cultivating those friendships I truly enjoyed where we both mutually cared for one another. You will always be serving those who cannot give back in return. It is a joy. Only if it is freely given (not in compulsion) and only if you have something to give, because you have mutual friendships. Check out this 75-year study on what makes for lasting happiness and health if you aren’t convinced you have time for building mutual friendships.

So, let people be angry. Are you so afraid someone will be angry with you (maybe even taking their general stress or anger personally when it has nothing to do with you) that you’d give up anything to fix their situation in hopes of turning down the anger? What do you think would happen if you learned to tolerate their anger and just let them be upset?

Don’t Burn Yourself Out. I’ve been in bad burnout twice, so I’ve seen what happens when I neglect my needs. In those situations, I can’t give to others. I have nothing left. Daily keep check on your needs. How can you better care for them? Daily check in on your feelings. What are they and where are they coming from? (If you find it helpful, you can use Milan and Kay’s Soul Word’s list available here).  

Manage Your Stress

Part of good self-care is dealing with that tangled up ball of anxiety. God longs to untangle it for you. He says He wants to guard your heart and mind with His peace that surpasses all understanding. What is the road to this?

Pray. Casting all your anxiety on Him with gratitude. Read more about this in God Longs To Do This For You.

Have an outlet– something fun to do- something you enjoy doing, even if you have to do it alone. There’s real, solid science behind it.

Exercise. During season’s I’d stopped exercising, when I’d restart, I’d realize just how depressed I had been by the contrasting feeling after I restarted. Exercising regularly can really help. And sometimes you just need to Give Yourself a Break.

Breathe deeply. I’ve be fascinated by Stig Severinsen’s ability to hold his breath for over 22 minutes. Breathing deeply turns off your stress system, and turns on the system in your body that calms you. In a breathing training I recently saw, Stig recommended breathing and out in a 1:2 ration (for example, in 2 seconds out 4). Another option is to breath in, hold, breath out in a 1:4:2 ration (for example, in 3 seconds, hold 12, out 6).

Learn Who To Please

You can’t please everyone all the time. Your spouse likes your hair long, but your mom likes it short. Your best friend enjoys running with you in the morning, but your spouse isn’t so supportive. One child loves it when you make chicken tacos, but the other doesn’t like them. You bought that shirt because so-and-so thought it was so cute, but your spouse made a joke about it and you don’t feel comfortable wearing it.

It all boils down to this: focus on the One that matters. Learn to cope and deal with the repercussions of others when you please God but not them. Don’t jump to fix others’ negative feelings or discomfort with your choice. Let them handle their feelings and even be upset with you. Learn to let that be okay with you. If a friend completely withdraws because you made a choice to please God and they didn’t like it- perhaps you ought to seek out some more mutual friendships.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Focus on pleasing God. Take care of yourself so you have something to offer. Prioritize whose opinions after God’s matter most to you. Let other people’s opinions go. And those that do matter the most to you- take them into account, but don’t be driven by pleasing them.

Serve Well. Make it Count

Serving others, caring for them, and loving well is good. Just make sure your motives are pure. Make sure you aren’t doing it out of a place of hurt, fear, or anxiety.

Serving is good. It is good when you can do it in God’s strength for His glory (1 Peter 4:11). It is good when you can be a cheerful giver. It is not good when you are giving out of compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:7). Giving in because you are afraid to say, “No” leaves you giving out of compulsion. Caring for others to manage your anxiety is not love.

Be strong in giving. But also be strong in saying, “No” so that you have more to give to please the only One that matters. Learn to take care of yourself, your needs, and your feelings so that when you do give, you give from a secure place, sincerely, out of love, in a way that counts for eternity.

Join Me On The Journey

I’m on this journey, too, of seeing how my imprint affects all of my relationships. Oftentimes, it isn’t pretty. But, it’s a joy to see God working in me, helping me notice more and make changes that count, even if they seem small. The next couple blogs will talk about Transformational Parenting for a Pleaser and how loved ones can best come alongside their pleaser. Subscribe so you don’t miss:

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Want To Know More?

Milan and Kay Yerkovich wrote a great book called How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. The workbook quoted in this post is very helpful and practical for taking steps toward growth. They have a whole series for singles, couples, counselors, etc at How We Love. (note, I’m not an affiliate or anything. I just have benefited from these resources and want to share). Subscribe so you don’t miss the other love styles!

More Posts In the Series:

Photo Credit: Photo adapted from  Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

Sources:

  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love: Discover Your Love Style Enhance Your Marriage. Christian Audio.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Workbook: Making Deeper Connections in Marriage. Waterbrook: 2017.
  • Milan & Kay Yerkovich. How We Love Our Kids: The Five Love Styles of Parenting. How to End the Struggles and Tension. The Crown Publishing Group: 2011.

Copyright ©  2019 Angela Edmonds. All rights reserved.

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