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10 Reliable Indicators of a People Pleaser

  • Jen Ferguson
10 Reliable Indicators of a People Pleaser

Most of us are familiar with the first sign of being a people pleaser—the inability to say “no.” When asked to bake 100 cupcakes for the school carnival, lead the Bible study for the fifth year, or plan the church bazaar; we cringe on the inside, but plaster our smile on and raise our hand.

Because it’s good to serve, right? To be selfless with our time and abilities?

What if it’s not so simple? Because while it’s good to give, it’s also true that God loves a cheerful giver. From personal experience, I know that if you’re a people pleaser, you’re not always giving so cheerfully. Why?

Because you’re e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d.

In addition, every time you say “yes” to someone, by default you’re saying “no” to something else. No one has more than 24 hours in any given day. So you say yes to baking all day and no to playing on the floor with your toddler. You say yes to leading Bible study and no to your neighbor who needs some one-on-one discipleship. You say yes to planning the bazaar and no to quality time with your spouse, or Jesus, or that project that you really wanted to do just for you.

When we’re people pleasing, we often say yes to the things immediately in front of us because all we can see is our immediate goal of keeping people happy. But this keeps us on the proverbial hamster wheel, constantly spinning and going and striving, but getting nowhere. Nowhere in our relationships and nowhere in our self-development.

Maybe you’ve learned (probably the hard way) to say “no.” But could you still slip into some people-pleasing behaviors? Here are 9 other indicators:

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1. You’re driven by anxiety.

But what if? This is the question you ask yourself all the time. You’re so focused on what might happen in the future, trying to make sure everything will be okay then, that you completely vacate the now.

Why it’s hurting you: God is the God of the future. Not you. Your job is to live in the present and seek His will for the next five feet, not the next five miles. When you let anxiety rule your decisions, you’ve kicked God off the throne in your life.

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2. You monitor everyone else’s moods.

You’re the one who has anticipated everyone’s possible reaction to every possible scenario and worked out every possible redirect so that everything will go well. And if it all falls apart, even after all your hard work and intentionality, you feel like a failure. Or perhaps you assume the responsibility to make sure every ruffled feather is smoothed, every sentence turned into something positive, and walk on eggshells around those people who are incredibly unpredictable. Exhausted much?

Why it’s hurting you: You’re so busy monitoring everyone else that you’ve lost yourself. You neglect to voice your opinions, your feelings, and ideas because you’re too afraid you might negatively alter the “peace” around you. This fake peace? Not worth it.

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3. You minimize your own needs.

God did not create you to be a self-sufficient robot. He did not create you special so that you’re the only one who shouldn’t need anything or anyone. Even Jesus had needs! It’s part of being human, and to deny you have them is to reject the wonderful way He has created you.

Why it’s hurting you: I’m pretty sure you’re feeling empty, washed up, and used up because you’ve been denying things that God longs to give you, either through His relationship with you or the people surrounding you.

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4. You have a difficulty voicing your needs.

Maybe by now, you are aware that your needs are valid and important, but it’s been so long since you’ve verbalized them, you have a hard time articulating what they are. You’re afraid of appearing selfish or too needy.

Why it’s hurting you: Relationships are not meant to be one-sided. When you don’t voice your needs and allow others to meet them, you rob them of the ability to use the gifts God has given them. Plus, people are not mind-readers! They may genuinely want to help you, but don’t know how. Sure, you could be turned down, but you could also be loved in a way you never imagined.

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5. You choose exhaustion over feeling guilty.

“I’ll just do this now, so I don’t feel guilty later.” Have you ever thought that way? But, friend, our worth is not in our works. If people truly love us, they love us, not our works. They can appreciate what we do, yes. But if we became paralyzed and literally could not lift a finger to help them again, we would not lose our value in their eyes.

Why it's hurting you: You’re basing your choice on something that you don’t know to be true. You’re anticipating someone not liking your decision, so you base how you act on a chance. The exhaustion this creates will catch up with you. You will end up disappointing people anyway because you are not a superhero, nor are you Jesus. Jesus always made the perfect decision, and people were still disappointed in him.

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6. You take it personally if people cancel their plans with you.

When people cancel plans with you, do you think of all the possible reasons why they might be mad at you? Or do you think you’re not important enough for them to fulfill their commitment?

Why it’s hurting you: It wastes a lot of energy playing out imaginary scenarios in your head. And when you’re always concerned about doing something wrong, it’s easy to assume you did. That just means you’re assuming that everything is really about you and, well, it’s not.

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7. You assume responsibility for the feelings of others.

If Craig is in a bad mood, I have the terrible habit of assuming it was something I did or didn’t do. Again, the world does not revolve around me, just like it doesn’t revolve around you.

Why it's hurting you: It also wastes a lot of energy trying to fix someone else’s mood, especially when they don’t want to be fixed. Just as you need and deserve space to have your emotions, so do others. Trying to change other people’s emotions is not your job. All you can do is take responsibility for your own.

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8. Your helping often looks like rescuing.

It feels good to swoop in and save the day, right? From time to time, people need help like this. But if we are always swooping in for the same people, they are not going to become the person God desires for them to be.

Why it’s hurting you: You are not the Savior. When you put yourself in that role time after time, people will depend on you instead of on Jesus. When you view yourself in this light, it does damage to our own relationship with Him. We move away from depending on Him to relying more on ourselves.

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9. You like being needed.

It’s kind of a love-hate thing, isn’t it? Part of you groans when someone needs you, but part of you is also elated. When people aren’t clamoring for your attention, you feel worthless.

Why it’s hurting you: You’re basing your worth on other people’s needs and opinions of you. The world is fickle and you are fallible, so if you build your worth and identity on anything other than Jesus, this puts you on very shaky ground.

Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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