Do you have trouble telling people no without explaining your decision?
Do you make decisions to protect the feelings of others?
Do you consistently inconvenience yourself for the convenience of others?
Do you go out of your way to make sure others are happy even when it is not something you want?
Do you make decisions out of duty or desire?
Do you stay awake at night wondering what others think about you?
Do you have difficulty being honest with others for fear of being rejected or from others withholding love or affection?
If you are anything like me, I could say yes to every single one of these. After all, don’t we want those around us to be happy? What’s wrong with that?
Wanting others to be happy is entirely different from living a life bound to the validation and approval of others. We wait for others to put that stamp of approval, like an addict waiting for the next high. We walk around hoping to be seen, to be liked, to be invited. Our decisions are less about what God wants for us and more about what will people think about us. This my friends—this is bondage!
When you live a life in bondage to people pleasing, you are constantly swayed by the fickle opinions of people instead of living free in the steadiness of our unchanging God.
If you are ready to break free, here are three steps to help you live a life already validated.
Choose to live like Jesus
Choosing to live like Jesus must be the first step. You see, when we study the life of Jesus, he was not swayed by what others thought. The only opinion that matter to Jesus Christ was His father’s. He trusted and followed what His father planned for Him. In doing so, HE was able to live FREE.
And a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased—Mark 1:11
Living free did not mean free from persecution, trouble or conflict, quite the contrary. Instead, living free meant having peace to walk out God’s purpose boldly. Jesus lived a life about His father’s business, knowing He would have to make difficult decisions, follow a different path, and have a vision beyond what others could see. He did not wait for the approval of others to prevent him from following God’s destiny for His life.
Can you say the same thing?
For a long time, I couldn’t. I was afraid of the rejection. I was afraid of the comments. I didn’t want the conflict. But it also meant I put limits on what God could do in my life. I kept trying to explain and gain support for decisions that God had only revealed to me.
When we choose to live like Jesus, then we choose to live for Jesus. The guidance of the Holy Spirit leads every decision and every step. Making that decision means people will not always agree with your choices, they may not support the dream, and they may say things we don’t like. Guess what? They did that to Jesus too! So don’t get caught up in their words, but caught up in HIS words.
Know your identity
People pleasers seek validation because they are insecure. (Ouch, right?) Deep within our being, we somehow have accepted the lie that we are not worthy. So preserving our relationships at all costs become our mandate. We place our feelings of security and self-confidence in gaining the approval of others. Your thoughts run rampant wandering what people think and whether you’ve done something to make them dislike you. You lose sleep replaying conversations and interaction in your head. You become emotionally and physically depleted walking on eggshells waiting for others to say that you are good enough and worthy enough to be loved.
This lifestyle is hard on the body. Your muscles stay tense. Your mind constantly wonders. Your body never gets enough rest. Plus, you don’t get to enjoy the moments of your life because your happiness is placed in the hands of your children, your spouse, your family members or friends.
To break free and stay free, you have to know who you are, whose you are and what you are called to do. You will ONLY know this in Christ. He alone reveals to you His purpose and the divine plan for your life. He alone reveals the gifts and talents placed within your being when He created you. So, be intentional in your time with Him in His word and in prayer. Listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit directing your steps and expanding your vision.
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
When God’s word becomes rooted in your heart, you are not looking for approval from people because you have already been approved by God. It’s done. Finished. Nothing else has to be added. Get in that WORD!
Once you decide to live like Jesus and root your identity in Christ, now it is time to take ownership. Own your actions, your thoughts, your happiness, your decisions. Being silent to avoid conflict, maintain a relationship, or gain approval hurts you and prevents people from being able to accept and love the real you. You waste time deferring your decisions and your opinions over to others hoping they will stay a part of your life, while you live unhappy and unfulfilled. You silent your voice and hide who God created you to be. When you do this, you rob the world of your gifts and talents plus you deprive yourself of living a full life in Christ.
A few areas to take ownership are:
- Own your boundaries: establish boundaries that allow you to cultivate healthy, Godly relationships.
- Own your no: Just because you’re asked doesn’t mean you have to say yes. Take time to decide if this is the best choice for you.
- Own your emotions: You are responsible for your feelings, no one else. You get to choose if you will be happy, upset, angry, etc.
- Own your health: It’s important to take care of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. Self-care is not selfish.
- Own your yes: When you can say no, then you can say “yes” to areas that are genuine and meaningful.
- Own your thoughts: Every look, comment, or emotional response is not about you. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you when there are situations that warrant a response. Otherwise, let it go and get some sleep.