Today’s guest blog post is from my friend Stephen Brewster. Stephen is the Sr. Director of Marketing for Integrity Media, where he works closely everyday with some of the most prolific and recognized worship leaders of our time, including Paul Baloche, Israel Houghton, Kari Jobe, Carlos Whittaker and John Mark McMillan. Stephen and I first met in February 2008 when his artist and my then boss, Israel Houghton, was invited to perform live on the 50th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast in L.A. That was a trip I will never forget for many reasons, and Steve and I clicked right off the bat. By the time that weekend was over I was convinced we had been separated at birth, and we’ve had a great friendship ever since. Stephen lives in Mobile, AL with his wife Jackie and 4 awesome kids. He is passionate about people, creativity and leadership and merges all those passions in a very unique way on his blog. You can also follow him on Twitter.
I am not sure if it is a creative thing or just an insecurity thing, but being a people pleaser has always been a problem for me.
We all desire to be liked. We want to fit in, and we all feel the need to be accepted. Sadly, that desire ends up selling us short on the unique nature for which we were created. We start to sell out our original US to be a poor imitation of someone else. And we do all this just to be accepted by someone who in all likelihood is just as insecure about themselves as we are.
I know this, because I have been “that guy.” The chameleon guy. The dude who changes who he is to be accepted, admired, approved…and then felt guilty afterwards because I was not being real about who I was created to be. We walk into these relationships setting expectations that are so out of wack and totally built on an act that we can never live in a healthy relationship.
It is normal to want to be accepted, liked, and approved, right up until we turn that emotion into an idol. Then we start to obsess with these emotions. Because the truth is, after we start to slip down this slippery slope, we find ourselves being defined by our relationships, our acceptance, and these fake ROLES that we have manipulated and constructed. We are defined by how we feel other people see us, even if it is only our perception of how the actually view us. Worse, we never get to live our lives by the blueprint that has been customized just for us by the true Creator. Instead of full lives lived with purpose we live inside the lives of everyone else. We live for them, through them, and based on their emotions instead of with the purpose and destiny God designed for our lives.
It gets worse though, GULP. After a few years, we get really good at being “all things to all men” when really we are nothing to anyone but a fraud and a cheap imitation of who we should be. And so our cycle of fake relationships, half realities, and worshipping the idol of man pleasing takes over our life. We even justify it away as much as we are able to, in an effort to convince ourselves we are not people pleasers.
We end up even starting to forget who we are and can not identify our own selves in a line up. So how do we know when we have fallen to the idol of man pleasing? Ed Welch wrote a terrific book called “When People Are Big And God Is Small”. In this book he lists the symptoms of being a people pleaser:
1. You are dependent on others.
2. You crave compliments
3. You devalue yourself in order to get affirmation
4. You are afraid you will be exposed as an impostor
5. You spend disproportionate amounts of time managing your reputation
6. You are overly concerned with how you look
7. You focus on your self esteem, a lot
8. You feel under-appreciated, mostly because you desire affirmation
9. You always justify mistakes, make excuses, or shift blame because you can not handle the feeling of failure
10. You show favoritism to those who can help you and undervalue those who can not.
11. You can never say no.
12. You constantly find things to keep you busy because you are afraid you will not matter.
13. You are easily embarrassed
14. You constantly compare yourself with others. Feeling great when you perceive yourself to be better and awful when you do not feel you stack up.
But there is hope.
You can end the cycle today, but it is not something that is going to be fixed overnight. It is not something you are going to be able to right all in one fatal swoop. Just like it has been a process to lose who you are, it is a process to find yourself again. Like all addictions, it starts with admitting we have a problem. Then, we must identify the things we know we have been created to do…and start chasing those passions. As we do that, we have to accept we won’t always be liked, and that is not just okay but very healthy for everyone to not be cool with us. We have to start saying no to things that do not fit our life plan. We have to pray a lot that God will help us embrace our insecurity and allow for him to define us as who he created us to be.
Steven Pressfield writes in his life changing book, “The War Of Art”:
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal image we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
So start your cycle today. Break free from the bondage of what everyone else is thinking of you and start to focus on what God thinks about you. The freedom you will develop out of this process will become the strength you need to distance yourself from the traps of always pleasing man. Find people who will love you no matter what, and build with them. You can do it, you have to do it!
Do you feel trapped in the “people pleasing” cycle?