stephenbrewster

Confessions Of A People Pleaser (Guest blog by Stephen Brewster)

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?


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Grant JenkinsConfessions Of A People Pleaser (Guest blog by Stephen Brewster)
27 comments
Ani
Ani

Wow! #11, #12 and #13 were my problem. I had to learn say "no" and set boundaries and still have to. #12 can still be a matter sometimes. I don't please everyone, mostly to the people who are closest to me, afraid to lose them. I remember it made me tired. It's not that bad anymore but the case is you do lose them. There is also another side to this. That is that people think they can claim or manipulate you. Telling me how to react and if I don't react the way they want I get accused. I've tried to talk with them but no luck. I've said goodbye to them. Some of them realized what they did and changed towards me by letting me be me but not all of them. You maybe loose friends but you will get new ones and the ones who stay are honest and let you be who you are and at the end I can be myself.

alece
alece

i'm so tired of my people-pleasing ways. asking the Lord to help me break free...
My recent post a different take on boundaries

Mela Kamin
Mela Kamin

"We start to sell out our original US to be a poor imitation of someone else." - yep. that explains me for a good part of my adult life - I'm getting closer to the original me now, but boy, is it hard to go against the grain of what I perceive to be everyone's expectations of me. That Pressfield quote is awesome and spot on. Loved this post - am printing it out to refer back to. I'm learning that "No" doesn't have to be a negative - I can willingly decline, so I'll free myself up to say "Yes" when it really matters to who God created me to be.
My recent post Unusually Blessed

Jessica
Jessica

tough questions. Wish I wouldnt have read them :) JK Great Post!!!!

allisonroberts
allisonroberts

What a great post! My small group is reading "So Long Insecurity" by Beth Moore right now. Tonight while we were cussing and discussing our insecurities I was reminded of this post that I read first this morning. I was able to share it with the group and they were blessed by it as well. I love God's timing.
"Break free from the bondage of what everyone else is thinking of you and start to focus on what God thinks about you." I'm learing that, right there, is all that matters. In the end...that's all there is.
Thank you Stephen for sharing your heart.
Thank you, Grant for allowing God to use your blog for His glory.

heidi
heidi

i so so needed to read this. It was inspiring and tough, but so what I needed/

Chelsea
Chelsea

This post explains me to a T!!! I have struggled with this my entire life and still struggle daily with it. It's good to know I'm not alone. Very well written and powerful post!
My recent post A testimony among millions

Makeda
Makeda

What a powerful post. I don't know that I am a people pleaser per se as I don't necessarily fit the check list but feeling at times like I've lost myself in someone else's vision of my life is definitely a reality for me. I'm praying through the noise of other voices trying to hear God's voice clearly about who He has designed me to be. Thank you for these words. They have encouraged my heart and nourished my soul in an unexpected way.

Christina Schmidt
Christina Schmidt

How many of those symptoms would diagnose you as a people pleaser? I don't go so far out of my way for everyone, but I think there's always someone, or a few people in particular (like family) that you do try to please. For me, it's my dad. We've had a somewhat rocky relationship lately, and I feel like I don't know how to please him.
My recent post Choose To Be A Leader!

His Girl
His Girl

Grant Thank you for this gift this morning in allowing Stephen to post. Years ago I read the book "Boundaries" by Cloud and Townsend. It really revolutionized how I think and work. Lately I have seen the need to maybe review the book again. I am more of a door mat then a people pleaser but I do have some of the characteristics. This was such a timely reminder and gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit.
My recent post Consistency and Conditional love

JasonWert
JasonWert

Yeah, been there done that. Still do it some times.

My biggest problem has been allowing myself to see myself as the Bible says God sees me. I just can't bring myself to believe He really sees me that way. When you have that in your mind, people pleasing becomes a bigger issue to defeat.
My recent post Countdown to Blue Ridge: 5 days to go...

Bernard Shuford
Bernard Shuford

Yeah, that's pretty much me. A lot of it is rooted in the fact that I don't think I've ever really made anybody happy. Including God. Trusting Christ has not just given me a feeling that anybody is happy with me.

So I struggle on. Feeling discouraged but being told that to seek encouragement is to be a people pleaser.

I'm baffled a bit, because I hear folks say that we should only seek to please God, yet they often also say that we can only please God through the blood of Christ, and yet, PEOPLE are displeased with me if I seek to please anybody besides God.

Hmmmm.

:)

We all influence each other. We want to please SOMEONE. If we consider someone to be very Christlike, wouldn't the desire to please that person be a step toward pleasing God by being like Christ?

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Sometimes in walking this out you will lose people, but usually only the people who had become co-dependent on your people-pleasing ways. Once you're no longer willing to feed some people's need to be needed, they will leave you quick, and that can be a great thing.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Me too, Alece. I am also tired of your people-pleasing ways. :) J/K. I'm tired of mine... Thank you for your honesty.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

I love the Pressfield quote as well. I can't wait to read that book.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

haha! yeah, really tough questions. When Steve sent me what he had written, I was like, "oh dang!" Thanks, Jess!

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

how cool, Allison! Glad you were able to share it with your group!

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Thanks Chelsea, I appreciate the comment. You are most certainly not alone.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

losing yourself in someone else's vision for your life is a tough one. Your comment reminds me of @TheBonnieGray's story. Have you seen this?http://bit.ly/b3iWZs

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Thanks for sharing this, Christina. I have relationships like that in my life as well. I have caught myself on more than one occasion trying to go out of my way to please someone to compensate for who I feel that person expects me to be, that I never feel I'll measure up to. At the end of the day, I think that is a spiritual intimacy deficiency that can't be filled by anybody but God.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

I've heard quite a few people recommend that book but have never checked it out. I need to do that.

His Girl
His Girl

Now there is the key, seeing ourselves the way God sees us. I see some of the me in the post above and can see the need to focus back on what God sees me as and release the rest. Great point Jason.

Grant Jenkins
Grant Jenkins

Wow, Bernard. Thank you so much for commenting and for sharing your heart so honestly. It can be a tough balance to walk out, that is for sure... I learn this every day in my own life. I guess a lot of it comes down to motives... the "why" we desire to do certain things, impress or "please" certain people. And the "why" is a tough question to ask.