Michael Scott, the boss of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch on The Office, said it best, “Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised.”
And even though we laugh, we’re very much the same. You and I, we have to be liked too…we’re people-pleasers.
How people-pleasing shows up in our right-now life
Just like Michael Scott, we hate admitting that we want people to like us, but the truth shows up in our lives.
We don’t want to disappoint others so we say “yes” to most requests. In time, this makes us feel overcommitted, unappreciated, angry, and tired.
We want our family to be happy all the time so we work hard to balance all the moods and needs. In time, this makes us feel exhausted, sad when our work goes unnoticed, and insecure that it might not be enough.
We want to be liked so we flatter people, fail to never confront hurtful behavior, and replay hard conversations in our heads. In time, this makes us feel anxious, unworthy and ungrounded.
People-pleasing isn’t good for us, but before we can move on from this mindset, we must first acknowledge the lies we’re living under.
What lies people-pleasing tells us
Just like Michael Scott’s misguided (hilarious) management decisions, our actions are based on what we assume is true while we look through our faulty filters. Here are three lies that people-pleasing tells us:
1. Outcomes are dependent on us.
We all get countless requests to help like Sunday School teachers needed! Or we’re short on chaperones for the field trip! These are real needs, but we often shoulder responsibility that isn’t ours. We believe that we are the only solution to the problem at hand.
2. The happiness of others is our responsibility.
All of us want the people we love to be happy and feel loved. While it’s good to think of others, it’s not good to make an idol out of our children, spouses, or friends. We believe that if people aren’t happy, it’s our responsibility to make things right.
3. Our security is found in how much we’re liked.
All of us want to feel safe, and we believe that safety is found in how many friends we have. To feel safe, we won’t risk offending anyone so we deny our needs, bend over backwards to help, and avoid confrontation.
Now that we’ve peeled back these lies, what do we do right now? Where does a try-hard girl go from here?
How God shows up in our right-now life
God is always compassionate toward us when we’re oppressed by the lies of people-pleasing.
He sees us struggle with the weight of trying to keep it all together, and because it’s too much for us to carry, He takes the weight and hides us under His wing. When we’re wrapped up in His love, nothing can touch us.
Only God is sovereign over all, so we don’t have to try to control others through pleasing them. Only God holds all things together, so we don’t have to keep others happy. Only God’s love is unconditional so we don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of anyone.
Our problem, try-hard girls, is that we know this is true, but we don’t act like we believe it. So how do we give up the people-pleasing in light of the truth we know?
What God does to move us away from people-pleasing
Here are some practical tips on how to partner with Him.
Confess. Repent from worshiping the idol of people-pleasing, and then, accept the forgiveness God gives.
Ask God to teach you how to fear Him. God wants to teach you His ways. Ask Him to help you see Himself, yourself, and others rightly.
Fight against your people-pleasing default. Taking our thoughts captive is incredibly difficult, so begin thinking through questions like these:
• Why do I want to say “yes” to this request?
• Just because it makes my people happy, is it a good choice for us right now?
• Is what I’m saying truthful or flattery?
Read the truth to replace the lies. Meditate on God’s Word, and ask Him how He wants you to apply it.
Remember that you’re a work in progress. God knows this, and He’ll continue the good work He began in you until it’s finished (Philippians 1:6). His grace is sufficient in the weakness of your relapses, so be kind and compassionate to yourself as you move away from people-pleasing.
Michael Scott makes me laugh out loud, and he nailed our people-pleasing tendencies on the head when he said, “I have to be liked.” But friends, God shows us this isn’t true—His love and grace are sufficient. He has compassion for the burden we carry, and God alone is able to deliver us from our hurt.
This is a piece adapted from JillEMcCormick.com. Used with permission.
Jill McCormick is the host of the Grace In Real Life podcast and the writer behind jillemccormick.com, spaces where she shares common-sense grace with the try-hard girl who wants her faith to intersect with her real and full life. Jill lives in South Texas with her high-school-sweetheart-now-husband Ryan, their two daughters, and one Vizsla (VEEZ-lah) puppy. Most days you’ll find her with a book about the Enneagram in her hand or a podcast playing in her earbuds. She’s been featured in RELEVANT magazine, Joyful Life magazine, ForEveryMom.com, and the Christian Woman Leadership Podcast. She’s also a co-author of the book, Sister, Walk in Truth. In her free time, she edits words for others through Emerald Editing + Copywriting, and is the Communications Director for her church.