The secret is out. This is the real me.
A few weeks ago, we joined a homeschool co-op. I prepped my kids ahead of time…reminding them to be friendly, to be interested in others, to introduce themselves. You know, basic friend-making stuff. But inwardly, I was a bit anxious myself. I’m not naturally outgoing. Being the first to introduce myself is not exactly in my comfort zone. I, too, was hoping to make connections that would lead to new friendships.
I guess I was hoping to impress people, to make them like me.
You can imagine my embarrassment when, at the end of the first day, I had to search for my misplaced phone. I found it in the office. Assuming someone had turned it in, I asked where it had been found. The sweet lady gave me a puzzled look and told me it had been sitting on the desk all morning. Only then did I remember that I had come to the office first thing that morning in search of name tags. Hmmm….well, she’s not going to think of me as the most organized person in the group.
But really, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyone can misplace their phone. (I just happen to do it all the time!)
However, when this same person locks her keys in the car the very next week…Well, the secret is out. This is the real me.
I spent nearly the entire final period in the parking lot waiting for a locksmith. The locksmith, of course, showed up in a huge conspicuous tow truck, just as classes were letting out and people were coming to their cars. He was a jolly fellow – asked how my day was going, as if locking oneself out of one’s car adds humor and excitement to the day.
I guess I should have smiled about it, laughed it off. But I was too worried about what people were thinking.
Ah, people pleasing. I know it well.
It can be paralyzing at times. I spend so much time trying to keep everyone happy. I work hard to make people think well of me – even when it means hiding my quirks and imperfections.
It’s an exhausting way to live, and God is teaching me that we were never designed to live this way.
Can I share with you what I’m learning? Because maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone in this people-pleasing craziness.
First, a person’s value lies not in what we do (or don’t do), but in who we are. Our Maker says we are “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14 HCSB). We bear the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). We are infinitely loved and valued – not because of our own merit or loveliness, but because God has set His love upon us (Eph 2:4-5).
Second, we all have emotional needs that God alone can satisfy. The longing for acceptance is a God-given desire. Its purpose is to lead us to Him. When we look to Him in faith, we find that we are relentlessly adored, unconditionally accepted, and even greatly liked – quirks and all. (See Hos 2:14-19, Eph 3:12, Zeph 3:17.) On the other hand, looking to people to meet this need will lead to disappointment and conflict.
Third, another person’s opinion does not define us. This may seem obvious, but I have many times internalized a rejection (real or perceived), as if it were true of me. When our identity is built on who God says we are, we can come back to that reality every time we begin to feel otherwise.
This is, of course, not a “blanket excuse” for hurtful behavior. We shouldn’t excuse sin or selfishness under the guise of “just being myself.” In living authentically, we should never lose sight of grace.
But oh, the freedom of walking confidently in faith. When those shackles of fear start to fall off – what a glorious new beginning! It’s taking place in my life. How about you? How has God helped you overcome people-pleasing? I’d love to learn from your journey!
“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength…’” (Is 30:15).