Hi, my name is Candace and I am a bonafide people pleaser. Can my fellow friends with the need-to-please raise their hand up high? Of course you can...because you want to make me happy!
I can remember as far back as possible wanting to make those around me happy. When I was very young, it was dance teachers, friends, my parents, and school teachers that I would cling to for self-worth. As I got older, I'd strive to never say "no" to anyone around me. Unfortunately, this doesn't help keep you out of trouble in high school when peer pressure is running rampant to participate in all the bad things. I struggled to draw the line in the sand for what I stood for because I was too busy making everyone else's visions come true. Once I became an adult, and decided to morph into "the ideal Christian woman," that sanctification process pressured me to feed the monster to please. It worked for a while. I looked super "holy" and fit the church lady description. Taking on other people's problems and struggles and issues as my own and caring for them made me feel pretty Christ-like. Forget the bitterness and resentment and stress building in my own heart. I had no boundaries and that made me APPEAR as loving as possible. I knew that God loved me (in theory) but my actions were proving I was still earning it. Everyone was thrilled with my efficiency, eagerness to help, encouragement and supportive ways. Who wouldn't want to rub elbows with a people pleaser? The only person it ended up not working for, was me.
I was pregnant with my third baby, sitting ankles-crossed staring at my midwife on a Thursday afternoon. I had tears streaming down my face as I begged her to fix me. I couldn't handle the symptoms any longer. My breath seemed constricted, my heart felt pained, my mind was scattered and unfocused while my body would shake and tense up for hours. I eventually ended each horrible episode curled up hugging the bottom of the toilet, crying myself to sleep because I envisioned this lasting forever. I knew something was wrong and I just needed my doctor to diagnose me with gestational diabetes or some other logical explanation for all the physical trouble I had been encountering. She looked right back at me, dead in the eyes, and suggested I go to therapy, try yoga and breathing exercises, and get a prescription for anxiety.
What?! It's all in my head? I'm the reason I feel this way? I thought, "Okay, anxiety...I can control you, and I'm certainly capable of getting a handle on all of this." As it turns out...I couldn't. The next few months consisted of some soul searching; some deep connecting with God in my weakness. I dug deep into myself and asked God some questions to see where all this came from. When did I feel most anxious? Why could I not find joy and peace and comfort? Who was I looking towards to validate me? Why was I doing the things I was doing? What motive made me say "yes" to those around me? Where did these feelings start?
One of the biggest culprits was people pleasing.
At the time, there was conflict and strained relationships within my extended family. Some of my people were hurting and I made it my mission to make them better. I gave and gave and gave of myself - physically with help, and emotionally with support. I strapped others' baggage on my own back and I barely trudged through my own life. I distinctly remember telling my husband that I was burdened with the needs of those around me and couldn't calm my own issues.
That was the moment that I really began to realize the importance of boundaries. I needed to set them, and then I needed to hold myself and those around me accountable to them. Those boundaries would first begin with my commitment to honoring what I felt God leading me to take on. They would continue with seeing if I realistically had the time, energy, and resources for the task (I owed myself this type of respect). Finally, I needed to make sure I would still have enough "self" to give to my husband and my children, in addition to this new task or job or relationship. Sometimes, these boundaries took the form of declining a phone call because I knew someone else's venting was coming my way, and this was something I did not wish to engage in. Other times, it was finding the courage to say, "I can't," when good people asked for financial or emotional or physical help from me. These boundaries were the answer God gifted me in a time of my own struggles.
I can now reflect back and see that as a people pleaser, I did more than just empathize. I absorbed other people's problems. What I thought was me being Christ-like, was actually really ignoring Christ in the situation altogether. Thankfully, I've learned that I am not anyone's savior. Jesus is the only one who can rescue. And this recovering people pleaser now operates alongside others within the boundaries of knowing God is already pleased with me because I am His.
This is Candace. She hates long walks on the beach and would prefer a short drive to get a doughnut. Her creative spirit leaves her husband constantly guessing which room she'll decorate next and her kids requesting elaborate birthday parties. She'll tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it. But don't worry, she'll make you laugh to soften the blow. Her heart longs to share the realness of her life and provide someone else a "me too" in a moment of isolation. Words are her thing; she writes to heal. God grasped a hold of Candace as a teenage mama, and she's been desperate for His love and sensitive to His voice everyday since.