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Why it's So Dangerous to be a People-Pleaser

Why it's So Dangerous to be a People-Pleaser
“My parents are still telling me how to live my life,” a forty-year old woman said to me recently. “They give me unsolicited advice on how to raise my children, how to dress and even what to do with my hair. I hate it.” 
This complaint is not unusual. 
Another woman I’ve worked with in the past struggles to set boundaries on colleagues who foist their opinions on her. A middle-aged man is still challenged by an over-bearing mother. 
We may be quick to criticize the parents of the first woman, the colleagues of the second and the mother of the third. The real responsibility, however, lies with the people themselves, as they struggle with trying to please these important individuals in their lives. 
These people are not evil, and I doubt that they have bad intentions. They are our sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers, neighbors and sit next to us in church. Having questionable boundaries, and believing they have special insight into our lives, they share freely with us. 
Unfortunately, our boundaries are often no better. Being confused, we allow people to overly influence our decisions. We want their approval, and in some cases are desperate for it. We live from the outside in, according to other’s expectations, rather than from the inside out, Living codependently, our minds get muddled. We become more confused about what we think, feel and want. Sometimes we even feel guilty tuning into our own desires, feeling selfish for having them. Hearing so many voices, we can’t distinguish those coming from ourselves, others or God. 
Unfortunately, like many others, you may not have been taught that you were a precious child of God’s, someone “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). You may not have been taught how to keep yourself safe, or how to honor your feelings and thoughts. Instead, you survived by tuning into others and learning to be sensitive to feelings outside yourself. 
Recovering from codependency is much harder than it first appears. If you’ve lived a long time silencing your own thoughts and feelings, bringing them back to life can be a difficult task. Honoring your individuality and authenticity can be a daunting prospect—but it is possible. 
There are several steps to recovering from people pleasing:
One, practice listening to your own thoughts and feelings. Make a point of acknowledging your feelings, remembering that God created us with feelings, and they are legitimate ways of perceiving what is happening in our life. Feelings are e-motions—energy in motion—and can be harnessed to help us make decisions. 
Two, write your thoughts and feelings down in a journal. Writing down what we think and feel can be a powerful way to bring them to life. We can re-read what we have written, add to those thoughts and reflect on their meaning. We can consider what course of action is best for us to take. 
Three, share your thoughts and feelings with others. Practice sharing your thoughts about things. Practice saying ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ or even ‘I disagree’ or ‘I agree with you.’ These simple practices will strengthen your individuality. Practice running your ideas by a trusted friend, asking for their ‘soft’ input. Ensure that your friend doesn’t overstep their bounds in this process, however. 
Four, read passages of Scripture and pray over your reflections. Your relationship with God is a powerful way to know what is right and true in your life. Listen to the voice of God, and what God has to say to you on matters in your life. Ask God what he would have you do in a given situation.  
Five, practice setting healthy boundaries. Don’t allow others to tell you what to think, how to feel or what to do. While you want to respect others, and live in harmony with them, this does not mean you have to be a clone of them or allow others to rule your life. 
Finally, respect others boundaries as well as your own. Practice respecting other’s boundaries. Don’t tell others what to think, how to feel or what to do. Allow them the integrity to make their own decisions, offering counsel only when invited to give it. In like manner, be very careful about honoring your own feelings and thoughts. We are not called to compromise our values in order to get their approval. 
added for clarityDo you struggle with respecting your own boundaries, caught in the throes of people-pleasing? If you would like to learn ways to respond more effectively, please go to our website, Please send responses to me at and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage. 
Publication date: June 2, 2015