People Pleasing is NOT Loving

Not only am I a #RecoveringStrongPerson, I am also a recovering “people pleaser.” Somewhere in my lifetime I got the idea that  it was loving to always spare people negative feelings and it was somehow my responsibility that people were happy. In the last few years, I came to a surprising realization about myself.. .. … . that I became offended at people when they were not happy with me.  

“How could they be upset with me!?!   I am just trying to make them HAPPY!”

It took me years, actually decades, to finally see that “Loving” and “Pleasing” are two very different things.  If you are not a recovering people pleaser, it may be obvious to you that you can be helpful, accomodating or nice in order to make someone happy and not actually love the other person at all.  As a matter of fact, you can “please” someone while being angry, offended, judgmental or bitter inside toward them.  

For years I believed that pleasing people was being a good, kind and loving person.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times that being kind or accomodating can be pleasing to someone and truly is from a motive of love but sometimes it is not.  Have you ever had a salesperson be extremely charming and act like your best friend until you give them a solid, “no, I’m out”?  We see it all the time in business but it is more difficult to recognize in our personal relationships and I was shocked to discover that when I was trying to please people it was sometimes coming from a selfish motive.  

I was shocked to discover that my effort to please people had a SELFISH motive.

People pleasing can have a number of motives but I discovered I had two main motivations for people pleasing.  One of my love love languages is affirmation and I realized that one of my motivations for pleasing people was to feel valued and loved by the affirmation that comes from pleasing.  My other main motivation for people pleasing was that I had an unhealthy fear of dealing with potential conflicts from disappointing people.  If a people pleaser is honest with their self, there are often internal feelings of fear, anger and resentment when trying to please people.  Taking responsibility for one’s feelings and being honest about them in a healthy manner is not the norm for a high people pleaser so until one is honest with their self about how they truly feel, they can suppress their true feelings for the sake of harmony on the surface.  Sometimes there is an internal belief that “I don’t matter” but, for me, I primarily just wanted to keep harmony because of a fear of conflict and it was a SELF-protection mode.  

I used to (foolishly) wonder how people could be disappointed or angry with me because all I was trying to do was to please them.  When I was realizing this about myself, it became apparent that my goal was not actually to love people, it was to make my life easier by not making waves.  

As a matter of fact. .. . People Pleaser, you may find it hard to believe that it is difficult for people to “feel” loved by you. 

Why is that?  When we are trying to please someone we are assessing the situation and engaging in a relational chess match to produce the smoothest outcome for our self.  In that scenario, we are not initiating actions out of a motive of love for the other person, we are just responding to a perceived want or need sometimes even with resentment in our heart.   In truth, we are actually interacting with that person with a mask over our true heart and feelings.  People may not be able to put their finger on it but they will often feel a sense of surface or superficiality in those scenarios that will not allow them to actually feel loved or deeply connected to us.   

In order for someone to feel connected to your heart, they have to actually experience your heart and that means not only happy smiles but sometimes saying “no” or lovingly confronting someone when they hurt or offend.  Those are not the most pleasant moments but when we are able to do those, we are letting people see and experience our true heart and that allows actually “feel” connected in a deep way to us.  

Love gives and receives and it is honest.  People pleasing is out to get something whether it be affirmation, respect, peace at the sake of truth, identity or security.    Sometimes loving people is pleasing, but sometimes pleasing people is not the loving thing to do.  Maybe take some to time to think, pray or ask a friend you trust if you have a tendency to be a “pleaser”.  Give yourself permission to value and own your true feelings so you can actually give honestly from your heart instead of from a place of obligation.  It may not always be “pleasing” but it will be loving! 

Process a little more over some coffee or with friends. ..

  1. Have you ever met someone who is afraid to show or express negative feelings or emotions with you?   How did it affect your relationship or connection with that person?
  2. Would you consider yourself a “people pleaser”?  Why or why not? 
  3.  Have you ever found yourself stuffing your true feelings and later being angry or resentful because you were not fully honest about what was going on inside of yourself?   If yes, why do you think you chose that course of action? 
  4. Have you ever had a time you shared your honest feelings even when they were negative and found that your relationship actually grew stronger because of it? 


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