Confessions of a recovering people pleaser
Have you ever heard of strangling vines? I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated name for them, but we’ll just call them strangling vines for now. ;)
I first learned about them when I was on a rainforest walk excursion in primary school, and I was fascinated by them. I even wrote an entire assignment on these vines (complete with a scrappy poster and printed out pictures, of course) when my class was studying the Amazon.
Strangling vines latch on to a host tree, wind their way around it, and stuffocate it from the outside in until there’s nothing left of the tree except a hollow structure.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter how big the tree is. It doesn’t matter how grand it looks standing there in the rainforest with light glimmering on it’s top branches. It doesn’t matter how strong, tall or tough the tree looks. If the vine latches on to it, it spreads like a disease, until the tree is finally conformed to the vine.
I think the pressure to please is a lot like this vine. It’s a disease that, if left untreated, can have detrimental effects on our lives and those closest to us, conforming us to act and do and say what will please others the most, until we don’t even know what we really want most anymore.
We’ve all got a little bit of people pleaser in us somewhere.
In my own life, people pleasing has looked like saying yes to everything under the sun because I wanted people to like me.
There have been more times than I can count when I’ve said ‘yes’ to something to please other people knowing full well it would come at the expense of my marriage, my work, and my sanity.
Yes to more church activities. Yes to more coffee dates with friends. Yes to dinner on the weekend.
You’re probably thinking, “but, aren’t these good things?” And I hear you. They aren’t bad things. They’re good things, and that’s why it can be so easy to say yes to them.
But I’ve learned I can’t say yes to everything just because it’s a good thing.
If I said yes to every good thing, my schedule would be full to the brim, and I wouldn’t be able to give my best to anything. I’ve been there before, and it’s not pretty. (Think stressed out, irritated, exhausted Elise. Really not great.)
And I’ve learned I can’t please everyone and make the best decisions at the same time.
I wonder what would happen if we started using our yes more wisely and our no unashamedly. Unashamed means to be “without guilt, self-consciousness, or doubt.” Powerful, right?
What would you say no to if you weren’t so worried about what other people would think of you?
Maybe it’s that Pilates class you hate because it really isn’t your thing but you tag along anyway because you’re worried about hurting your best friend’s feelings, when in fact you’d rather got to the RPM class in studio 2 because cycling makes you feel energised and strong.
Maybe it’s that weekly Friday dinner with the girls that you absolutely love but you know you should say no to this week so you can go out on a date night with your husband.
Maybe it’s that weekly after church dinner hangout that’s blowing out your budget and you know your bank account and mind will thank you if you just head home and eat the leftovers you’ve got in the fridge instead.
Saying no to something good helps you say yes to what’s best.
Truth be told, sometimes we’ll feel sad saying no to things - because we’re saying no to good things that we care about. I’ve been there. For someone like me, who’s learning to say ‘no,’ it can be kind of confusing. But it’s OK. You can feel sad and want to do something but also say no because it’s not what you should be saying yes to right now.
Here’s my heart.
I want to be the kind of woman who gives her best.
I want to be the kind of woman who gives my best to my husband and, one day, my kids. I want to be the woman who shows up and gives the very best to her business. I want to be the woman who serves her church and community well. I want to be the woman who loves on her friends and family. I want to be the woman who is growing in her relationship with God. I want to be the woman who is dreaming and trying out new things.
But I can’t do any of this well if I say yes to every single invite, event, or activity.
Let’s be honest, this area isn’t black and white. Our lives, priorities and schedules may look very different to each other. It will look different for each of us and will change as we go through the seasons of life. That’s OK. Let’s be gracious with each other.
It takes wisdom to navigate these things.
Wisdom far beyond what I can conjure up on my own. I need God’s wisdom. I need God’s wisdom to know what to say no to and what to give my very best yes to each day.
It feels right to close out this post with a prayer. You’re welcome to steal it and use it as your own.
I need your wisdom to navigate life. Give me the wisdom to know what to say no to and what to say yes to. Help me give my best and to do it with the right heart. I pray that in everything I do, I would bring honour you.