7 Tools To Fight People-Pleasing
Needing my father's approval drove me to insanity. Over and over I tried to be obedient and please him. Each time, I expected "this time" would be different. "This time," he would scoop me up into his arms and be the Hallmark movie star dad I dreamed of. We would laugh, talk for hours, and eat ice cream cones. But no matter how hard I tried, we didn't have a fairy-tale relationship.
Because I kept trying different combinations, I failed to see the insanity. I got perfect grades. I helped my mom run the house. I helped my Dad run the yard and garden. I kept my brothers out of trouble. For more than 40 years, I tried to find the right career, car, diet, and pastimes to win my dad's approval.
Instead, I ended up being a miserably frightened 6 year-old little girl trapped in an exhausted 40 year-old body. I was an adult with the problem-solving skills of a child. I kept trying harder and harder to control another person's feelings. This was insane, and my life was unmanageable.
I Misunderstood My Heavenly Father
Of course, a 6 year-old might think that God is just like her earthly dad. It makes perfect sense. When I was finally broken enough to try Celebrate Recovery, I was thrilled to learn Jesus could be my Higher Power because I wasn't speaking to God. I didn't trust God any more than I trusted my dad. Little by little, I began to trust Jesus with small, superficial problems. After a few months, I began asking Jesus to give God messages for me. As I recovered, I learned I had a lot of things wrong about my understanding of God. Louie Giglio says,
"God is not the reflection of your earthly dad. He is the perfection of your earthly dad."
Hardships Are The Pathway To Peace
When I started attending Celebrate Recovery, I was an emotional wreck. I was physically sick, and I had a lot of debt.
The truth is, I sought EVERYONE's approval, not just my dad's.
Over the next few months, things got WORSE! I was facing bankruptcy. I couldn't pay my bills. Anytime a large truck would drive past my house, I was certain someone was here to repossess something. I couldn't pay the taxes on the house I owned, and I was less than seven days away from losing the house. My biggest fear was that my dad would read about the taxes in the paper. I was a grown woman who was still afraid of being punished by her dad.
I owed banks money for bounced checks, and I couldn't even buy food for my family. Yet, my relationship with God was healing. He was providing for my needs. Sarasota has a great network of food banks. I was even able to get fresh fruits and veggies at one of the sites. I learned to put my family's immediate needs first. This meant I couldn't please everyone. I paid my rent first, and then told all the other creditors the hard truth.
Above all, I learned that having money or credit to buy stuff didn't give me serenity. Instead, it robbed me of my peace. Day by day, I looked to God to meet all of my needs, including love.
I Still Need My Father's Approval
I've always loved my dad, which is why I tried so hard to please him. In many I ways, I made my dad and all of the other people in my life little gods. When I needed love or approval, I went to them. When I needed security or advice, I went to these people before I went to God. No wonder my life was in a mess.
Surrendering my life to God means that I can only have ONE true God. Putting God first lets me see my dad as a human who doesn't have to be perfect or have all of the answers. I never had a coming of age standoff with my dad. I never called my dad and fired him from the day to day management of my life. I simply quit asking his advice. I quit running ideas past him, and I quit telling him my every move. Instead, I do that with God.
When I get it right and make my recovery my priority, I seek God first thing in the morning. I run all of my problems past Him, and I ask Him to solve them. When I am patient enough to wait for His answers and bold enough to follow them, things work out better than I can imagine.
When I go back to my old habits of people pleasing and forcing solutions, I am right back in the insanity of my insecurity. This usually means that scared six year-old little girl is once again calling the shots. I wish this never happened, but recovery is about...
Progress, not perfection.
I'm getting wiser. I notice my insanity faster. I suffer for shorter amounts of time, and I get myself right with God sooner. As soon as I do that, my need for human approval is exposed and my serenity returns.
God did end up rushing in and saving the day. I didn't have to file bankruptcy. Someone bought the house, and I was able to pay my back taxes, late fees, credit card balances, and bank charges. My credit score is still recovering, but I can buy anything I want at grocery stores, and I pay for it with cash. No more credit cards for me.
Now that my dad's gone back to just being human, I can see him for what he is, a human. I am able to accept and love my dad for the person he is. I no longer try to control his behavior, and I know I'm not the cause of his feelings. He's still quiet, sometimes distant, and gruff, but I didn't cause any of that. Nor can I cure any of his problems. I see where my expectations let me down and contributed to the insanity.
So many recovery tools and slogans helped me redirect my need for approval.
Step 12. I practice these recovery principles in all my affairs because I am sick in all my affairs.
In Al-Anon, I learned about the three C's: I can't control someone else, I can't cure anyone else, and I didn't cause anyone else's disease or addiction.
Other people's opinions of me are none of my business.
I read and re-read Boundaries by Drs. Cloud and Townsend.
Expectations are predetermined resentments.
Progress, not perfection.
The entire Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonable happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
- Reinhold Niebuhr