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Life constantly demands changes. There are things we must often change to secure jobs or complete projects. We may have to change our schedules to accommodate life's demands. But should we change the essence of who we are to please someone else? Should we alter our interests and/or personalities to preserve relationships?
My youngest daughter has battled with the inclination to be a people pleaser for years. First it was with her siblings. My older three kids were doorsteps: 15 months apart and 17 months apart. They grew up together and were very close. Eight years after my third child, my husband and I were blessed with a fourth child. The older three doted on her. They spoiled her. But as they became teens they had little in common with a preschooler. Yes, they always loved her, but as they grew up, got married, and left home, my (now) preteen felt abandoned by them. She went through an awkward stage that irritated them. My youngest began to desperately try to impress them. She changed her interests, she tried to be funny, and she tried to make decisions she thought they would like. She had not found herself. She was seeking acceptance. In this time frame, she just wanted a loyal friend. One of her classmates influenced her negatively because she wanted acceptance. She began to listen to music that wasn't allowed and converse in chat groups we knew nothing about. She was introduced to these things by the friend she wanted to keep. This same friend was making plans to have my daughter spend the night and go to a Bible study. At least that is what they were going to tell me and my husband. The real plan was to drive five hours away and go to a concert. Needless to say, my husband and I are the nosy parents who go through our children's phones and have passwords to their email and social media. We have an open door policy in which they cannot close their bedroom doors. So the truth came out. This opened the door for me to talk more intimately with my baby girl and find out that she was struggling with feelings of self-worth. She had not found her purpose. From this, my daughter realized her need for salvation and that Jesus could fill the void when she felt lonely or unsure. It helped us bond as mother and daughter. Today, my daughter is an emotionally healthy and happy 16-year-old. My father was one of her mentors and confidants. It is realizing her self-worth in Christ that enabled her to get through losing my father (her grandfather). She, also, is now able to advise younger girls who are struggling with their own feelings of inadequacy. Her story is developing beautifully. However, that is not the case for many. Why do so many feel they need to change who they are to please another?
For some, the fear of rejection or criticism drives them to accommodate others. For others, it is their impressionable personalities. This is most likely the result of immaturity or ignorance of one's self. This aspect is more easily remedied than others. Then there are those that are intent on pleasing others for selfish motives. They want something in return.
How do you know if you are a people pleaser? Are you aware if you are changing yourself to impress another?
- You constantly apologize, even if you have done nothing wrong.
- You have trouble saying "no" to the requests and demands of others.
- You take part in activities that go against your belief system.
- You agree with everyone, or at least you make them think you do.
- You can't handle others being angry with you.
- You can't handle conflict.
- You need constant praise/verbal acknowledgment.
- You won't admit if your feelings are hurt.
- Your interest and behavior began to mimic those around you.
So, now that you know whether or not you are a people pleaser, how will you change it? Here are some tips:
- Understand that it is ok to say "no."
- Take a little time to engage in activities you love. For my daughter, it was playing volleyball and softball.
- Make a list of goals, both short-term and long-term.
- Avoid toxic people.
- For those who are believers, remind yourself daily that God created you and that alone makes you wonderful.
- Choose your friends wisely.
If you find yourself changing for someone else, if you are trying to establish your own identity, a helpful resource is the book Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee.