Today we are looking at a mask that is worn by many of us, people pleasing. You know which fear is associated with this mask right? It’s the fear of rejection. This is a very powerful fear and keeps our mask in place very tightly. What does people pleasing look like? How can we identify it?
Well, one way to identify it is like this: if we are going out with a friend, and they ask us what we want to do, we often answer with, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” We rarely express our own opinion because it is so much safer to go along with what others want. After awhile, we may slowly take on the interests, desires and dreams of others because then there is less of a chance of being rejected by them. If we do this long enough, we may not even know what our own preferences are, and we begin to lose our identity.
I definitely did this a lot as a kid, and especially when I started dating. When I first started dating, I wanted to make a good impression; I wanted the guy to like me. I didn’t want there to be any tension in our relationship, so I would meld myself into my boyfriend’s wants, dreams, interest and desires. Slowly, over time, I would begin to lose my own identity. I got to that place where I didn’t know how to answer the question of “what do you want to do?” because I honestly didn’t know. If he liked to watch a certain show, I liked to as well. His favorite restaurant would become my favorite restaurant. You get the picture right? Have you ever done this? Are you doing it now?
This doesn’t just happen in dating relationships. It can happen in any kind of relationship. At the extreme end of people pleasing, we can become like doormats and are vulnerable to being used and abused by others.
The mask of people pleasing is very easy to put on. We can even spiritualize it by saying, “it’s better to give than to receive,” or think of it as having a servant’s heart. In this type of instance, we are being “sacrificial or giving”, but generally we don’t have the equal give and take. Have you ever found yourself in this mask? Do you make your opinions based on what others say? Do you ever find yourself doing something you’d rather not do because you were too timid to say so? If so, this could be evidence that you have hidden behind the “Mask of People Pleasing” at times in your life.
If we can change our focus to be one that desires to please God rather than people, this can help us to step away from this mask. What would most please God is if we live out the life that He created for us by being our true selves and living out our purpose.Pleasing God = living the life He created us for to His glory! Click To Tweet
There are several scripture passages that refer to seeking God’s approval instead of other people. Galatians 10:10 says, “Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” This is a weighty thought if we recognize that when we are trying to please others instead of Christ, we are not being God’s servant. To me, not only does this equate to sinful living, but it also means that I am not living out the purpose that God created me for.
It was a bit of a shift in my thinking to recognize that hiding behind masks isn’t simply because I have low self-esteem and low confidence, but it is actually sinful behavior. That got my attention! It also gave me more motivation to change my behavior and to seek God’s help in doing it!
Can you also see how the mask of perfectionism and people pleasing overlap? Sometimes the desire to avoid rejection from others comes out in trying to be perfect. The thing is that we can never please all people, all of the time. It’s impossible! It’s also impossible to be perfect. However, we do have influence on people all of the time, whether for good or bad and whether we want to or not. This is definitely something to be aware of and to consider. When we wear masks, we influence others in a way that is inauthentic and could be detrimental to both us and them.
In his book, The Difference You Make: Changing Your World through the Impact of Your Influence, Pat Williams reflects on something that Pastor Rick Warren says, which really brought this concept home for me:
“Rick Warren, in The Purpose Driven Life, puts it this way: “At some point in your life you must decide whether you want to impress people or influence people. You can impress people from a distance, but you must get close to influence them, and when you do that, they will be able to see your flaws.”
It’s true: The greater your influence, the more visible your flaws. And that’s okay! You don’t have to be perfect to impact lives with your influence. In fact, one of the most important ways you can have positive influence on the people around you is by being transparent and honest about your mistakes and sins. The most important influence we have on people is not through our perfection, but through the example we set in dealing with – and recovering from – our failures.” (pg 34)
I think about the influence I have on my kids. If they witness me hiding behind a mask, not being authentic, and living in fear of rejection, what am I telling them? If they only see me showing my good side and never allowing others to see my faults, what message am I giving them? Do I want to tell them and show them that they can’t be their true selves? Do I want to let them believe that they can’t make mistakes? This can only lead to insecurity and fear developing in them as well.
We may not realize how much influence we have on others. But we do, and if we are living our lives behind masks, we aren’t influencing others in positive ways. However, if we find our self-worth in God and focus on pleasing him rather than people and we seek to live out the purpose that He created us for, our influence can be positive, profound and powerful. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty awesome to me! I want to be used by God that way in the lives of others.
I’d love to hear from you! Comment below to share with us your experience with this mask and ways that you have worked to overcome it.