4 Vital Steps in Overcoming People-Pleasing

People-pleasing

Hello, my name is Sonia Dube and I’m a recovering people-pleaser.

Ouch. That really stings for me to admit but the truth is the truth. For most of my life I have struggled with this innate desire to make others around me happy at the cost of my own joy or comfort. It started from a young age. I remember being a young girl and doing things that I knew would get me compliments from my parents (I didn’t even care about getting things from them, just the nice words). I would beam from ear to ear when I’d hear my Mum relate a story to visiting guests about something great I’d done or a great quality I possessed. But, should someone say something not-so-great about me, my whole world would come crashing down! I would be sad for days trying to wrack my brain about where I went wrong and how terribly this person must view me now.

People-pleasing is a prison. Whether it’s trying to gain the approval of others or trying to figure out what others think of you because of the “wrong” you’ve done. You’re never truly free. It is one of the most exhausting habits to possess. I came to realize that this was a problem about 5 years ago and I’ve been in recovery since then. As with any other addict (because I strongly believe that any bad habit is an addiction too – thanks Aunt Gail for the lessons on this!), I relapse every now and then but the joy is that it’s becoming less frequent.

There is a powerful young lady that I’ve recently come across with whom I resonate so deeply. Her name is Terri Lomax and she too has struggled with people-pleasing (Dear Mama: Standing Up to My Mom for the First Time). Do take a moment to click on the link and read her powerful story. I grew up in a tightly controlled home and was surrounded by abuse. I was told what to do and did not develop an independent way of thinking until much later on, in my adulthood. I think this was exacerbated more by growing up in a black African context. As a girl child in my culture, you give way to the elders, the men, the boys and the older women around you. You often do as you’re told despite your thoughts around that particular issue. And so, I did not believe that I had my own thoughts or that I was truly of any value and I walked around in the shadow of everyone else trying not to make waves or get into trouble.

I’m so grateful though that I met Jesus and He has been helping me to overcome this struggle one day at a time. As I said, I’m not yet fully over my people-pleasing and I have to monitor myself, but I’m all the more better today. Here are a few things that I’ve learnt and adopted to help me get past my bad habit:

  1. Acknowledging that I am by nature a people-pleaser. I remember attending the Life in Recovery class at my church run by my Mother-friend Aunt Gail Masondo which focused on admitting our bad habits/addictions. One of the first steps to recovery is admitting that you are powerless. Admitting that I have this problem has allowed me to recognize when I’m falling back into it which allows me to more quickly bounce back.
  1. Prayer and meditation. I have found that nothing can change you more than prayer. When you pray, you become honest with yourself and this allows you to take the necessary steps to recovery. You cannot know what you need to do to recover if you have not acknowledged what is wrong. Prayer and meditation on encouraging Bible verses also allows God to reveal personal steps to recovery for you.
  1. Taking the time to acknowledge and validate my feelings. As a people-pleaser, one of the main issues is that you don’t believe that your feelings/thoughts/opinions are as valid as those of others. In my case, I didn’t believe I had any valid thoughts or feelings because they were essentially dictated to me. But I’ve had to slow down and acknowledge how I feel when I go through something. If someone does something that makes me upset or uncomfortable, I no longer just sail past it, but I pause to recognize how it has left me feeling. Whether or not my feelings/thoughts are correct is not the point, it’s the fact that I have them and that’s alright. This then makes it easier for me to work out my response to people or situations.
  1. Learning to say no to others so that I can say yes to me. This has been the most difficult step to carry out but one of the most liberating. I used to find it impossible to refuse others around me because it felt like I was being unreasonable or that I had no right to refuse anyone almost anything. I also did not love myself enough to make healthy choices. But I had reached a point where I was so unhappy and it was nobody’s fault but mine. Everyone else was living life but me. So after reading books, articles and speaking to mentors, I decided I would say no to things I did not want to do. It was initially tough and sometimes I’d go back on my refusal. It was hard not only on me but on those who were used to me always saying yes. But over time, and with practice (yes even in front of a mirror), I became more comfortable with saying no to others. It was not a dirty word afterall. And I gained more respect for myself and respect from others.

These are just a few of the steps I have adopted on my journey to recovery and they have made an amazing difference in this area of my life. I know that I’m not alone in this struggle and I’d love to hear from anyone who is currently trying to overcome people-pleasing or who has already done so.

Remember, I’m still praying for you!

With love,

Sonia Dee

What has been your journey with people-pleasing? What steps have you learnt/adopted to overcome this habit?

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Guest Post: The Single Black African Mother by Mondisi Mabhena

Single Black Mom 4

Once upon a time many years ago I sat at my desk in high school envisioning the perfect future.  I saw myself married to a handsome and loving man and mom to five bright eyed and bushy tailed kids.  Fast forward sixteen years the picture looks very different to that perfect vision I had all those years ago. Today I am a single mom to three precious boys.  I’ve never been married and so far nothing on the horizon, and I couldn’t be happier.  My situation may not be God’s design for the prefect family, but through the challenges I have faced, He really showed me who He is and even though things became so difficult and painfully unbearable He brought me out of the darkest situations I’ve been faced with in my life.  He showed me that even when we choose to satisfy the flesh and defy Him, He remains true to His promises, that He will never leave us nor forsake us; that He will deliver us out of the miry clay and set our feet upon a rock; that even when we make our bed in hell, there He will be with us.  Oh, I just want to shout as I write this!  I have never known a love so moving and so perfect, and let me tell you I have been searching all my life for this wonderful feeling, for the perfect Man to enter my life and bring me true joy.

My goal in writing this is for single black African mothers to know that no matter the challenges we may face we are not facing them alone even though sometimes it does seem as though the odds are stacked up against us and we may feel completely abandoned and vulnerable.  God’s tender mercies have always seen me through the roughest of episodes and He does the same for each one of you.  Looking back on all three of my pregnancies and the circumstances around each one I see the Father’s mighty hand.  I specifically want to quickly mention the circumstances surrounding my second pregnancy. When I fell pregnant my boyfriend at the time was adamant that he wanted an abortion, and foolishly I gave in to his pressured request and swallowed the dreaded pill that would steal the life of God’s beloved creation. It was a low point in my life especially where my relationship with God was concerned and I felt like dying.  I spent weeks in a zombie-like state, I battled with the pain of what I’d done until I could bear it no more and one day alone in my room I fell to my knees and said a small prayer. I plainly asked Him to give me back my baby. I told Him I had read that He was a miracle maker, so He had to do this for me. I told Him that the only faith I had was as tiny as a mustard seed and it was all I had to offer. In the solemn silence I heard a sweet small whisper say “Yes”. A peace like I had never felt before engulfed me for the briefest of moments and I was momentarily convinced that He would actually do this thing for me, but after I arose from the floor I was back in my usual zombie-like condition not believing I had really heard God speak to me. I mean, come on, these things don’t really happen, not in the twenty-first century at least, is what I thought.

A week later, as per the instruction of the nurse at the clinic, I took a pregnancy test, and to my absolute bewilderment there were two bold pink strips on the test, indicating that I was in actual fact still with child! In that moment I believed with all that was in me that my Father, my Jesus had performed this amazing miracle! I had no doubt that my baby was safe and intact. Now I have to mention here that I was told that the reason I had to take the test was to ensure everything was expelled as there are instances where parts of the fetus remain, but I knew with certainty that my baby was whole. I needed no confirmation of that. Today I can’t get a word in edge-wise when he’s around. He is a ball of energy, a bright and intelligent young man, and definitely the life of the ‘party’. With the birth of each of my boys, in that moment when I held them for the first time, I cannot describe the emotions that flowed through my body. I am not the type who cries and balls her eyes out in that moment, all I do is stare in admiration at the wonderful thing that God has done for me. I always find myself in absolute awe of His handiwork. I always find myself blessed. He has taken each bad situation, each ungodly union I had with a man and brought something good out of each situation. I know I don’t deserve that, yet He blesses me still.

Today my eldest son is ten years old, my talkative ball of energy referred to earlier is five and my baby is three months old.  I know people look at me and wonder why I have three children and no husband.  They wonder what I’m doing wrong; perhaps some feel pity for me and maybe others think I’m crazy or of questionable character or maybe even stupid and irresponsible or all of the above. Well, I don’t have a response because I sincerely have no need to defend or explain myself, and I say that in the nicest possible way. It is what it is, and my Father knows my whole story and to me that is all that matters. I guess what I mean is that we all are on a plan that God created for each one of us at the foundation of the earth. He knew that He needed to make some wiggle room for our stubborn, sinful and selfish free will, but ultimately He knows the plans He has for us and one way or the other His plans will be fulfilled. I believe that I had to go through everything I have experienced for a greater purpose – to be a blessing to others, to stand up strong as a black African woman (bAw) and hold my head up high through all of life’s curveballs.

One glorious day a few weeks ago I had another mind shattering encounter with my Father and what a truly glorious day it was because He revealed His plans for my life, which I will keep to myself for now, but I will share them with you soon.  Anyway, I was at my lowest and I had been that way since finding out I was pregnant with my third child. Throughout my pregnancy and for almost three months after giving birth it was probably the darkest time of my life. I mean think about it, who wants to be pregnant and single and rejected for the third time in a row? Certainly not the innocent high school girl I knew sixteen years ago. So there I was drowning in a pain I thought would last for the rest of my days on this earth, when He changed my life and with a mighty voice said “Arise!  Come up out of that dark pit and be the woman I made you to be.  You are created in my image, you are powerful and you are loved. Have no fear for your life is in My hands. I am your Father and I love you. You are a woman of grace and a woman of wonder. You are more than you can imagine – you are mine and it’s time now to rise and let My glory shine through you. Have I not told you that you were fearfully and wonderfully made by My mighty and gentle hand.” I cried all through that night. I kid you not, I did not sleep one wink. That was the last time I felt the nagging pain that had been threatening to consume me whole. I knew then that from that moment on my life would be different. I knew I would fulfill the purpose God has for me. I knew I would make it.

So here I am, a single mother to three beautiful children. I wake up each day with no fear, I am ready to take on the world and come out victorious. I no longer doubt my abilities, and I certainly spend no time worrying about my status in society as a never married single bAw with three children. In my Father’s eyes I am His precious daughter, beautiful and triumphant and loved. My dream is for black African women to take their place in God’s awesome plan. I believe all people were created equal (Galatians 3:28), and I also believe that women have a different role to men in society, in which we can thrive and be the powerful beings God created us to be. Let’s explore that together as we journey with our sister Sonia as she rediscovers what it means to be a bAw in the world today.

I am blessed to have been given this opportunity to share some of my story and I pray that you have been encouraged to seek a deeper relationship with God. The word says “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” It’s as simple as that – seek Him first, make all other needs and wants secondary, and you will experience just how good God is.  David says it best in Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

With love

Mondisi

Mondisi Mabhena

Mondisi is a vibrant, talented and loving young woman who is dedicated to serving and loving her God. She is a single mother to 3 amazing young boys and currently resides in South Africa. Mondi is passionate about empowering the children and young people of Africa in understanding their heritage and true value.

Do you have an experience you’d like to share with us? Have you gone through a life-changing journey? Please feel free to share below or contact Sonia at sonia.dube3@gmail.com