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The Struggle of People Pleasing and How to Overcome It

Can you relate to this feeling? The nagging urge to say yes when you really want to say no. The desire to make everyone happy even if it leaves you exhausted and overwhelmed. We often struggle with people pleasing and fearing what others think of us. We want to be liked. We want to make a good impression. We want to fulfill the command to love our neighbor. But at what cost? When does our need to please shift from love and service to anxiety and approval seeking? If you constantly worry about offending others or struggle to be authentic in your relationships, it may be time to overcome your tendency to be a people pleaser.

Why We Tend to Fear People & Seek to Please Them

As embodied souls, created to be relational, many of us innately desire to appease people and win their approval. This urge often stems from our fear of rejection and desire for acceptance.

  • We worry about what others think of us, so we try to meet their expectations. We say "yes" when we should say "no" to keep the peace.
  • We seek validation through the praise and compliments of others. When we don't get it, we feel insecure and question our worth.
  • We struggle with setting healthy boundaries because we want to appear agreeable and make people happy. But typically this leads to resentment, burnout, and dysfunctional relationships.

The truth is, as long as you prioritize pleasing people, you won’t experience the freedom of God's approval. You’ll be trapped trying to earn the love and acceptance that you already have in Jesus Christ.

Here are a few tips to overcome the temptation to please others:

  • Focus on God, not man. Remind yourself that you are already fully loved and accepted by God. You have nothing left to prove if you are in Christ.
  • Speak the truth in love. Be willing to have hard conversations when needed. Don't just tell people what they want to hear.
  • Set boundaries. Learn to say "no" in a kind and compassionate way. Don't feel guilty for not being able to meet everyone's demands.
  • Seek validation from God, not people. Remember that God's opinion is the only one that truly matters. Let His truth define you.

The path to overcoming the fear of man is not always easy but with God's help, you can break free from the prison of people-pleasing and find confidence in who He made you to be. You can have healthy, balanced relationships where you both love others well AND stand confident in your worth in Him.

Setting Healthy Boundaries: How Jesus Did It

Our Lord Jesus showed us how to set healthy boundaries, as described in scripture.

He wasn't afraid to say "no" when His time hadn't come yet, or His priorities were elsewhere. Jesus also slipped away regularly to pray and be alone with the Father. He didn't let the expectations and demands of others distract Him from His purpose.

Jesus also didn't bend to pacify the religious leaders or the powerful opposition. He didn't sugarcoat the truth or water down His message to gain the approval and affection of others. Jesus spoke with compassion but also with boldness. He called out sin and hypocrisy when He saw it, knowing that was ultimately best for others.

 Jesus knew His purpose was in obedience to the Father, not to others. He loved people but didn't rely on their approval or seek their praise.

As followers of Christ, we can set boundaries too by:

  1. Saying "no" when you need to. Please don't feel guilty about it.
  2. Making time for prayer and solitude. Connect with God first before others.
  3. Finding your identity in Christ. Don't rely on the approval of people. Fear God, not others.
  4. Loving people but not seeking their praise. Serve others to please God, not win affection.

By following Jesus' perfect example, you might worry less about what others think and find freedom in fully pleasing God. And that's what matters most in eternity. 

Freedom Through Your Identity in Christ

As believers, our identity is in Christ, not what others think of us. But many struggle with the "fear of man" and seek approval from people instead of God. How do we break free? Recognize that you were created to please God, not man. He is the only one you need to impress. Focus on living according to His will and ways, not the world's.

Consider worrying less about what others think of you. Their opinions truly have no bearing on your worth and value in Christ. He loves you unconditionally, so you have nothing to prove.

Don't let perceived rejection shake you. Even if others don't approve of you, God's opinion is the only one that matters. He meets you right where you are and yet calls you to grow closer and closer to Him.

Stand up for what you believe in. Have courage and confidence from knowing who you are in Christ. As Paul says in Galatians 1:10, don't be a people pleaser–be a God pleaser!

Find your security and self-worth in Christ alone. Don't rely on the approval and praise of people. Your identity and purpose are found in Him.

When you appropriate who you are in Christ, you won't fear man or seek people's approval. You'll live with boldness, purpose, and passion to serve God and love others. Breaking free from the fear of man starts with grasping your true identity in Him.


So there you have it. The desire to please others comes naturally to many of us, but we are all called to please God first. It's not about earning the approval and affection of other people, in the end. Focus on what really matters–pursuing a genuine relationship with Jesus and serving Him wholeheartedly–while resting in His approval. Don't be a people pleaser, be a God pleaser. Proverbs 29:25 specifically tells us that “fear of man” is only a trap. 

If you would like some additional resources on this topic, click here and scroll down to the relevant section. Alternatively, please feel free to reach out for help with this issue by filling out the counseling request form here!

- Ben Sheppard, Marketing & Development


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