I am not proud of it, but I can admit that I am a people pleaser at heart. I mean I really, really, really desire recognition and approval. Thankfully, I am aware of this unhealthy bent in my personality. Even so, I find myself falling into the trap of worrying what people think much more often than I would like.
Case in point: a few weeks ago, a professional post was made about me on social media. I felt the need to keep checking how many people had “liked” or even more hopefully, “loved” the post. A few hours passed, and the response was lackluster.
Two sides of my brain warred with each other. The rational side said things like, “You know that your value doesn’t come from Facebook posts. Instagram is not an accurate reflection of who you are and what you are capable of.”
The irrational side of my brain, argued back, “It does too matter. People are on social media all the time. Surely they’ve seen this post by now. If I had the right kind of professional reputation people would be liking that post.”
Before the war could get too far out of hand, I prayed about it. Almost immediately, I looked at my phone’s Bible app, and would you believe it? The verse of the day was Galatians 1:10.
Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant. Galatians 1:10 ESV
Not often do I get a response that quickly from a prayer, but I was so thankful that day that God’s response was immediate and on target. Point taken. It’s not people’s approval I should be looking for, but His. Thankfully, as His daughter, I know that I already have His approval. If there’s a refrigerator in Heaven, my picture is hanging on it. I know I am loved deep in my bones. How can I know that I have his approval? Acts 13:39 says: “everyone who believes in Jesus receives God’s approval.”
No Facebook post can compete with that.
Even knowing I have God’s approval, I know that I will fight this battle until the day I die, because the battle for approval is really about my own pride. The minute I think I have won the battle, it arises again through a new situation.
I’m not the only one who struggles with the battle for approval. People-pleasing is a common struggle. Although often it is unhealthy, the root of it springs from a very pure and healthy need: to be loved, to be valued, and to be approved.
To deny that need is not the answer. I cannot win the battle by saying, “I just don’t care what anyone thinks.” I would be lying to myself. However, I can shift my thinking by reframing the thought to, “God approves of me, and that’s what matters.”
He is the most important factor by far, but He created us to be loved by people as well. His church is made up of people, and He calls them His body. Maybe anonymous strangers on Facebook don’t love me, but my tribe does, and they matter.
An epilogue to my story: later that evening I checked that post again. By then, it had multiple likes and a few shares. Those shares came from my closest friends and family, announcing to the social media world how proud they were of my accomplishments.
I can also receive affirmation from those who know me best and love me, faults and all. Besides God, they are my biggest supporters and advocates. At the end of the day, they’ve got my back, and that is a very good feeling.
Pause: Take a deep breath and exhale. Read over Acts 13:39 (above) a few times. Close your eyes and meditate on what this verse means to you.
Renew: Read Galatians 1:10 (above) again. Do you find that you are often struggling to please people? If so, think about the underlying needs that are causing this. Paul says, “If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Consider why pleasing people could be at odds with being Christ’s servant.
Next: This week, when you find yourself noticing that you want to be liked, to be approved of, or to be validated, take stock of the underlying motivation. Is it healthy or unhealthy? If unhealthy, start talking back to those thoughts: “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Choose to remember those who do approve of you, particularly Jesus, and revel in it for a moment before moving on with your day.
May we know that we are loved and keep our eyes focused on what matters.
Pause, Renew, Next!
I also find that I yearn for that recognition and approval, but when I do get accolades I feel like they’re overblown or “it’s not that big of a deal”. Can’t win.