People-pleasing or image management is a problem for most women because we were made for relationship. We need connection with those around us. Connection is the food that nourishes our spirit and soul. It’s the fuel that powers our mood, our energy, and our health. It’s the source of our spiritual, emotional, and physical life. Connection is the reason that Jesus came to Earth and died on the cross. It’s even the answer to that compelling question, Why am I here? Life is all about connection.
But we get tripped up when we think that connection only happens when people are happy with us, when we comply with their wishes, or when we don’t disappoint them. This faulty thinking leads us to seek the favor of others but in doing so we lose the freedom to be our authentic selves.
In seeking favor we lose our freedom.
We might reveal some of us, but we definitely don’t reveal all of us when we try to gain the favor of another. We don’t talk about how we disagree or where our goals might be in conflict. We read minds and then act in ways that are more slanted to what we think will gain us the approval of others rather than our what our authentic feelings or thoughts actually are. By seeking the favor of others, we sacrifice the freedom to be our unique selves.
ee Cummings said it best:
But God made each of us with unique thoughts, limits, choices, feelings, desires, dreams, strengths and goals. He designed us specifically for the work He has for us to do and for the relationships He wants us to enjoy. If we let others tell us who we are then we have given up the fight for an authentic life.
The desire to connect with others coupled with a temptation to morph ourselves into shapes that please others creates a predicament in the formation of authentic relationships.
So what’s a girl to do?
Put God in charge of your image. Let God give you favor with those around you so you don’t have to sacrifice your freedom to get it.
You can have both favor and freedom.
Just look at Joseph. He was given favor with the Egyptian Pharaoh not because he made nice with the leader but because God gave it to him. Ruth was given favor with a wealthy bachelor named Boaz who eventually became her husband not because she tried to impress him, but because God gave it to her. Ester won the favor of the king over all the other virgins not because she tried the hardest but because God gave it to her. Not one of these people had to sacrifice their unique design, original thoughts or even their obedience to God to gain the favor of others. It was simply given to them. They enjoyed both freedom and favor.
But its not guaranteed. There are some that God will not grant you favor with. Before Joseph gained the favor of Pharaoh, he lost it with Potiphar when he was falsely accused by his wife and then thrown in prison. Some people won’t like you or think highly of you and others will get upset and angry with you. But when you put God in charge of your favor it’s up to Him, not you, to make a connection happen. As I love to say “You can be the best peach in the box, but some people just don’t like peaches.” Let God be in charge of the taste buds of those around you.
But the most important thing that us people-pleasers need to do is make God the only audience that matters. We need to seek God’s favor alone for this is where true freedom is found. Isaiah 66:2 tells us how to do that:
“These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.”
God favors those who don’t seek to impress or hide their brokenness. With Him we are free to be a mess. God favors those whose authentic hearts are open to Him more than others, surrendered to Him more than others, and in love with Him more than others. With Him we are free to be real, weak and needy. On a bad day, that is some great news!
When we seek the favor of others we have chosen the favor of people over the favor of God but when we seek the favor of the Lord we can have both. Favor and freedom can only be found when we seek God’s favor.
“May your favor be on us, Lord our God; make our endeavors successful; yes, make our endeavors secure!” Psalm 90:17
How can you put God in charge of the favor that you usually seek?