Recovering People Pleaser

I feel very inadequate to share my words, any of them, on this space. I haven’t experienced any massive tragedies or trauma in my life. My life isn’t marked by significant or life altering trials where God has revealed Himself. Yet, the same words that I speak over other women I come into contact with, rings true for me too... “You have a story that God is writing and you need to share it.” “It’s not about you, it’s about Him.” “Nothing is wasted.” So I sit here hesitant to share, yet fully confident in the God I follow that my meagre offering in obedience can be used to bring Him glory. And so I persist...

I am a fixer, a helper, if you will. I have always wanted to make things better for people. I love to make people laugh, cheer them up, talk through their problems with them, get them back on track. One could safely say I was a people pleaser to the max. I wanted to be everyone’s “all”. I wanted people to talk about me to others saying, “Steph is awesome, she’s helped me through so much. She’s so nice! She’s done so much for me.”, etc. When I helped people, they would often express their appreciation. I received a lot of validation and this helped me with all my feelings of insecurity.

I have dealt with insecurity all my life. For most of my life, I just wanted to be seen, noticed, validated, accepted... and even elevated. I looked for my worth in what people said and thought of me. I guess when it comes down to it, I really wanted to be people’s saviour. Ouch. Just writing that out seems awful. My sin, staring me right up in my face.

It seems like a good thing... to want to help people... but it was twisted and selfish. I began to struggle with anxiety. If someone was mad or disappointed in me, my world would come crashing down. It could just be an assumption on my part, and most times it probably was. My heart would beat uncontrollably, my body would tingle, my mind would race.

No one ever knew I was dealing with this stress though.

I eventually sought counselling for these issues. My doctor even recommended medications to help. I never filled that prescription. I’m not sure why. Perhaps if I did, it was a way of acknowledging I had a major problem. I suffered for many more years that way.

Over time, with lots of prayer, lots of reading, lots of learning, lots of experiences and lots of affirmation, God gently and patiently revealed to me that HE WAS THE HEALER. He alone was the one to rescue and save people. Not me. He uses me to walk beside people and help, but I’m not the one doing the fixing. That is Jesus’ job alone. And I know that because He was the one to help me heal.

Through this process, I spent a whole lot of time talking to God. He used this time to really woo me. I began to dig into my Bible like never before. Delving into the scriptures to discover His never-ending love for me, the promises that cannot be broken, and story after story about God using broken people... these scriptures brought me comfort and healing.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalms 34:18

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Romans 8:26&27

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” Lamentations 3:22

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

I could share verse after verse about who God has called me to be and how it’s shaped my life and the encouragement and conviction to make my life about Him, not about me.

I’m definitely still a work in progress but I’m learning. God still has given me a spirit of wanting to help people, and that’s not a bad thing. I have the ability to walk beside those that are hurting and be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in those situations, and not make it about me. I love to be connected to people and point them to Jesus.

God keeps giving me a new perspective on my life. It’s about serving Him... and I can do that by serving people in Jesus’ name, not my own. I want to bring Him glory. In fact, as I have found freedom from being a people pleaser, God has placed within me a deep desire for evangelism. Perhaps I always supposed to be an evangelist, but I didn’t recognize it because perspective was warped by my desire to please people and not God.

Isn’t that just like God? When we deal with the sin inside us, He gives us something better. Something we didn’t even know we wanted. Something we didn’t see He had for us.

What He had for me (and my husband) was evangelism through global missions, which led us to the Philippines in October 2017 and 2018.

As I went the first year, my old struggles with anxiety and nerves tried to push their way up again. I was very concerned with doing things “right” for the Lord. I wanted to follow the plan and I wanted to see results. Good intentions, but not true freedom.

I had some major disappointments and discouraging times on that trip. In those moments, God was teaching me. Again, it wasn’t about me. It was about Him. How could I just be obedient to Him?

When I altered my perspective, I began to see His faithfulness and leading in each and every situation. I just have the privilege to share the good news and say “yes” to the Lord. God gets to do the work of changing people’s hearts, capturing their desires and devotions in order to be turned to Him.

My second missions trip was very different. I had zero expectation on me. I decided to be as obedient as I could be in each and every scenario I found myself in. Not concerning myself with saving people or reaching them but leaving that for God.

I ended up finding a freedom and a passion in sharing my story and connecting with the people I spoke to. I found that building relationship with our global brothers and sisters (How amazing that God has orchestrated a multicultural mosaic family from the beginning of time?!) ended up being a huge encouragement and gift to ME!

I also gained a huge freedom in just letting go. Letting God do the work and just enjoying His presence. Instead of being anxious to get stuff done, my eyes were opened to so much joy and goodness in all circumstances.

When I began to heal from my bondage as a people pleaser, my eyes were opened up to the world around me. My life is not just about me - the Lord is at work... here, and around the world!!! It’s just that now I can see it! The Holy Spirit is moving!

I’m still learning, but when I become less and Jesus becomes more in my life, He pulls me along for the ride. I see things through His perspective - we are new creations, by His blood alone. When it is not about us, but about His power and His light and His love, we are able to reach out to a lost and broken world that so desperately needs Him. When it is not about us, we can see that the gospel is all we have and it’s a precious gift meant to be shared!

I want to share with you a few verses, from 1 Peter, which have been a great encouragement to me.

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless -- cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything.” 1 Peter 7-11 (MSG)

This recovering people pleaser has one more thing to say... just know that I’ve found it’s only with God’s love filling me up and pouring out of me that I can and am able to give to others. It’s my way of offering and obedience to Him. I continue to struggle and fail. I choose my selfish tendencies more than I’d like to admit, but I know that if I’m not intentionally living in step with the Spirit, then I won’t be filled up with His love pouring out of me. It’s a daily choice to wake up and follow the Lord’s way or my own. When I choose Jesus, I can serve and love others in my life with His strength, not my own.

About the Author:

Stephanie Thiessen is married to Mike and together they have three amazing daughters, Kaia, Kaybrie and Hadley. Steph is a borderline professional photographer and has approximately 200 million pictures saved in the Cloud. When she is not documenting life through pictures, she can be found doing CrossFit, coaching her daughter's volleyball team, and scavenging her cupboards for dill pickle chips. Steph uses her gifts of helping others through her church's women's ministry and Stephen ministry.

If you would like to send Steph a message, email and put "Steph” in the subject line.