Reader Response to When I Stopped Dancing

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I've always referred to people-pleasing as "dancing." One reader started a great discussion following my post . . . When I Stopped Dancing.

Last week I shared a post about my struggle with people-pleasing titled: When I Stopped Dancing.

Kim at Sweet Water and Bitter left the following comment that I believe is a great lead in to continue the conversation.

Deb, I always find that “people-pleasing” mentality very interesting, only because I was never that way AT ALL. (Stick with me for a minute please.) I always marched to my own drum and looked out for Number One. For a lot of my life, I **THOUGHT** it served me well, especially when I would read things like what you wrote, or hear people-pleasers talk about the agonies they suffered trying to make everybody happy. My “every man for himself” mentality might work out for a while, as long as you don’t mess up too badly and life goes OK. But in my case, I went through a bad time and made some rather large mistakes late in life, and found that there was not a lot of forgiveness or friendship coming my way. I found how easily one could wind up on the OUTSIDE of their family circle, with no chips to call in. It’s tough to find yourself needing the kindness or favor of others when you never bothered to give any out. I have changed all my relationships, starting with the ones inside my own home and extending to my coworkers. I don’t want anyone to ever say again that I didn’t care for them, think of them, or do anything for them. I’m glad for you if you are no longer a slave to people-pleasing, but at the same time, know that you are probably reaping benefits you may not even realize! Blessings, Kim


I agree with Kim. There are many benefits to caring about other people’s feelings and making an effort to please them.

The problem for people-pleasers is fear.

An overwhelming fear of rejection and loss that makes us “dance.”

I still enjoy making people happy. I still want to know their opinions. I still care about their feelings. I have not suddenly become selfish or insensitive. I’m still kind. I like to help and encourage people. And I practice random acts of kindness.

The difference is my focus and attitude. 

  • I won’t say I agree with something that is a clear contradiction of God’s Word.
  • I’m no longer terrified when I have to make a decision I know will please one person and upset another. (Uncomfortable but not terrified.)
  • I’m able to set priorities and protect personal boundaries.
  • I can say, “Thank you for thinking of me. I’ll get back to you soon.”

It’s easy to find articles and quotes that suggest the opposite of people-pleasing is self-focus and selfishness.

But Jesus said the most important commandments are:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

When we love God we will love others.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12

Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. 2 John 1:6

But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8

Loving others models God’s character. He created us to love.

I don’t believe I’ve ever met a completely self-absorbed happy person? They may have a facade of happiness, but we have been hard-wired by God to be happiest and most satisfied when we love Him and love others.

A huge thank-you to Kim for nudging me to take this conversation a little deeper.

Recovering people-pleasers love and care, but they also surrender their fear of rejection and loss to the Lord. They trust His perfect love and find peace and joy in His will.

They dance for an audience of One.

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  1. Mary Flaherty says:

    I’m reading Lysa Terkheurst’s (sp?) Your Best Yes, and I was just reading the other night about how when we say yes to everything, it’s because we want to be liked, essentially, we’re people pleasing. But sometimes our family ends up suffering the fallout of that yes, because we really don’t have the time or the desire to devote to that yes.

    I had to say no to going to a meeting for a theatre group that I was a part of for years. Our president passed away, and ever since, the group has been floundering, but staying together for her memory, because it’s what she would have wanted. Every meeting I go to is unproductive, and no shows ever come to fruition, so the meetings are basically a lot of hot air talk, in order to “keep it alive.”

    In my mind, it may be time to let it go. I’ve decided that I’m not going to run off to every thing I’m invited to, get involved with every function. If I want to be a serious writer, I have to limit what I say yes to. So, when I was asked if I was going to tonight’s meeting, I said, “Maybe.” (because I’m not entirely skilled at saying no yet!). The person dropped his head and said, “oh.” as if I’d hurt his feelings.

    I felt bad. It felt wrong. But ultimately, we cannot let the reactions of others, especially the subliminal (or sometimes not so subliminal) messages of guilt determine our yes. That’s exactly what us recovering people pleasers do! We allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who are good at delivering guilt.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be a whole other blog! It was just so on the forefront of my mind.

    Thanks for those posts. I’ve got to go back and catch up on the posts I’ve missed–one of them is that original post of yours! Thanks for hosting!

    1. I love the discussion that’s going here. Guilt can be a powerful motivator. But you’re absolutely right, We cannot let messages of guilt determine our yes. Or fear. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and your story. I think it’s one to which we can each relate. Blessings and hugs!!

  2. You’re so right…that’s the motivator: Fear! That’s been my M.O. for years. Usually, my “people-pleasing” issues came out with people close to me that had extremely strong personalities. I would say yes or do things over and above just so they wouldn’t get angry or disappointed, etc. Yup…that’s fear. However, over the years this has cost me emotionally and relationally. However, I have finally learned to set healthy boundaries…and, most importantly, to have things in the proper order and perspective: God first, then husband, then family, then body of Christ, then others. I love to be nice. I love to encourage. But, I have learned to run everything through those priorities. (I wrote a post on this a couple of months ago, too!) I seriously need a T-shirt that says, “I’m a recovering people pleaser — is that OK?” LOL

    Blessings Deb! Love your heart! Joan

    1. Oh!!!! I just read Mary’s comment above. Wow…she sounds like me! This comment totally jumped out at me: ” We allow ourselves to be manipulated by those who are good at delivering guilt.” There is a fine line between saying yes to please someone and saying yes because we are manipulated by guilt — unjustified guilt.

    2. Mary Flaherty says:

      Joan, I would buy your tee-shirt, not because I’m trying to please you though. I love it!

        1. Okay, I want a T-shirt too! We can start a support group. 😉 Love you gals! You bless me sooo much! <3

  3. I stated in the first one and state in this one: I finally figured out the only dance worth dancing was to the Audience of One.

    1. Love that! Who are we trying to please? God or man…God always has to be first!

    2. The best part of dancing for the Audience of One is no one else can tell you how your dance should look. He choreographs each dance perfectly and uniquely. Thanks Bill! I love it!

  4. This post is so deep and so multi-faceted. I hope I spelled correctly. Anyway, I am a people pleaser to a degree. I do fear rejection and battle that fear. God has showed me that if I simply love Him first and follow HIm, He will give me the friends that I need. He will also teach me to love others with true motivations and in His way. When I love others like He wants me to I can show compassion, love, tenderness and heart. I love not to be a “people pleaser,” but a “God pleaser.”

    1. Great point Mary! When we follow His steps He leads us to love well not respond out of fear. That is freedom. Blessings and hugs to you!

  5. I think a lot of it has to do with defining what Jesus’s love looked like. Many times we act as people-pleasers because we think that’s what God would have us do. But we have to take a step back and see that the Lord loved people in the way that was best for them but didn’t always lead to them being immediately happy with his treatment.

    1. That’s a great point Loren. We don’t always know what’s best for others, and of course we always have our selfish nature to address. Oh, it gets muddy doesn’t it? That’s why stopping to pray about decisions is essential. I’m learning to say, “thank you, let me pray about that and get back to you.” It helps. Blessings to you!!

  6. Linking up right after you at the Tell His Story linkup … and so enjoyed my visit here. What a great discussion going on! I so often have the attitude of trying to please others, and I am always needing to ask God to keep my focus on pleasing Him alone. Appreciated reading your thoughts!