An Open Letter to the Recovering People Pleaser.

I have been sitting at the island in our kitchen, staring at the flashing cursor on my blank computer screen for a solid 30 minutes.  It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about.  In fact, I have pages among pages of ideas for blog posts scattered throughout a small, black, spiral-bound notebook.  But all I can think about as I begin to write out the words of my heart are my fears.

I don’t know enough about this topic to write about it.

What if I misinterpret a verse and someone calls me out on it?

What if no one reads these words?

Or worse… What if someone reads them and disagrees with what I have to say?

I am not qualified to speak on these subjects.  I’m too young.

            I care about what people think of me.  I care about other people’s opinions of me.  I care about being liked; I am terrified of being un-liked. 

Hello.  My name is Ashlee, and I am a recovering people-pleaser.

            I say “recovering,” because by the grace of God, I am slowly learning how to throw my people-pleasing habits away and trade them in for God-pleasing habits. 

            You see, for a long time, I have been so consumed with how other people see me that I have overlooked how God sees me.  For so long, I have been so worried about other people liking me that I have pushed aside my concern for whether or not I am someone who is worthy of being liked by God.  For years, I have found my identity in other people’s opinions of me that I have forgotten to consider who God says I am.
            In the second grade, our class held a math competition each week to help us learn mental math.  I always lost.  With hot, blood-red cheeks and a pit in my stomach, I hung my head as student after student shouted the correct answer before I had even had time to process the equation.  That year, my mathematic ability (or lack there-of) began to define me as I sat in my seat and imagined the judgements that were surely coming from my fellow classmates.

In the fifth grade, a girl laughed at me and mocked me, chanting to the entire locker room, “Ashlee’s teeth are HUUUUGGGE!  Ashlee has buckteeth!”  In that moment, I stopped smiling as much, terrified that someone else would point out my big front teeth.

In the ninth grade, I auditioned for our church’s youth ensemble.  When the list came out, I anxiously scanned the page for my name and broke down in tears when I was one of the few who didn’t make the cut.  I never auditioned again.  Too afraid that my voice would incite cringes and applauses of pity.

            My freshman year of college, I received a phone call from my high school boyfriend.  As he told me that he wanted to end things, that he didn’t want me anymore, my identity shattered as the whispered compliments and assurances from the past few months became meaningless, and I racked my brain, desperate to uncover all the unpleasantness I owned which were surely to blame for the break-up.

            I am a recovering people-pleaser.  I say “recovering,” because I am slowly learning that pleasing people is the opposite of pleasing God.  When we spend our days worrying about other people’s opinions, the unavoidable consequence is that we will conform to each individuals’ standards and expectations of who we should be.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Romans 12:2

            When we conform to the world’s expectations, we mask who we are in Christ.  When we are so concerned with being “good” and “desirable” and “pleasing” to those around us, we fail to be “good” and “desirable” and “pleasing” to God. 

            As I sit here and allow my fear of being un-liked to determine what I say and what I do, I flirt with the world’s expectations, and I conform to the world’s will of who I should be.  But here’s the thing, when we allow ourselves to conform to this world, we will be left disappointed.

            In the second grade, no matter what I did to improve my math skills, I could never please my classmates or my teacher with my ability.

            In the fifth grade, when I stopped smiling at those around me, instead of gaining more friends and being more liked, I lost my sense of joy and fell into a trap of loneliness and depression.

            In the eleventh grade, when I was asked to sing a solo in my church’s youth choir, I traded all-about-God-worship for an all-about-me-concert, as I sang for the applause of my peers, and was left disappointed when the solo was eventually given to another girl.

            In college, when I found myself alone and unsure as to why my boyfriend had broken up with me, I couldn’t even look at myself in a mirror without feeling disgusted, ugly, and insecure.
No matter what I did or who I tried to be, I could never win the approval of those around me.  I told myself I was dumb, ugly, awkward, and unlovable.

But that is not true.  Those are just lies that I tell myself as I try to conform to this world’s unattainable expectations of who I should be.

I am a recovering people-pleaser.  I say “recovering,” because I am slowly learning that my identity comes from who Christ alone says I am.

This is how God defines me::
Colossians 3:12 – I am chosen.
Song of Solomon 2:16 – I am beloved.
Ephesians 2:10 – I am His workmanship.
Deuteronomy 7:6 – I am a treasured possession.
Ephesians 1:4 – I am holy.
Colossians 1:21-22 – I am blameless.
Psalm 65:4 – I am blessed.
2 Samuel 22:20 – I am delightful.
Zephaniah 3:17 – I am loved.

            Friends, we need to stop defining ourselves with worldly, people-pleasing, meaningless definitions that will ultimately leave us feeling disappointed and empty, and start finding our identity in who we are in Christ.  We must stop seeking to please the world, and start paying attention to how we can please God.  And the beautiful, most freeing thing about being a God-pleaser, is that we always succeed.  God already calls us His, we only need to accept it as our new God-given identity.

            Hello.  My name is Ashlee, and starting today, I am a God-pleaser.


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