Thursday, April 25, 2013

People-pleasing or a healthy need for people?

Today, my time limit isn't a library computer timer; it is the light outside.

Because my car decided it needed a rest. An expensive rest, but cheap and fast enough that I wont ditch the car (as if I could afford a new-to-me one now, let alone repairs).

So I've been accepting rides and asking for help and such things that are hard for me to do, but easier when I don't have so much choice in the matter. (Oh, and biking 5 miles one way to work is an option, but I'd rather accept a ride from a friend.)

Seeing my counselor again yesterday, I was relieved that I was the one bringing up EMDR, not her. She suggested it, but I don't think she'll push for it much (unless I really go down hill).

One interesting thing that came up in our session was this; the issue of people pleasing with a surprising other perspective (i.e., something other than how it is idolatry).

Someone in my life was careful to pass on that people-pleasing was a trap. True, when carried to an unhealthy conclusion

But on the other hand, my counselor brought up, there is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. And Love and Belonging are in there as pretty important (she said most important, but Wikipedia's picture has it in the middle. I'll put it back in my mind as close to most important, because I think it is pretty important. With depression, for example, it just might be essential for life).

I think that this person in my life sees people-pleasing as a trap and a sin because 1) in its extreme, it is a trap and unhealthy, 2) according to this person's strict religious perspective, it is idolatry because it puts people as more important than God, and 3) because if you don't need people, maybe it wont hurt so much when they let you down or back stab you.

But when my counselor was talking, I started seeing another perspective. Pardon my religious terminology (or skip my post; that is really okay, too). But I thought of it like this; God made us people to need each other. Like my counselor says, we try for that belonging and love by trying to be "as good a person as we can be." You can jump all over that and call it legalism and conditional love and on and on. Or we can set that aside and remove extreme thinking from it (ha!) and think, our living pleasantly with people makes it easier for them to live pleasantly with us. It facilitates the process of all of us belonging and loving and being loved. I don't mean door-mat pleasant - that doesn't work out so well. But not calling people names, being polite, being real, and so on and so forth, is it wrong to do that, hoping to fit better in the community? Okay, trying to get this too detailed isn't working.

But basically, I don't have to judge myself for wanting friends, for even feeling like I need them. Just because someone important to me had a worldview that made them something of an island (depending
"ultimately" on God to meet these people-met needs - which is technically correct, if you see it as God meeting our needs through people but don't use it to separate yourself from needing people), anyway, just because that is someone else's view whose view means a lot to me, doesn't mean I have to see it that way.

So, friends, who have extended love to me and helped me feel like I belonged in this OCD blog community, I'm gonna try and embrace needing people and depending on people. Hopefully not to an unhealthy extreme. But just maybe I need to risk that extreme so that I can quit falling off my current side of the bridge and come back onto the bridge where the people who I need to be with are.


  1. Beautifully said, Abigail. I don't think it's going too far to say that we need people, and it's OK to want people to like us. Anything can be taken to an extreme. But treating people like we want to be treated not only helps others, but it helps ourselves, too.

    1. Thanks, TIna.
      I felt relief reading your words that "it's OK to want people to like us." Guild and false guilt are so troubling.

  2. I love this post.

    I too feel that it is healthy to need and be needed and I am a life long people pleaser who has paid a negative price for that over and over.

    I am learning to see the difference between being a people pleaser and being of service (in the Christian sense) or being needed. My therapists coaches me to notice my anxiety levels and false beliefs and basically I'm learning that when I feel trapped with someone like I can't say no or if they ask me to do something, that means that I HAVE to do it, that is people pleaseing to my own detriment. If, I feel good and relaxed about my interactions, that is healthy.

    1. I used your method this week: I did something someone asked, but then knew I didn't want to do it. Thus, it was potentially unhealthy people pleasing. (Not, of course, that we should never do things we don't want to, but we shouldn't feel like we HAVE to always be doing favors people ask for.) Anyway, it was nice to stand up and do what I wanted (politely). :)

  3. Ah, yes this is tricky for me too. I too believe that God made us with the need for Him and for others. It's most important to need Him, but that doesn't mean it's wrong to need others. In fact, I think it's healthy to need and want others - but, like you said, to a healthy limit. It is hard at times though, to find that limit. And yes, you sure do belong in this OCD blog community and I'm so glad you are here! Hugs.

    1. Thanks, Sunny. I'm glad we're both here. :)