I said No to an opportunity that I didn’t have the time, energy or particularly want to do today. And the earth didn’t open up and swallow me. For a recovering people pleaser like myself, that is a major accomplishment.
People-pleasers often don’t know they are people-pleasers until they are burnt-out and tired and the same people they please are nowhere to be found.
If there is one thing this Covid-19 global pandemic period has forced me to do is reflect and heal in all the broken, rotten areas of myself that I need God to do a work in. Today, we’re talking about the people-pleasing that littered and stained a lot of my teen years.
Hello, I’m Paula Melissa. And I’m a recovering people-pleaser.
I don’t know when exactly my people-pleasing ways began but I just vaguely remember my childhood being full of thoughts of: “Will they like me if I do this?” “I need to do that to be cool.” and “I hope I don’t embarrass myself.”
In a recent conversation with one of my best friends from high school (with early 13 years of friendship under our belt!) Zahra, we were reminiscing and reflecting on our time in school. It’s not really talked about much on this blog or on my YouTube channel but I hated school. Like really did not love it. At all. The happy memories of my time in primary and high school were few and far between really.
It was actually me not feeling like I had a place where I fitted in in the world (fifteen-year-old Paula was very dramatic!) that drove me to start my first blog (and eventually YouTube channel) towards the end of high school in 2012. If I couldn’t find my people and my place in real life, I’d find them online! And I did.
I spent a lot of time around loads and loads of people but feeling very alone.
I just did not understand why the people I called my friends weren’t actually that nice to me or didn’t seem to really like me. I kept thinking: “It must be my fault! I just need to change some more and then they’ll like me.”
Now granted, I’ll be the first to tell you this – Teenage Paula was annoying. Period. She just was… I mean I was lol. I prefer ‘spirited’ personally. But yes, I was… A LOT and I think that grated on a lot of people.
Again, as true as this was, there was nothing – nothingggg – wrong with me. And if I could, I would go back and shake young Paula and tell her to keep being herself and doing her thing. She’s fab. I’d also tell her to chill a bit, to not try and force friendships with people who won’t even be in her life some couple of years later.
Teenage Paula used to break her back, neck and any other body part (not literally!) for people who just weren’t interested. I mentioned this briefly here but I had a warped understanding of what it meant to be loving, caring Christian woman so went through life literally overdoing it. And no one told me I needed to calm down (or maybe they did and I ignored it. Maybe I needed to reach breaking point to release the people-pleasing habit.)
To be honest, I’ve always been quite an intense, headstrong person. My mum calls it me being ‘the Boss’ (which is accurate). But this can translate into me being incredibly short-sighted. All that matters is today, tomorrow and next week.
Realistically, you cannot live like that. And that’s exactly why when the popular girl or boy decided I wasn’t cool, it felt like the end of the world.
I mean, at this point I would like to stand up for Young Paula and remind you lovely readers that I WAS YOUNG and a lot of kids are like this. But I guess it will always feel more vibrant and raw because I was the one who lived it.
Now as a twenty-something (I think I’m now at the age where we mumble twenty-something when our age is asked!) woman, I am so grateful to God Almighty that I am definitely in recovery.
I’m not 100% there yet. I still have days I’ll go on IG and post what I think certain people will approve of, more than content I want to. But, firstly and primarily, the One and only approval I’m seeking is from God. And thankfully, I already have it! I didn’t even have to work for it or earn it through any kind of ritual, I have God’s loving approval because I am His daughter (oh, and by the way, Jesus extends that invite so you can be God’s child too!).
I have learnt and continue to learn that people’s emotions, feelings and approval is like shifting shadows. It’s like sinking sand. It is fickle and unreliable. Cancel culture means tomorrow all your ‘faves’ could decide you are now the worst person to ever live. I’m not saying don’t have friends, I’m saying, don’t live hanging on to the thoughts and words of others and what they think about you.