I was in college and I just wanted to mind my own business. But at some point, a student representative of a nondenominational Christian group roped me into joining the club. Looking back, I don’t know how I agreed to join. Obviously, it was my people-pleasing cranked up to eleven. Even with proper hindsight about what I should have done, I still can’t recall how I felt so obligated to join in on these Bible studies.
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a truly stable religious belief. Later on, I’ll probably dig deeper into that. For right now, all you need to know is that I joined a Bible study with another student. As you can imagine, each session was uncomfortable. Each session was another thorn in my side. At the time, I was as certain as I could be that I was Catholic. So, if I truly believed in my faith, why in the world did I join a nondenominational Bible study group? I . . . I don’t know. The vague answer is that I couldn’t say “no.” I felt obligated. Like, I couldn’t let this random guy down. I had to go.
The tragedy of most people-pleasers is that they always have the power to redirect their actions toward what they actually want, but refuse to cash in on that power. In most cases, they can simply walk away and move on with their lives. But if they find the courage to stand up for themselves, it’s usually too late or takes way too long. Many people-pleasing folk are trapped in cycles of doing things they know are wrong for them.
And that was me years ago. I felt like a fish out of water. I was navigating a path that wasn’t right for me. I knew this, yet I kept going because I just couldn’t cut that cord. I had to reconcile the fact that the Bible they read, the beliefs they pushed were different then what I’d been taught. Here I was trying to be open and friendly, but it was also killing me. The social anxiety I felt was also pretty bad.
After a few sessions, I couldn’t take it anymore. I spoke the truth about how I felt. I was able to cut that connection. The pain of pleasing finally eclipsed the pain of doing something that clearly wasn’t right for me. Why did I feel the need to pretend all was okay? Why? I suffered, not because of the nondenominational church, but because I couldn’t walk away. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned that I have to speak up and that I have to stand up for myself. It’s not easy, but I hope I’m getting better at it.
When I think about back then, I don’t recognize myself. Because I know, had I felt fully in control, I would have never done this Bible study. So the me that attended these sessions was the shell of anxiety and fear. There was nothing genuine about my appearances at these Bible studies. It almost feels like I was controlled. And in a sense, I was controlled. My mind was telling me I had to please. I couldn’t disappoint. So, I obeyed.
If you struggle with people-pleasing, just know you’re not alone at all. I’m right there with you. Maybe one day, we’ll realize the power we actually have.