I used to be an incurable people-pleaser. My self-esteem was great–as long as everyone liked me. If someone expressed even a trace of disapproval, my self-worth would plummet, and I would work as hard as I possibly could in order to get back into their good graces. That is until I (finally) figured out that no amount of agreeing, fawning, pretending, encouraging, and flattering would make a difference. We are meant for communal living, and it is natural for us to seek the approval of other people. However, when approval becomes the only thing that matters to us, we cross the line from having a healthy need to connect to those around us, to idolizing the adulation that others provide.
As soon as someone disapproves of us, we start second-guessing who we are, and that is no position for anyone to be in. The truth is as long as you are alive there’s going to be someone on this earth who will not like you. It might be because of your personality, your looks, your race, or the fact that you have something that they don’t, but for whatever the reason you will inevitably get on someone else’s nerves. But that’s okay! You don’t need to be loved by all who encounter you to live a good life. Actually, anyone who has done anything significant has more than a few haters. Yet that didn’t prevent them from accomplishing great things, and for some, the negative criticism has helped motivate them to be even greater.
The way I see it, you can allow people’s opinions to control what you think about yourself, or you can rise above the negativity and live the best life you possibly can. I have seen far too many people shattered by unkind words, threats, and mean-spirited mockery. We all have diverse gifts and talents to share with the world, and despite all appearances to the contrary, everyone is important.
Don’t allow anyone to tell you any different.
Personally, the only way for me to conquer my people-pleasing once and for all was to seek the approval of God instead of men (and women). The bible verse I had memorized–not to mention written on my dresser–was Galatians 1:10 (NLT):
“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant”.
In another chapter, the disciples were warned to be wary when they gain the acceptance of all because the false prophets were also well-liked, but being popular doesn’t always mean that you’re a person of character. Sometimes disapproval can be a sign that you’re doing something right. I can name several instances in which the people in my life seemed to turn on me. The first time it happened was when I got baptized. The second time was almost 10 years later when I decided what I was going to do with my life, and most recently, in 2010 when I decided to rededicate myself to Christianity. Every single time I faced more opposition, had more people trying to discourage me and put me down, and I had more people judging me.
And it didn’t change a thing. Everyone I meet will have an opinion of me, but I don’t have to live with them. They don’t have the power to change the way I feel about myself because I refuse to allow them to. In some ways, it’s better when you are disliked because you have the freedom to be who you really are. Too much time is spent on pandering to people and trying to win their favor. What I really strive for is authenticity. In the end, I’d rather have people hate the real me than love the fake me.
So, if everyone hates you, enjoy it. Since you already have met with their disapproval, you don’t have to do anything to impress them. That’s freedom.
Learn to embrace it.