How many among us have what one of Oprah Winfrey’s most prolific guests, Gary Zukav, coined The Disease to Please?
Many of us are born with a personality built to cater to others. We’re nurturers, listeners, and maybe also a tad on the indecisive side, and so naturally, we tend to go with the flow.
Others of us were raised around people who demanded our obedience. We walked on eggshells and constantly tried to do whatever it took to make them happy.
Maybe you’re a little of both. A little timid, you also were born to a mother or father, or both, who needed you to be their “yes man.”
As you grew older, you transferred that need to please to other situations. You never went against the grain in school. You did whatever your boss told you to do without questioning. You allowed your spouse to walk all over you.
What happens when we’re eaten up with a need to please is that we begin to lie to ourselves.
Have you ever found yourself in a scenario like these?
- Your husband wants the house on the corner, but you know the house down the hill would be more suitable for the children, and, let’s face it, you’re around them more, anyway. But you give in to your husband’s wants because you don’t care to argue.
- Your boss needs you to work a weekend. You’d planned a huge day at the zoo for your children, and, technically, it’s nowhere in your contract to give up a needed rest on a weekend. But you give in to your boss’s wants because you’re too afraid to say no.
- A friend asks you to go on a girls trip that will cost a good twenty-five hundo. You don’t have anywhere near that amount to blow, but your best friend has always gotten her way where you’re concerned. (In fact, everyone has always gotten their way where you’re concerned. You seem to attract these people.) So you give in and now you can’t pay the light bill. And honestly? You didn’t even have a good time!
Over time, this “Disease to Please” begins to eat at our soul.
We find ourselves questioning every answer, judgment and decision we make.
We no longer trust our own heart.
I was raised in a home with a very controlling father.
His story is his to tell, and honestly, I’m not really sure what made him the way he was.
But I remember my mother cowering in corners after standing up for herself, and I recall vividly many instances where she, my brother and I were forced to make decisions we did not want to make, since my dad was “the man of the house.”
Eventually, his controlling nature and lack of genuine love destroyed our family (for the record, my mother was no saint).
And unbeknownst to me, I carried this eggshell-walking into every other relationship I had.
If you had told me that’s what I was doing, I wouldn’t have believed you. I thought myself to be an authentic, independent girl.
But really, I became whoever I needed to be to please whoever I was around.
Does that sound familiar? What about this?
- Do you act one way around one group of people and another way around the next?
- Do you change your beliefs and opinions to match those around you?
- Do you refuse to speak out against injustice or wrongdoing because you’re afraid to rock the boat?
- Do you choose to dress differently than you’d like or live contrary to what you want because you’re terrified of what others will think?
I lived that way for so many years. I was so afraid to be who I really was because who I really was felt like “too much” for some people to handle.
So I sank further down into the depths of depression. I ate to distract. I drank to numb.
And I was miserable.
Then, 2020-2021 hit. These years have been like a giant bomb dropping on my life.
So much has remained the same about my life. My job didn’t change, I didn’t get a divorce, or run away from my children or responsibilities.
And yet, I am a completely different person. I stopped letting people I didn’t even care about walk all over me. I started telling my husband the truth about what I wanted and needed.
I began to love my kids for exactly who they are and allowed them to grow where they are.
I no longer told my boss yes when I wanted to say no.
I now speak up about political and social issues that I used to flip flop on because I was scared of disappointing my father. (And my Father. But that’s story for another day.)
I’m not completely out of my “Disease to Please” mode. I still feel that urge to dance around my desires and to walk on eggshells to please some people.
But every day, I’m growing. I’m learning to tell the truth about who I am and what I want.
I consider myself lucky. My truth isn’t something that will shake the foundations of life around me.
For some of us, the truth about who we are is something we battle every single day.
Telling your family you’re attracted to the same sex.
Deciding you no longer believe in the God of your youth.
Choosing to move halfway across the world so that you can heal far away from those who hurt you.
Learning that you aren’t the person your spouse married and it might be time to move on.
These are tough, heart-crucifying situations.
But being who God created you to be is what you were put on this Earth to do.
And I believe that the more truth-tellers we grow, the more beautiful this world will be.
Because nothing is more satisfying than a heart at peace with itself.