Being a People Pleaser (and losing out on love) - my experience
By George Hartwell M.Sc.
My childhood family had a culture and rules that
reinforced Performance Orientation - John
and Paula Sandford use this term for people
pleasing. Both mom and dad lived out some of the
principles of people
pleasing. Dad judged his worth by how well his children
Where mom came from - Midwest (Iowa) USA - certain
values were agreed on by all: attend church, don't drink and don't
swear. Performance orientation is strong in midwest USA.
People like to please and not be disagreeable. Mom was like
that and made sure we followed in her footsteps.
One of mom's rules was: "Peace at any
price." Only now do I understand the price - what we
sacrificed for peace. In People pleasing a sacrifice of/for love I
explain that we sacrifice being real, open, direct, personal and
expressive in order to gain, in my case, mom's approval. Real
identity is sacrificed for peace in the family and harmony with mom.
The irony is that the sacrifice of one's real
identity to achieve love blocks adult intimacy. The man
who is so busy trying to get it right, please people, be nice, and
not offend is also not there with real substance for his wife.
So one does not gain love when our focus is measuring
up, being nice, being good and not offending. When you sacrifice
real identity, real masculinity, real backbone, emotional
openness you also lose real love. One has to have an identity,
backbone, autonomy, and self-expressiveness to experience mature
adult to adult bonding.
So while we were all nice in my family, we did not
experience real love. We kept the peace at the price of the
open communication. We pleased people and lost the possibility
of unconditional love.
I was over 30 when John
and Paula Sandford taught me about Performance Orientation.
Recognizing myself, I prayed with my pastor; confessed the sinful
identity and asked Jesus to transform my life.
My life as a people pleaser experienced instant change
but not a complete change. I now began the process of
reclaiming my identity as a spontaneous creative and sometimes angry
child of God.
How can I explain that being a people pleaser ruined
my love life, damaged one's career and fueled an unconscious
rebellion against God? There is so much to explain.
I need to point out that people pleasers train
themselves to get out of touch with their feelings so they can please
others. In the process there is a profound loss of
identity. I failed to develop my own tastes, speak with my own
voice or risk being creative.
While I was a people pleaser, I gradually ruined my
ability to think clearly for myself; my judgment became impaired; I
became a slow and plodding decision-maker. In part this is
because, as a people pleaser, I was committed to conflict
avoidance. In order to avoid conflict my subconscious mind
automatically screened and suppressed all information that might be
controversial or lead to conflict.
Procrastination was fueled by my need to be
perfect. People-pleasers don't want to make a mistake.
It has been many years since I first heard about
Performance Orientation and took it to God in prayer. Gradually
I have reclaimed a sense of who I am and what I like. I am
learning to love, to be creative, to express myself and think for
myself. I am sure this all delights God who wants me to be who
He created me to be.
Hartwell M.Sc. holds a Masters of Science in clinical psychology
which included training in Marriage counselling . counseling,
therapy, counselor, counsellor
Fee for a
marriage and family counselling session is
$100 per hour. family marital
and discernment in marriage counselling has been sharpened by over 30
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