BREAKING FREE FROM THE BOUNDS OF PEOPLE-PLEASING
I have been a people pleaser for as long as I can remember. And I was really, really good at it. Who am I kidding? I am still really, really good at it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be liked by everyone? On one hand, I enjoy receiving compliments and being placed on a pedestal – but on the other hand, it gets really exhausting. Living up to everyone’s expectations takes up a lot of energy, and too often, it takes a big mental and emotional toll.
Growing up in an Asian culture, I desperately wanted my parents to approve of everything I did, even if it meant sacrificing my dreams, aspirations, and voice. I learned to never disappoint my family, which ultimately transcended into never disappointing my friends, church, coworkers… you get the gist.
I took this cultural ideal and ran with it, creating a whirlwind of endless expectations for myself.
Doing so led me to become extremely lonely with my emotions and lost in my thoughts. I answered everyone’s questions in way that I knew would make them happy, instead of in a way that led to truth. I smiled often to mask the pain. I melted down, feeling like I was letting everyone down.
When I first became a mom, I had a constant battle with myself between the need to appease everyone (while, of course, supporting a new life) versus the need to be open and honest about the hardships of motherhood. Friends would ask, “How’s being a mom?” And the people pleaser in me would answer, “I love it so much and wouldn’t have it any other way!” The honest me would agree but think, “I have no idea what I’m doing 90% of the time and I’m on the verge of another set of baby blues postpartum.” As much as I wanted to portray having it together, believing that was everyone’s expectation of me, the reality was that I didn’t have it together; and that is okay.
Being a mom has taught me to be vocal about my feelings and take ownership of who I am. To be liberated from falsehoods and stand in freedom. Although other life events have revealed the struggle of being a people pleaser to me (moving out, going to college, getting married), motherhood has taught me most to be true to myself and my community.
While pleasing others has influenced much of my life, I won’t let it define who I want to be. I am learning to take charge of the person I was created to be: a wife, mom, sister, friend, etc., meant to live outside expectations, including my own. It hasn’t been the easiest journey – I’ve had my fair share of setbacks, but also of grace. In this season of breaking free, I’m thankful to have a husband and a 15-month old smiley boy who love me just as I am, as well as family and friends who accept all that comes with it. So, I will move forward to live in the here and now, and never hold back.
Photos by Kimberly Jurgens