People Pleasing Will Not Only Make You Miserable: You Can’t Do It.

People Pleasing Will Not Only Make You Miserable: You Can’t Do It. August 21, 2014

Dr Greg Popcak wrote an interesting post today on the subject of job burnout vs job satisfaction in the helping professions.

He cites a study that indicates that people who are motivated by giving of themselves (internally motivated) last in helping professions such as nursing, while those who are motivated by how people respond to their work (externally motived) burn out.

I would like to add a single, thoughtful wordish little word to the conclusions of that study: Duh.

If you go around, spending your life trying to get other people to feed your needs by earning their approval, you are going to have one miserable life. People pleasing is a one-way ticket to dependence and emotional hell.

I say that as someone who has spent 18 years in public office where it is flat-out impossible to please everybody. Making somebody mad at you every day is built into the business of setting policy for millions of people. You can’t get around it. Every single vote you cast is a decision of whom to hurt. Every time you make one person happy, you make somebody else mad.

The same vote will get you lionized and called a hero by one group and slandered and called everything but a nice person by another group.

This happens every single day. In fact, it happens dozens of times in a single day.


Most politicians try to balance these things out so that they can walk between the raindrops. They try to balance issues and interest groups so that almost all of them, and certainly the most powerful of them, are never completely alienated. The trick in politics is to keep them coming back, which means to keep them hopeful that they’ll get what they want the next time.

Another political way of doing things is what both Presidents George W Bush and Obama practice. That method, basically, is to stick like super glue to one side of the political spectrum and flat-out ignore the other side. When presidents do this, it leads to a divided country and a dangerous inability to lead the people forward.

But enough of politics. Let’s talk about you.

Dr Popcak based his post on a study of nurses. It seems that nurses who approach their careers from the locus of doing their jobs to earn approval and affirmation from other people end up burned out. Nurses who do their jobs for their personal or internal reasons stay the course.

Again I say duh.

When people are big 2

People pleasing will only make you miserable. It will also make you weak and variable. If your north star is how other people react to what you do, then you’re going to have to adjust your actions in little ways almost minute by minute. Other people change that fast. A lot of times, the reason they change so fast is because they’re focused on people pleasing, too.

Perhaps the worst part of people pleasing is that you can’t do it. You can not please other people all the time, no matter how hard you try. The reason for this is partly that they think about and react to other things besides you. It is also because they change, minute by minute, day by day, all the time.

The ironic thing is that people who have the courage to be their own uniqueness are often the ones we find most attractive. Nobody really likes mealy-mouthed, people pleasers, not over the long haul. They’re boring. And they tend to be miserable, which leads to whininess.

People are attracted to people who have that shine about them that true authenticity and the self confidence it brings gives to them. That is the essence of charisma.

Dr Popcak tells us that nurses who are internally motivated experience greater job satisfaction than people pleasers. I would imagine that this overall attitude runs through the lives of both groups. The people-pleasing nurse is also the people-pleasing husband or wife who gets wounded and pouts when their spouse forgets an anniversary or doesn’t praise them enough. They are the father or mother who constantly demands their kids’ attention and time and who even gets jealous of their children’s friends and, when they grow up, their sons or daughters-in-law.

People who feed at the trough of other people’s approval can never get enough. Nothing anyone does can fill the holes inside them.

There is an antidote to this, a way out of people pleasing for the hungry souls who live by it.

That way is the Way. No matter if you are buck-toothed and ungainly. No matter if you’re not the sharpest knife in the intellectual drawer. No matter, even, if you are tall, straight and lovely with an IQ that busts through the top of the charts. Whatever attributes you think you are, don’t matter. Not really.

You are loved and accepted and forgiven for all your faults. You are also important, but not because of your looks, intelligence or great singing voice. You are important in an intrinsic and essential way that is based on the deeper you-ness that does not need talent, looks, power or success to justify itself. You are alive in this time to do something that matters in the eternal scope of reality. Everything you do — everything you do — matters.

Instead of trying to please people, which is the equivalent of, as Jesus said, building your house of sand, realize that you do not have to earn the right to exist. You have a right to be here because you were put here by the same God Who made everything, everywhere.

More than that, He loves you on a direct and personal level. I have personally experienced this love, this guidance and contact with the Divine. I know that it is real.

My beautiful friend Margaret Rose Realy says that our one goal should be to be pleasing to God. The wonder of that is that pleasing God is actually quite easy. All we have to do is let Him love us and love Him back.

Col 2 10 complete thru union butterfly

Give up people pleasing and lose the unending failure that goes along with it. You can not please people. It can’t be done. But simply by being your authentic self and truly giving your love and trust to the God Who loved you first and always, you can find the peace and strength of being whole.

You don’t have to change yourself and get sinless to go to Jesus. You don’t have to shine your soul like shining your shoes before a job interview to come to Christ. You can go to Him just exactly the way you are; stained, scarred, scared and weak. You can throw yourself at Him like a crying child running to its mama. I know because that is exactly how I came to Him.

Jesus never asks you to change to come to Him. He takes you as you are, then, over time, He changes what you want to do. It’s that simple. Loving God, being loved by God, doesn’t change what you do. It changes what you want to do.

People pleasing will not only make you miserable: You can’t do it.

God pleasing, on the other hand, is as simple as putting your hand in the nail-scared hand and letting Him lead you home.

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10 responses to “People Pleasing Will Not Only Make You Miserable: You Can’t Do It.”

  1. Just one thing. GW Bush worked across the aisle with that “centrist” Senator Kennedy” and some others on several things. Do you want me to look up the clips from the, then, Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader saying they would not give him anything?
    In the first weeks of Pres Obama’s first term, the Rs met with him and some of he House leaders to negotiate the ACA. He said, I won, I do it my way.

  2. As a nurse, I gotta say the urge to make people happy is an impossible trap, not just due to the changability of people but on account of the sheer numbers of people involved. You will be asked, pushed, bullied and required to attempt to make happy not just your patients (and there could be two dozen of them!) but their families, your supervisors, your coworkers, the company, the state regulators (and yourself somehow), and unfortunately this collection of folks is NOT always on the same page. :p You cannot possibly do it, even if you are nutty enough to want to try! Finding your own center, preferably something like acting out of a sense of honor or love, as Christ would have you do, is crucial to not going batty. Which is true for all of life, just with money and vocation attached and the potential for lawsuits and jail time present. 😉

  3. It’s more about lack of control, imo. Nurses in hospitals have always lacked control and were more subject to burnout. As understaffing and patient acuity have increased the burnout takes less time now. Many who stay end up shutting down their emotional connection with patients and families and the therapeutic relationship suffers as does the nurse’s job satisfaction. I find many of these nurses gravitate to trauma/critical care units where technical skill proficiency and adrenalin become the source of job satisfaction rather than wanting to help or connect on a human level. Nursing was about patient advocacy and a wholistic view – the perfect balance to the specialist physician – but we’re losing that to a more technical approach.

    Doctors used to be pretty immune to burnout in large part due to the control they had in private practice. Now we are seeing more burnout as control is being taken out of their hands and put into the control of group practice managers who tell them how many patients they will have on their panel and how many they will see each day.

  4. Aha yes, Jesus perspective is the best! I love all the ways he uses to lift us higher to what’s real. Once feeling ground down in my gov job I was interviewing an accomplished writer..Pulitzer, well known biographer, and my fav CBS Sun morning… And he says to me, what a great job you have…what? And I did but lost sight of it by dwelling on negatives. Jesus was reminding me to be grateful where I was and work with what he put around me. Now if I start to get bothered by politics, I just tell him He’s who I want to work for, be promoted by or impress and then work to please him. You are so right it’s so much easier and hopeful!

  5. Yes, being reduced to a powerless widget in a heartless, money-driven bureaucracy sucks. And well intentioned but meddlesome and ineffective regulations don’t help at all. And they keep getting worse. I have more or less escaped to home care. The pay is definitely lower, and the boredom can be a real challenge (probably sounds silly, but there can be a lot of down time to fill with busy work!), but the stress of being overbooked and under supported is mostly removed, just due to numbers. Of course, you are largely on your own to cope with wacky family dynamics on a daily basis, but that’s just part of it. I do miss having other nurses around, and seeing a variety of medically interesting cases and getting to know more people, but it’s nice to make a difference for at least ONE patient, and especially to not dread going to work or being tempted to take up smoking or any other naughty coping mechanisms just to make it thru the work week. :-/

  6. Peter, look both things up. Bush 43 collaborated w Kennedy on No Child Left Behind. The meeting happened. Do you want links? I’m sure if you are that stuck you wouldn’t look them up anyway. Wouldn’t believe Reagan worked with Tip O’Neil nor that Clinton worked with Gingrich.