Monday, February 23, 2015

Taking Extreme Measures

As a recovering approval whore, I had to make a long term commitment to myself to do something for me, regardless of others actions or perceived thoughts.  Anyone who struggles with the dreadful "Disease to Please" might understand my desperate need to put a stake in the ground and stand firm on something I wanted for myself.  It is exhausting living the life you think other people want you to live instead of living your life as you desire.  Even if you don't think you suffer from this disease, be wary, as its symptoms are so subtle that you may not really recognize it. However, if you often feel guilty saying "No," constantly feel the need to explain to others the reason for your decisions or feel resentment towards others for not accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself, you may want to give consideration to this disease and find out more.   

So, I chose to do an extreme workout (not a problem for this workout junkie) AND a disciplined nutrition regimen for 21 days (HUGE personal challenge).  I know 21 days may not seem like a lot to some, but you'd be surprised what can come up in 21 days.  Disciplined nutrition over a longer period of time than 3-4 days has always been my downfall.  Part of it was not knowing what to do, but a lot of it is related to my lack of self-discipline spurred by the erratic people-pleasing syndrome from which I suffer.

My progression into this People-Pleasing syndrome, although rather interesting when I look back on it, is actually quite common.  Although my story may not fit exactly with yours or someone else you know who suffers from this affliction, I would think you could relate.  My original desire to look a certain way spurred by what I thought would make people like me.  Like most, this ugly disease started when I was a child.  I grew up as the Black girl in a predominantly Caucasian suburban area.  I couldn't change the fact that I was Black, but I could change my size.  I'd rather be just the Black girl and not the Big Black girl.

What's so thought-provoking to me is that the same disease that drives me to look a certain way also prevents me from it.  Somehow, I can't find it in me to stay committed to what it is I said I wanted to do.  My noncompliance is so subtle, and my pleasing affliction so strong, that I don't even recognize it happening.  On any given week I'll receive dozens of invitations to get thrown off track.  Whether it be an impromptu team lunch, chocolates, cake or other treats offered in the workplace, requests to attend parties, celebrations, drinks with friends or an 'off-site' meeting disguising all the above.  It's easy to decline most impromptu work offerings with the statement, "Oh, I brought my lunch today," or "Sorry, I have errands to run," but difficulty arrises when I have set a time for my commitment and it happens to interfere with someone else's planned event.

Realistically, these invites are truly great because in all cases, except the passing off of sugar treats around the office, these invites mean people enjoy me enough to want me to be around.   It's not the invites that are a detrimental deterrent to my rigorous plans, but rather the urge to say "yes" to the invite for all the wrong reasons.  This compulsion is pushed by the fear that if I turn someone down too many times, I will no longer be invited.  I will no longer be included.  I may no longer be liked!  Say what?!  It's such a vicious cycle!

Like any disease involving the psyche, there is a denial or an involuntary cover up.  I would mask my issues and create valid reasons in my mind as to why it was OK to back off my original plan.  The simple phrase was, "Well I'm X so I should have a little Y."  You can add your most common X and Y. My common X would be "a single mom",  or "I work hard" and Y could be anything from a "piece of cake" to a "glass of wine" to a "fun night out!"  The Y's would come up, simply because people asked and I somehow felt obligated to say "yes", regardless of what it was I had originally planned for myself.

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."  Galations 1:10 (ESV)

With my current plan for 21 Days, I thought I could handle the events that were currently on my calendar by either skipping or following through with proven techniques to keep me on track.  These techniques were as simple as bringing my own food to a party or bringing the healthy dish.  I was fine with doing that, but I was surprised by all of the unplanned temptations that nearly persuaded me back into "whore"-dom -- random party invites, dinner invites, charity events with amazing chefs who paired dishes with wine, an open box of fresh Belguim chocolates offered in my office by a manager straight from a business trip in Brussels!  The list goes on and on.

"The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe" Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV)

I thank God for a friend who brought me back to reality, in the most unexpected way.  He had purchased 2 tickets to a charity event being offered by the Austin Food and Wine Alliance and asked if I was free.  "Aaargh!" I thought because technically, I was free.  I responded as such, thanked him for the invite and courageously told him how I wanted to curse him at the same time because of what I was doing.  My diseased brain was starting to waver, especially after viewing the link he sent and seeing what delicious food would be prepared at the event; none of which was on my plan.  However, his support for what I was doing for me set me straight.  Not only did it spark a renewed commitment to myself and gave me the courage to handle the 15 other traps I would be lured into during the next week, including the chocolates which I kindly accepted, but haven't touched.  My exchange with him really helped me to reconsider why I was doing this and what it would mean for my ability to reach my goals by wavering.  I finally could be confident enough to say "YES" to me!

I could sum things up with those last two sentences, but it's really more than just a simple reconsideration of my goals.  My friend and his temptation was providentially placed at the right place at the right time.  The reality is, I've been intentionally working on conquering my "disease to please" for quite some time and only recently have I connected the dots.

I've been asked numerous times in various forms, "How is it that I know what to do, but just can't seem to do it?"  I always boiled this question down to a person's "why."  I would ask them, "Why are you doing it?  How will it make you feel to accomplish your goal?"  The last 2 statements in the last paragraph about saying yes to me really boiled down to my why.  The reality is that this commitment to doing what I say I will do goes far beyond a "why". You can have a compelling why, but if you don't have the confidence to go for it, you will not succeed.

I am able to stand stronger because I have been intentionally working on my self-confidence.  People-pleasing erodes your self-confidence.  Understanding what God's purpose is for your life and boldly going forward with it, regardless of the obstacles not only highlights your trust in His plan and your belief in His journey,  but builds your self-confidence.  I plan to share more about what I'm doing to build my confidence.  Seeing this journey that I've decided to take for me through is just one thing.  Stay tuned...

While Googling "The Disease to Please," I came across a great article from a Christian author who has provided me with so much value through one her books, Made to Crave.  Lysa TerKeurst provides such pragmatic insight into handling some of our daily hangups through scripture. Check out  If you would like to join me in my free online accountability group where we go through Made to Crave or any other accountability group, please go to and fill out the form. 

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