You might be more of a people pleaser than you realize. When you are presented with a decision, how often do you discount your opinion with something like, “I can go either way” or “It doesn’t matter to me; you pick”? Or, maybe you disregard your opinion with a “Yes” without considering what you want.
Certainly, there will be times when you are indifferent. Even during these times, it’s nearly always a good idea to know what you want, even if you give up what you want for someone else.
A quick response of indifference might involve the least amount of effort, but it can cost you significantly more later on. Instead, what if you invested the time to know what you want?
The less you know yourself, the harder it is to give a clear, direct answer to even a simple question. When you know yourself well, your answer will be second nature.
You might be wondering, “How do I get to know myself?” There are two main approaches to strengthening your self-image. You can remain reactive or go proactive.
- In reactive mode, you stumble through life and only give consideration to your ways when it becomes absolutely required of you (if ever).
- In proactive mode, you consider your ways every chance you get. You explore your past and use what you learn to better your future. You take advantage of the fact that God gives you truth about life, including details about who you are.
A step in-between the two modes is trial and error. You essentially try something blindly. Then perhaps as an afterthought, you evaluate the outcome. It’s not completely reactive or proactive.
The superior approach is having an awareness of who you are. Then during any given moment, you can proactively choose how to act based on what you know about yourself. God wants you to live a self-examined life (see Haggai 1).
Essential to every approach is what you do with your experiences. God gives you a process to discover your identity (who you are as defined by God). The goal is to increase the awareness of your identity so that decisions become easier over time.
If you have trouble people-pleasing or making good decisions, that’s usually because you don’t know yourself well enough. Learning who you are can occur “on accident,” but knowing yourself will take much longer that way.
Instead, take the time to evaluate your experiences and weed out the lies that are growing in the garden of your self-image. With the clutter of lies cleared away, you’ll know more clearly whether you want to say yes or no.
For example: if you don’t know who you are very well, then you might end up with an over-booked schedule. You’ll wonder why you are tired and irritable. If you continue to ignore your God-given identity, you’ll assume you are doing what God wants you to be doing because you are serving others.
In contrast, with healthy boundaries that come from a healthy identity, you’ll be confident about where to draw the line. You can say yes to some activities and no to others without feeling guilty or overwhelmed.
Some things God requires of you. You should feel motivated to do right and not wrong. But actually, most things are up to you. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). You can decide to go for a walk or stay home. You can decide to visit a friend or be by yourself. For these decisions, you must trust that God gives you enough intelligence to choose.
You can know what to choose by determining what level of self-care you need at any given moment. Then weigh that against the needs of others around you.
You might be surprised at your preferences when you discover them, but they are never a surprise to God. God knows what you will choose before you choose it. Trust that God gave you a built-in preference system–that’s your identity.