Tame Your Need for Approval: Stop People-Pleasing

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Is your need for approval in overdrive? Are you a people-pleaser?

If your need for approval gets in the way of healthy relationships and being your true self, it’s time to break free from that trap. Pastor Rick Warren explains how people-pleasing causes harm, and he shares three truths you should keep in mind.

Read more to learn how the need for approval does damage—and how to stop people-pleasing.

Taming the Need for Approval

Approval-seeking can easily make you lose sight of what’s truly important in your life. We’re made to cherish our relationships, so it makes sense to want to feel accepted, valued, and loved. These feelings are important because they’re what strengthen your bonds with others and gain the power and confidence to be you and fulfill your purposes. 

However, the need for approval can easily go too far and become approval-seeking—that is, you need the approval and acceptance of others to be happy, and you fear the possibility of rejection or disapproval. This need for approval can drive you to turn away from trying new things, taking risks, or doing the right thing—it stands directly in the path of the work necessary to fulfill your purposes.

How Approval-Seeking Hurts You

Being driven by the need for approval damages your life in several ways: 

  • All of your work is done for the sake of being liked or receiving recognition—it’s not genuine, and it’s not for God. You’re not fulfilling your purposes, but rather fulfilling your own needs above all else. 
  • You shy away from taking risks in faith—you don’t work on deepening your understanding of God’s Word or spreading his message because you fear what your friends or family might think of it. 
  • Like envy, approval-seeking is a gateway to other sins—if the choice to lie or cheat will guarantee that someone likes you, you’ll do it. 
  • Your principles and convictions become weak because you change them constantly to fit the people around you. There’s no true you.  

How to Stop People-Pleasing

The need for approval is Satan’s way to ensure that God’s message to the world is stifled as much as possible. Stay away from this trap by continually reminding yourself of three important truths:

  1. Nobody—not even God—can please everyone. It’s a fruitless goal, and not worth your time. 
  2. Approval isn’t a vital element to happiness—you can only be hurt by someone’s disapproval if you allow yourself to be. Remind yourself that your happiness comes from your own choice to be happy with your life.
  3. This life is temporary. While the approval of others may feel important or necessary now, keep an eternal perspective—the only approval that matters is God’s, and he’s the only one you’ll have to explain your choices to. When you realize how unimportant everyone else’s opinions are, they lose their power.

When you stop people-pleasing, you’ll have a chance to be the real you and fully live out God’s purpose for you.

Tame Your Need for Approval: Stop People-Pleasing

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  • The meaning of life from a Christian perspective
  • The five purposes that you were created by God to fulfill
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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