Finding rest is a daunting task for anyone, but when your life feels like it's crashing down all around you and the weight of the world is on your shoulders, rest is the last thing on your mind. If you're a people-pleaser, you're probably trying to take care of everyone else and make sure that they get the rest you need, while you continue to put more and more pressure on yourself.
It's a vicious cycle, and one that needs to be broken. In this guest post, Jodi Perez from Wealthy N Wise describes how five years of being on guard taught her that even people-pleasers need their rest sometimes.
It was spring break, and we were on our way to Hilton Head, South Carolina. A few of my girlfriends and I had packed up our car and started driving. Not long after leaving the college campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we jumped on the interstate. I-95 is a long stretch of road that covers the entire East Coast. And let me just tell you, twelve straight hours on the same road makes for a very long drive. To be fair, the fact that we left late and drove through the night didn't help either.
As the night wore on, the other girls took turns sleeping in the backseat. Not me. The fear of leaving a tired driver alone and the guilt of sleeping while someone else was at the wheel got the best of me. I stayed on high alert all night. Despite the fact that I'd been studying for midterms and had hardly slept for days, I forced my heavy eyes to stay open.
The last 5 years of my life have felt a lot like that car ride.
My daughter was 16-months-old when my twin boys were born. Having three babies under 2-years-old would be enough to break some people. But I've always been a determined sort. Still, for months the twins struggled to gain weight. Working off of 5-minute naps for months, I just couldn't wrap my mind around the problem. When the doctors started throwing around terms like "failure to thrive," I was the one who felt like a failure.
When they were 4-months-old, my father passed away suddenly. Grief enveloped me and was my constant companion for nearly a year. I had dreamed of him spending time with my boys, watching them grow and teaching them things. But those dreams were now destroyed. Again, this may have broken some people... but I persisted in the best way I was able.
Shortly after this, my husband started a new job that changed our lives in an extreme way. He was working all hours of the day and night. Weekends and holidays were no longer sacred. He spent more time at work than he did with me. This was the beginning of a downward spiral. Months later, I found out that he was having an affair with a woman from work.
For just a moment, I allowed myself to be broken. One night, actually. They next morning, I cried out to God for the strength to keep pressing through. And He delivered.
I began emerging from my grief, looking for a way to rebuild our marriage. But as I came out of that fog, I realized that my marriage wasn't the only thing in distress. It wasn't long after this that I noticed that my now 2-year-old twins were not developing as they should. In the fall of that year, they were both diagnosed with a speech delay and my "younger" twin was diagnosed with autism.
Ironically, in the midst of these dark moments of my life, God was speaking to me about rest. But it wasn’t until today that I recognized it.
Like that night in the car, I’ve kept my eyes open for 5 years. Not literally of course but I have been on high alert, trusting no one but myself to hold things together. The fear of dropping a ball and the guilt of resting while someone else works keep me from letting my guard down. We all go through difficult seasons in life, but going through seasons like this as a people-pleaser is especially excruciating.
People-pleasers tend to go to extreme measures of martyrdom to make sure everyone in their life feels loved and cared for. Unfortunately, this also leads to anxiety and depression. Feeling solely responsible for making sure everyone gets what they need is exhausting. The typical mom feels the weight of this, too. But the people-pleasing mom feels like a failure when she can’t accomplish it. Life begins feeling like your playing whack-a-mole, trying to deal with the problems as they pop-up.It’s time to get off the defense, ladies. We are not called to defend and protect...that’s the US Army. We are called lead with a servant’s heart. But isn’t that what I’m doing? Serving selflessly?
Who are you really serving?
A people-pleaser usually believes they are serving others to make everyone happy. This belief may be so strong in you that you honestly and truly can not see any other motive.
But in all reality, there is a selfish element to your people pleasing. And that is where the anxiety comes in. That is where servanthood becomes people pleasing. For example: You are trying to be the perfect wife. You are keeping your husband happy in every way you can. Is that because you want him to be happy? Yes, of course. But is it also because you want him to think you are the most amazing person in the world and he’s lucky to have found you? Yes… that’s true too.
And if you don’t get that response, you probably try harder until you feel like you have nothing left to give. And then you let the hurt and self-doubt wash over you. You NEED the approval. You NEED the validation. And that means, you can’t let your guard down.
But you can’t keep that up forever. The longer you are married, the more difficult this will become. The question is, will you have the strength and presence of mind to deal with it?
Even the people-pleaser needs to take a turn sleeping the backseat
We made it to Hilton Head that night. But only because my friends were wise. If I had climbed into the driver’s side of that car, I most likely would have nodded off. You see, no matter how hard you try, you can’t stay on high alert forever.
Even God rested on the Sabbath Day. When God said, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy,” that was a command to rest. REST. If the idea of rest feels wrong or impossible, then I have some bad news for you. You have placed yourself in God’s position and you’re worshiping at the altar of your own abilities.
It’s time to trust God to handle things, even when you feel like you are capable. It’s true that God expects us to use the gifts and abilities He’s given to us. But if we are to run and not grow weary, we can not constantly depend on our own abilities. As humans, our strength will give out. There is only one source of endless power.
If the idea of rest feels wrong or impossible, then I have some bad news for you. You have placed yourself in God’s position and you’re worshiping at the altar of your own abilities.
Plug into the source
My life is not conducive to rest. With three young children, two with special needs, a lot of times, the physical nature of my life requires me to keep pressing ahead. So how can I find rest? Spiritual rest doesn’t always require physical rest. Although our bodies need rest too, sometimes we do go through seasons of our life where there just isn’t a lot of room for that.
This week, I began packing for our camping vacation. I’m washing clothes and buying sunscreen. When we arrive at the campground, my children will play and enjoy their time there. I’ll call them to me to lather them with sunscreen. I’ll lead them to the pool at the appropriate time. And when the evening turns cold, they know I will have warm clothes waiting for them.
They don’t doubt this or question it. They are at rest, trusting in me to work out the details, believing I will supply for their needs. They haven’t spent the week worrying about the things they may need to make their vacation successful. They are simply excited for what is to come.
This is how I picture spiritual rest. I don’t need to worry about what type of weather I may face because God has packed my bag. He has sunscreen to protect me from the heat and a sweater to protect me from the cold. He will tell me when it’s time to go swimming. He has orchestrated this life for us and he wants to bless us with good things.
He will not allow me to miss opportunities. If I stay tuned into His voice and trust in His abilities then I am free to rest. My job, my only job, is to be excited for what is to come.
If you're having a hard time letting go of your own people-pleasing ways, I'd love to help you find rest.
Please visit my free resources section for my PDF: 11 Signs You're Doing too Much, and its corresponding worksheet to help you let go of some of your commitments.
Or, sign up for the email course and I'll send you a series of emails to walk you through it.