Are you the sort of person who worries what other people think of you? It seems a lot do. One of the most natural things that humans do is be afraid of what other people will think.
You may not think this affects you but we can become so easily obsessed with what other people think about us: We are not what we think we are, we are not what others think we are, we are what we think others think we are. Do you agree or disagree? Sometimes we are driven to please people. We hate to let people down. We hate to say No to people. We hate to have them not like us.
And the reality is, for most of us, we drift toward wanting to please people:
- What do you think of me?
- Do you like me?
- Do I fit in?
- Do I measure up?
- Am I cool enough?
- Do you like what I’m doing?
- Can I be a part of your club?
- Can we be friends?
- Do you think I’m doing the right thing?
William James wrote, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” We live with so many preoccupations about ourselves:
- Is my hair all right?
- Do these clothes make me look fat?
- Did I say the wrong thing just now?
- Do they think I’m an idiot?
- Am I being admired right now?
The Risk of Approval Addiction
Most people spend a lot of time trying to please everyone. Think about it. How much does the opinion of others influence what you do and say? Do you feel deeply upset if anyone has a bad impression of you? Do you ever re-live things in your mind, imagining how you must have looked to everyone else? Just about everyone has a need for approval. But that can all too easily turn into approval addiction—that turns us into ‘people-pleasers’.
There’s craving to be admired, to be looked up to, to be applauded. The fear of man isn’t a fear so much as it is a life centered around men—a life that is motivated by pride and how we appear in the eyes of men, so it can manifest itself in a drive to impress people.
And the goal is the trap: we define our lives through the eyes of other people. We need to be the center of attention, we need to be well liked, we need to be promoted, we need to be considered successful, because we think our lives and identities are determined by what people think, rather than what God thinks of us.
In 1992 Kerrin Lee-Gartner of Calgary, Alberta became the first Canadian in history to win Olympic Gold in the women’s downhill race. In Canada she became an overnight sensation. Shortly after her victory an announcer interviewing her commented that this must surely be the most significant day of her life. To his surprise she answered, “No, the most significant day of my life was the day of my marriage to my husband, but this ranks pretty high too!”
The Most Important Approval
It’s not wrong to care about what people think about us and it’s not wrong to want to be well thought of. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
Having a good reputation is actually a valuable thing to have. The fear of man is when we care too much about what people think of us. And it’s a fear which is two sided: on one side it’s an oversized craving for people’s approval and on the other side it’s an oversized fear of people’s rejection.
Did you know that becoming obsessed with what people think about you is the quickest way to forget what God thinks about you. And which is more important? I believe it’s far more important to ask, What does God think of me and the way I live?
But the Bible says you don’t need to please everybody—Proverbs 29:25 from the Living Bible says, “It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you.” Why is it dangerous? No matter what you do or what you try or how nice you are to them. You just can’t please everybody.
Author and speaker Joyce Meyer once said, “Knowing who we are in Christ sets us free from the need to impress others. Our desire for approval can only truly be met by receiving God’s acceptance and approval of us.”