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Trying to please?

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

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Approval weaves through every relationship. From getting grades in school to pleasing a spouse to being successful in the workplace, the favorable opinion of others seems an essential element to making it through life.

Once I worked in a high- pressure job with two strong, brilliant bosses, one male and one female. I earnestly wanted to gain their respect, but I found myself caught between them. One would want one thing, the other would want something in the opposite direction, and I would flail around trying to please them both.

It hurt me that no matter what I did, I thought that one or the other of them would be angry with me. This imbalance made my days stressful, and I often thought my job was in jeopardy.

Finally, in a meeting with the female boss, I broke down. She was very patient with me, and after listening, she said, "You know, it's not about pleasing him or me. It's about pleasing God." (We shared a foundational faith in spirituality.)

Her comment shocked me. Not about pleasing people? How else does a person keep his or her job? But she was right. Merely doing what the bosses wanted wouldn't always be enough. I had a unique contribution to make, and I could make it only by being myself. The way to succeed at this job was to discover what God wanted me to do with my position and to do that.

But first I had to get over the crippling need for approval.

That evening something strange happened. I went home, and for some reason, took out my journals from middle school. As I leafed through, I found an entry that said, "Mom and Dad never let me do anything! They don't give me any say!" These frustrated preteen rantings sounded familiar.

It finally crystallized that I'd been carrying this mindset around for years. I'd been trying to assert my autonomy over authority figures throughout my life, and had never been successful. Now, this view was holding me back.

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