It is true that it is constrictive and burdensome to have to be constantly worrying about what people think, or what they might think or say...It is actually living a lie if we try to be all things to all people, or all things to some people. Either way we are NOT FREE if we are trying to be something we aren't.
Let's get some help from the Lord in having this burden lifted...truly He is our source for the fulfillment that we crave. He is the only one who understands our heart of hearts, and has perfect love for us. When it is He we seek to please, when we know we have his approval, it enables us to have true fellowship with others without the masks coming between us. Imagine running a race with no one around, how lonely and perhaps futile it would seem... In this race toward eternity, we don't need the distraction or worry of the "what if's", but we do need one another to encourage us along the way. We need to have people to share life with.
Many have heard of Joyce Meyer's book, "Approval Addiction". I have never read it, but every time I hear the title, I know what is in that book. I am a recovering "Performance-based acceptance" person. In other words, my worth depended on how well I performed. If I had approval, I was doing well, if I disappointed people...well, I felt inferior. Like a failure. What a strain in my life. Two times I went through deep anxiety and the second time it went on so long, it turned to depression. I was looking at me so much, no wonder I was depressed. Everything was about how I was doing, or how other's were responding to me. Me, me, me~ugh!
Well, going through a little hell like that helped me learn alot of lessons. You have heard it said, in trial you become bitter, or you become better. The choice is up to you. I think for awhile I was bittter, but now...praise the Lord, I am better.
Knowing you are following what the Lord wants you to do, frees you from unrealistic expectations from others. Let's face it, some people can be demanding & critical. One of the passages of scripture that I love and the Lord used to set me free is: Mark 1:35-38
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”
When I looked at Jesus' response to the people who wanted him, I realized what freedom looked like. It was focusing on "doing the will of the Father". As Jesus stated many times...that is what he came to earth to do. That is to be my focus. What liberty, and also JOY there is in knowing you are in the center of God's will. Then all the criticism in the world cannot get you down, or into doubting. And we will face it all of our lives. We must learn to focus on Jesus and we must learn that He is our greatest advocate, our defender when we are accused. And we must meet Him daily (as Jesus did in the above passage~He went away to pray) to know what He wants us to do each day and in each situation. So let's put off people pleasing, and walk in freedom.
"Our Lord was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God's grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man can ever be-absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else." Oswald Chambers