Who Am I Trying to Please?

woman thinking, looking up
I quit my job three weeks ago.

For over a year, I’ve been thinking about doing something different. I had been working in early childhood education for several years and loved it, but the work doesn’t exactly utilize my communications degree.

I explored options, updated my LinkedIn and scoured job postings online. Finally I settled on a plan to go into freelance writing. I took a course, interviewed a freelancing friend and made sure I had enough saved up to last a while.

Everything was in place.

But once I told my boss, the director of the preschool, that I would leave at the end of the summer, something changed. I didn’t feel elated like I had expected.

The days after I took that first official step were something of a blur. I began to realize all I would lose by leaving my current job: great co-workers, an incredible workplace atmosphere and time with kids — I’d miss it all immensely.

Instead of looking forward to this big change, I began to dread the end of my job. At first I thought I felt this way because it was another bittersweet part of leaving one chapter for another, but the feeling grew stronger.

I was only a few weeks from turning in my badge and walking out of school, ready to try my hand at freelancing, just like I had planned. It was almost time to put my degree to work.

Why was I so emotional? Why was I so torn? Was I seriously reconsidering?

Why Am I Doing This?

I needed help. I was so confused by this abrupt change in myself that I needed someone to talk to and help me sort it out. So I turned to my mom. We talked through my tears, unraveling the complicated tangle of feelings I was wrapped up in. Through that conversation, I realized something I can’t believe I had missed.

I finally saw that I had been so motivated to do something with my degree because that’s what other people expected.

I knew I had a tendency to want to please (or impress) the people around me. But I hadn’t realized this people-pleasing tendency had wiggled its way into my job decision.

This desire to please other human beings can be so strong it’s nearly addictive. Worrying about others’ opinions is common, and so very easy. But it’s silly, too.

“‘How can you believe,’” Jesus asked the Jews, “‘when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’”

We turn our backs on the God who created the universe and instead are enthralled with the people He created, looking to them to be amazed and fulfilled. What a poor trade.

I nearly made a major life decision largely based on what other people would think.

I’m grateful.

So I quit my job three weeks ago. Four days later, I un-quit.

I’m not usually so dramatic.

But in the act of quitting, and realizing how final it would be, I realized how much I want to be right where I am. That feeling of dread went away after I told my boss I didn’t want to quit after all. It was replaced with  excitement for the new school year in a few weeks and gratitude that God kept me from walking away from a place I would have missed very much.

It’s completely normal, valid and good to want a job in your degree fields That’s why you chose the degree you did. There is a place for leaving a job — even one you love very much – to start a new adventure and try something else to challenge yourself.

Please don’t think I’m saying we should stop growing or never aim for more responsibility or, in some careers, avoid climbing the corporate ladder. There are right times and situations for all of those things. There are right motivations.

In my situation, the things I was considering — freelance writing, finding a career within my degree field — are completely OK and understandable. But I was pursuing them because I thought that would please other people. I thought I was supposed to do those things, according to social opinion.

Maybe someday I will leave early childhood education. Maybe I will have a job that perfectly utilizes my communications degree.

But for right now, I work in early childhood education. I love it. And I’m grateful.

Why do you want to do what you want to do? What is your motivation or — if you think about it — idol?

About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is a writer and toddler teacher, and she blogs at These Traveling Days. She loves to read books that are so good they make her want to crawl into their stories, and she can never have enough of her favorite Pixar movies or chocolate chip cookie dough.