Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I seemed to strike a nerve with my post on Tuesday about separating your thoughts from what you think others want, or what you’ve been in the habit of agreeing to. DoorMats are especially vulnerable to being acquiescent in a subservient way. “Whatever you want” is always on the tips of compulsive People Pleasers’ tongues. I wanted to eat where others wanted and see t films they chose.

Men do it too! In my How to Please a Woman In & Out of Bed book, I advise that when on a date, don’t tell a woman dating “I’ll go to or do whatever you want.” Even DoorMats get turned off by other DoorMats! When I’d date someone who wouldn’t tell me what he liked, always deferring to whatever I wanted, I had to end it. It made him seem too insecure.

There I was—Ms. Insecurity dumping a guy who smelled of insecurity! How funny is that?!?

A person who makes his or her own decisions is attractive. At work it reflects confidence and makes you seem smart. Both sexes like this quality in a romantic partner. I’m not talking about being demanding. Sometimes recovering DoorMats go in the other direction once they feel more empowered, and get aggressive in their approach.

Cheryl came to me for counseling. She’d been taken advantage of for much of her life. After workshops and therapy, she wasn’t going to let anyone every take advantage of her again and expected everyone to give her what she wanted. Cheryl had a sense of entitlement from her growth, which I told her wasn’t fair to others. NO ONE has to give you what you want! After recovering from being a DoorMat, she had to recover from being the Anti-DoorMat.

A middle ground between expressing your preferences and being considerate of what others need works best.

Don’t go to extremes! You don’t ALWAYS have to get your way. Compromise is crucial to have a good relationship with anyone. Go where you prefer one time and where your friend prefers the next. Once you get in touch with what would be your first choice if you took no one else into consideration, express your preference and hear the other person’s. Then go with what’s fair to you both. For those folks who make you feel you must always do it their way, find ways to not deal with them!

A romantic partner isn’t your master. Don’t lose yourself with one! Parents must sometimes be taught that you’re an adult and entitled to do things your way. If friends act like you’ll lose them if you don’t give in to what they want, lose them! People prefer having their way but if they value you in their lives, they can be trained to break the habits of always expecting you to go along with them.

You train them by communicating what you want, and showing with actions that your interactions should be a two-way street!

Someone commented that she used to always go along with what her boyfriend wanted. He didn’t force her to. She just made his preferences her own. As she stepped out of DoorMatville, she was pleasantly surprised that her guy was happy to hear her express what she preferred. Often we go along with someone when we’re scared of the unknown—the possibility of losing someone by wanting something different than they do. In most cases, those who care about you want you to have your desires met too!

As my confidence got stronger, I began to answer “What would YOU like?” questions more honestly. I still clearly remember the first time I told a guy I’d just begun dating that I wasn’t in the mood for Mexican when he suggested we go for it. I said it tentatively, nervous about his reaction. He LOVED it! Said I was the first woman he’d ever dated who expressed a real opinion about what she’d like. He hated always feeling responsible for it and happily suggested we go somewhere else—a restaurant I loved!

DoorMats learn to eat what others want and do what others like. Empowered people learn that their preferences are worthy of getting satisfied, once they allow themselves to decide what they are. So think before you make choices. “What do I really want?” And don’t be afraid to express them! The worst that can happen is the other person disagrees. Then you can try to find a compromise.

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