Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

What Do You Really Want?

I was just talking to a music producer who said that when a new client comes in, the first thing he asks is “What exactly do you want?” Musicians are often surprised that he asks, and even more surprise when they can’t quite articulate an answer. It’s so easy to lose your own opinion and needs when you’re used to someone guiding you in certain situations.

I’m a pretty outspoken chick these days but realized I do it too. That’s why I call myself a recovering Doormat instead of a recovered one. We all want to be liked and to please those we care about. And it’s fine to do things to please them. But you need to become more aware of not letting it become a habit that sells your needs short. I have to stay conscious of not automatically deferring to someone else. Just like I have to be conscious of what I eat, I must be careful about not letting others influence my decisions in ways I’ll later regret.


Without being aware, you can get into a habit of not thinking for yourself.

It can start innocently—doing things the way mom wants to appease her, deferring to someone who’s more experienced, or getting into patterns in a relationship in situations that your partner takes charge of early on. It’s not necessarily bad. Sometimes other people can make better decisions about something you don’t know enough about. Or care about.

But it also sells your ability to do, or learn how to do something short!

DoorMats rarely think for themselves. They let others dictate their choices and tell them what they should want. Falling into the “whatever you want” trap is especially common in relationships if you’re insecure. In my DoorMat days, I went along with whatever my guy wanted and lost track of my real preferences as I made his mine. When I took a few steps forward, it was hard to even know what to choose. I had to free my mind in order to figure out what I wanted, without influence from others.

Knowing what you want and asking for it is very empowering!


Yet we often don’t realize that we still follow in some situations until we’re asked, “what do you really want?” The aforementioned producer said musicians are used to being guided without realizing it. Having done recording when I had a record label, I remember how opinionated producers and recording. engineers can be. I worked with some who were downright know-it-alls. They insisted on telling me how to do my recordings. It was hard to hold my own when someone more experienced was resolute that he knew better than me. I went along with what they insisted on. And I didn’t get what deep down I knew I wanted. It made me angry!

Until I took some time to figure out what I did want, and took a firm stand with those who disagreed.


Talking to the producer made me realize why I’ve been having such a hard time deciding how I want my new website. When I first started out writing music business books, an industry guy offered to make me a site for free. It was 1997 and I was an Internet newbie, and low on funds. So the offer of a free website was wonderful. He designed it and I was grateful.

A few years ago, a good friend decided to build me a new site for Christmas. I’d outgrown the first one and needed something better. He was sure he knew what I wanted and implemented it. I tried to assert myself more but he’d already done a lot of work. When I tried to tell him what I’d like changed but he got defensive so I let it go and just accepted his vision. Freebies can come with a cost! I do like it. But it wasn’t what I’d have chosen.


Now, someone else has offered me a new site because he appreciates how much he got out of my recent workshop. He put a template together as a sample to work from and sent it to me. It was okay but wasn’t me. I put off responding for two weeks as I tried to figure out what to say to another person who was building my site as a favor. I felt blocked, knowing I wanted something different but unable to figure out what. I finally told him—gently—that it wasn’t me and I was struggling with it.

He immediately said it was NO problem if I disagreed and he wanted this to be 1,000% me. Free at last!

Once Pat reassured that he wanted it MY way, the floodgates opened. What an amazing feeling. Until then, I hadn’t felt permission to really think outside of what was given to me. I was so used to being told how my website should be that I couldn’t visualize beyond what I saw. Once given permission to say what I liked and didn’t like, my creative juices took over. My blocks dissolved as I got excited about having a website that truly represented me and what I do.


It’s hard to know what you really want. When you’re used to pleasing everyone, thoughts go through your head, sometimes subconsciously—“what do I want, or what do I think the person I want to please wants me to want.” It can screw up decision making big-time! But you CAN break the habit of thinking in someone else’s box!

* Accept that you might have a habit of letting others influence decisions you’d rather make for yourself. Awareness is the beginning of any change. Habits, especially those you do subconsciously, need to be identified before they can be broken.

* Don’t beat yourself up for having that habit. It’s normal to do create patterns that allow others to guide you. We all do it. Forgive yourself if necessary and be grateful you learned this. Some never do!


* Don’t make snap decisions. Those are the ones you more likely make out of habit. If you think a little first, you might catch yourself gravitating to someone else’s point of view.

* Think about past decisions and who might have influenced them. Write them down. Ask yourself which ones you completely agreed with and figure out who may really have more knowledge or a better perspective that you can go to for future input.

* Think in terms of input rather than the final word. It’s good to take into consideration what others think. None of us know everything. Practice absorbing what others say and making decisions after reflecting on what others think. Their way might turn out to be the best for you.


* Ask yourself, “what do I want?” Turn off decision-making autopilot! Really push the boundaries of thinking to figure out your own heart’s choices. Give yourself time and permission to explore possibilities.

It’s lovely to realize that all decisions are in your hands. The first time I ignored what I was being strongly advised to do, I felt a rush of joy. MY way. I wanted MY way. And I got it by deciding to have it! Now I can’t wait to see the end result of my new website. MY way! Empower yourself by getting into the habit of thinking for yourself. It’s a loving act that will make you want more!

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  • smilie

    I loved this post, it seemed like it was written for me :) I try to read as much empowering stuff as I can, in hope that it will actually affect me enough to get me to spring to action. Your blog is great for that, you’re such an inspiration! Thank you!I’m a 23 years old recent graduate, about to try and start up my career. I’ve just started to become aware that I am indeed suffering from quite severe doormat issues…I know that I often do things mainly to please others/be appriciated, but being so used to it I don’t notice it until afterwards: Why did I do that/say yes to that/spend my time doing this instead of that? Most of the time I don’t know. If people ask me what I like, a lot of the time I don’t know. I’m so used to doing what other people want to do.It has gotten better with age, and having been with my boyfriend for four years, I now feel secure enough to truly voice my opinion every once in a while with him (and guess what? He likes it! Why did I think he would not like it/me if I didn’t always agree with him? Again, I don’t know!) But I still have a long way to go. I watch movies I don’t want to watch when there are millions of creative things I’d rather do, I buy and cook food I don’t actually want to eat when I should be applying for a job / develop myself. I meet up with friends I don’t really like and do things I don’t want to do, which again, is just wasting my time. But at least I’m aware of it. Awareness is the first step, right?

  • Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi smilie,Thanks for sharing! Awareness is definitely the first step. That helps you to be more conscious of agreeing to things you don’t want out of habit. Reading blogs like mine can help you increase your awareness so good for you for seeking them out!Sounds like you’re on your way to breaking old habits! I wish you joy as you grow! It’s a wonderful path to travel.Cheers,Daylle

  • Patricia Singleton

    I grew up in an abusive alcoholic home where the only person who made all the decisions was my dad. Today, it is still easier to tell you what I don’t want rather than what I want. I have worked really hard to get to the point where I can say That’s not me. Congratulations on your progress. Just remember “progress, not perfection” and the journey will be easier with less judgments about how you failed. As long as you are learning, you haven’t failed. Have a glorious day.

  • Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi Patricia,Thanks for sharing! It usually is easier to say what you don’t want. If we don’t feel worthy, it’s hard to stay what we do want. Often those feelings are old habits–residuals from past problems and insecurities–that you can break with consciousness. I call myself recovering DoorMat b/c I know I can always backslide. I consciously appreciate all that I do, and my imperfect lovely ways. : )Blessings,Daylle

  • Angela

    Thank you so much. I just had to sit and cry a little when I read this. It is exactly like me. I have felt like a door mat my whole life — always living for others — trying to please others. How do I stand up for me — and be who I want to be? It seems like my whole life’s successes have been because I needed someone – I had to please that particular person – say things just a certain way – because they held my future in their hands – or so it seems. I don’t know — not sure how to break out of this rut. And I’m a single mom — trying to teach my boys how to be independent and “say what you mean and mean what you say”, and “say like it is” — and all that!! I wish I could be as strong as I am trying to teach them to be.

  • Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi Angela,I’m glad that you found this post helpful. This is os common in women so please don’t feel bad. Put all your energy into loving yourself more and becoming a stronger woman. It takes time. You can only teach your kids by example. Be the person you want your kids to grow into! If you have Word and send me your email address, I’d send you some chapters from my How Do I Love Me? book.

  • whinette

    I was dating a Mr Know-It-All and he was so persuasive that I let him decide on everything, or rather, listened to him whatever he has to say. Now that we're seperated, I'm indecisive in every sense. I was thinking maybe it's all about feeling insecure, but you might be true, that it's a habit that I've fallen into.But when it comes to taking people's opinion as a reference rather than the final decision, it's really difficult to differentiate the two sometimes. Even if you wanted to focus on what you really want, it's just hard to persuade yourself that you should go and get it if you don't trust your own preference. I'm talking from my personal experience.Yet, smilie might got it right, that awareness is the first step.Thanks for your post. It's exactly what I needed.

  • Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    You're not in the habit of deciding what YOU want after never doing it. But you CAN develop a new habit and begin to think about YOUR desires. Awareness truly is the first step!

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