Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

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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