Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Many self-help books and speakers encourage becoming your own best friend. It sounds good but it’s harder to implement. When I was a DoorMat, I kissed up to everyone but couldn’t figure out how to be a friend to me. My focus was on pleasing others. Be my own best friend? It sounded like a theory I couldn’t practice. When you’re brought up to be a people pleaser like I was, it’s easy to lose consciousness of how YOU treat YOU.

The good news: You can raise your consciousness, one baby step at a time and truly become the friend you deserve—by replacing old habits with more loving ones!

When you pay attention to how you treat and regard yourself, you can identify the habits that aren’t friendly to you and replace them with more loving ones. I always treated my friends lovingly. But the courtesy I gave them didn’t extend to me in the days when I was too busy catering to everyone else’s needs. Nor did I respect my needs or stop the hurtful situations I attracted. That certainly wasn’t being a friend to me, no less a best friend!

To me, being your own best friend means extending the same considerations, respect and loving behavior that you give to others, TO YOU.

The process begins with the first step and generates results as you practice your new habits. When you consciously do something over and over, it will eventually sink in! Then it will become an automatic habit.

Become aware of how you treat YOU. Seriously pay attention!

Do you talk nicely to yourself, like “Way to go!” or “I look great today.” Or is your inner dialogue more commonly, “I’m an idiot for that” or “My stomach is disgustingly flabby.” It’s obviously wrong to hurt someone you care about. Yet we don’t always apply that to ourselves! You cut friends slack. It’s time to cut it for yourself!

CHOOSE to make a concerted effort to create good habits for your own well-being.

If a friend goofs, would you bash her? If your buddy lost his girlfriend, would you encourage self-flagellation? I doubt it. We reassure those we care about. Yet many of us have a much higher set of standards for our own shortcomings and punish ourselves for making the same mistakes or having the same inadequacies that we reassure friends about. How do you respond when you make mistakes? Treat yourself with kindness? Make an effort to take care of yourself? We’re often harder on ourselves than on others. Do you talk to friends like you talk to yourself?

• “I’m a dummy for saying that.”
• “How stupid can I get!”
• “I’m a big loser.”
• “I’m a big fat slob for eating so much.”

When you goof up next time, think about how you’d reassure a friend who’s done what you did. What words would you use? Be reassuring instead of tearing yourself apart. Don’t get angry at yourself for being human!! Find positives in what doesn’t go right. You don’t have to think in terms of being either right or wrong. You may have been nervous and not given your best presentation, but the information was well-documented. Pat yourself on the back for that.

Treat yourself as you would treat friends—use kinder words.

Just because you’re not perfect, you’re not a failure. Mistakes don’t make you a loser. Get out of the habit of all or nothing. That’s not being fair to you! You wouldn’t call a friend a loser when they make a mistake. When your friends do something wrong you forgive them. Practice being your own best friend and forgive yourself.

As I struggled to stop being a DoorMat, I noticed how much I beat myself up, put myself down and hated myself more when my imperfections showed, especially over mistakes. I knew it was wrong and created a technique that helped me break that awful habit. I shared it in one of my books and hear from many people who said it did wonders for them. So I’ll share it here.

When friends trash themselves, do you challenge their self-putdowns?

* He says, “I’m a big idiot for saying that!” Your reply: “But you’re such a bright person and normally do things well so stop calling yourself names that you’re not!”

* She says over and over “What a pig I am for eating cake.” You reply, “You have a lovely body and will work it off in the gym. It’s fine to have an eating splurge. It’s fun.”

Why not do that for you? I always thought I was different as I put myself down. Yet when I thought about it, I saw that when thinking or saying critical things about me, I feel worse. I’ve made a conscious effort to tell myself it’s okay to make mistakes. You can too!

Next time you goof, think of what you’d say if a good friend did the same thing. Would you chastise or reassure? Come on, you know if a friend breaks something, messes up his car, or says the wrong thing, you’d try to make him or her feel better, not name call. Yet we use harsh words on ourselves.

I used awful words when I made “bonehead” moves, as I called them. ? Then it hit me. I was trying to love myself yet I didn’t speak lovingly. As I paid attention, I saw that I was in the habit of silently yelling at myself for anything I did that wasn’t perfect. I was on auto-pilot with verbal self-abuse and knew I had to stop. That led to creating one of the best habits of my life. “Silly me!”

The word SILLY is kinder. I’ve made a habit of replacing bad words with SILLY. I’m no longer retarded or a dummy. I’m SILLY when I klutz out and SILLY when I break something. It took time to break habits of insulting myself when I GOOFed (another kinder word!) and get into the habit of using the word SILLY. Practicing it had had a profound affect on my outlook. In the past, I’d spill a glass of milk and say, “That was stupid.” Or, I’d say something inappropriate and think, “What an idiot I am.” When I realized I wasn’t treating myself fairly and needed a way to show forgiveness, I got in the habit of using SILLY instead of negative words.

SILLY. It takes the bite out of stupid.

SILLY. I laugh when I use it instead of calling myself retarded. If I use a harsher word, I quickly replace it with SILLY. I equate SILLY with self-forgiveness and a desire to be kind to myself. Every time I call myself SILLY, it reinforces my self-acceptance. It took about 2 years to make SILLY a mostly automatic habit. Until then, I’d say a derogatory word but immediately replace it with SILLY. “That was stupid, no silly.” I still smile when I use it. It’s instant self-forgiveness! No matter what I do wrong, I call myself silly and smile. This habit is VERY loving!

When you automatically use critical words on yourself, it hurts each time and reinforces lower self-esteem.

It’s hard to love yourself if you think you’re an idiot like I did. Consciously r
eplacing self-criticism with SILLY helps you see how much you berate yourself.
Using SILLY can help you focus on being nicer to YOU. Now I’m just a silly girl who sometimes GOOFS up but likes herself more, instead of an idiot who screws up too much and hates herself for it. This consciousness makes me act kinder in other areas.

The more you fall in love with yourself, the less you’ll ALLOW self-insults. The less you put yourself down, the more you’ll feel self-love. Pay attention to your reaction when you GOOF. Adopt a habit of instant forgiveness with kinder responses. Calling yourself an idiot for saying the wrong thing to your boss, a klutz for spilling ketchup, a fool to believe someone you trusted, stupid for forgetting something, lowers self-confidence, diminishes self-love, and plain old isn’t nice. Do it only if you want bad self-esteem. Otherwise, label yourself as SILLY.

Mistakes can be seen as personal boners—or lessons. Self-recrimination wastes energy. Forgiving and moving is loving. When you GOOF, do what you can to rectify mistakes and move on. Once you can forgive yourself, it’s easier to forgive others. So, be a very silly person and smile more! Using it also says, “I forgive me for being human.”

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