Beliefnet
Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I hear from many people who say they live in DoorMatville like I did years ago. They very much want to leave and become an empowered person but struggle trying to do it. I want to reassure you that if I could do it, anyone can, as long as you have patience. It can take time, like making any other changes in your life. First it’s important to identify the biggest factors that keep you there. Like most people, mine was a need to be liked by everyone. People pleasers want to keep people around at all costs. That cost is usually sacrificing their happiness to make others happy.

I believe this comes from a fear that you’ll be lonely if you alienate those around you by putting yourself and your needs first.

When I was in school I had tons of friends. I was a people pleaser back then but so were most of my friends so it was a more level playing field. We were just a bunch of girls trying to find our way and feel secure. But as I got older, my insecurity deepened and my people pleasing escalated at that same rate. I became scared to stand up to people or say no when I wanted to. This is common as evidenced by what I hear from my readers, but it doesn’t make it right for you.

DoorMats often complain that people don’t treat them right or return their kindness but keep on giving anyway.

That’s what I did until I slowly began to stop my over-giving patterns. I didn’t become empowered overnight. It took many years to get to where I am now. As I enjoyed my progress and feeling more in control of my life, I continued making changes. My journey out of DoorMatville had two stages. I’d begun to appreciate me, and what I had to offer, when I was still married. Slowly I began to say no to requests I didn’t want to do. When I was strong enough, I got divorced and went out on my own.

I call myself a recovering DoorMat because many situations can trigger old fear or insecurity and we can turn to old habits of pleasing.

Yes, pleasing becomes a bad habit when it’s done for a good part of your life. I reverted to it many times over the years. And you know what? It’s okay, as long as you can catch yourself and begin to break the habit again. Ingrained habits can be hard to break. Being a DoorMat can seem like a safety zone when you’ve used it for a good part of your life. I still occasionally revert to old habits and become too agreeable with someone I want to like me or in situations that make me nervous. Fortunately, I’ve got good defenses too and pull myself out quickly. But I didn’t at the beginning.

Start by doing one thing differently. Turn down one request. Express what you really think to one person.

On Friday I’ll talk about how going cold turkey on people helped me to learn how to be happy in my own company and cleanse my life of people who used me, kind of like throwing your cigarettes away to break a smoking habit. You don’t have to go as drastic as me but it really helped me break my people pleasing habits. Awareness is key. Write down why you think you try so hard to please others. For me it was mainly fear of loneliness. There were other factors too but they revolved around not wanting to lose people and be alone.

Then ask yourself if making others happy is worth you’re not being happy.

As I became more conscious that I wanted to be happy and people pleasing wasn’t getting me anywhere but more miserable, I paid attention to my response to people and made small changes. I had to take myself off of “Yes” auto-pilot to break the habit. Get into the habit of not responding immediately to requests. Say you’ll let them know or at least give yourself time to think about whether it’s something you want to do. Then take the plunge and say the first “no.” I finally accepted I was already unhappy so what was I risking??

When you pay attention and decide to begin to break your habits of being acquiescent, you say a big, fat, “I love me!” That was the beginning of the beautiful self-love I have now. You can have it too when you accept it’s your choice to be agreeable, and you can choose to change it by breaking the people pleasing habit, one person and one act at a time.
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Take the self-love challenge and get my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways for free at http://howdoiloveme.com. And you can post your loving acts HERE to reinforce your intention to love yourself. Read my 31 Days of Self-Love Posts HERE.

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