Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

People Pleasing Habits

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.

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.

Please leave comments under my posts so we can stay connected.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jeanenne Wright

    Even my family calls me milk toast.I;m getting worse.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jackie hansel

    “I pledge to do my best to do something loving for myself,
    however big or small, for the next 31 days.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment chijindu ezimah

    AT every month end since i have been working i am confronted with a lot of finacial request by well wishers and relations,before middle of the new month i am broke and sad,thanks for your advice i will now cultivate the idea of saying no to be happy and love my self

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Jeanenne–You MUST take one small step to taking care of yourself. Get tips from my blog and also from my free self love book. When you begin to love yourself, you also begin to stop the DoorMat patterns.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    chijindu- I will have a post on saying no to money people who want to borrow money. Saying no does stop it. And you have a right to!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Suzanne

    I have done things in my life first with my parents that loved me and raised me. How could I ever tur
    Them down?? They gave me life and we’re life. They had hard lives when they were younger and always as the baby of the family tried toake up for their unhappiness and make the rest of their life happy. Then it continued from there. I started to resent my brother and sister in law for not wanting to help with them. Bit I would never sat anything cuz didn’t want to hurt my parents. After my father died in my home in my arms I began to say what I thought. My sister and brother and their families could not except the NEW ME. I forgave them luckily in enough time to spend a few years with my sister before she was killed in a car accident. Now I have raised my voice at my sister in law I have apologized 2/3 times to no avail. She’s Not Ready to forgive me.

    After this happening many times in the years we have all been family I have decided even thou this is my last sibling brother to save my declining health I must put an end to this toxic relationship. Even thou he is my brother it has to stop. I cannot be treated like a door mat again. Not at 60 years old. Break the cycle.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Being family doesn’t make unacceptable behavior acceptable. YOU must come first. I encourage you to nicely assert what you feel and need, knowing you have a right to. When you are strong, you have more to give.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment rhonda

    my daughter says I like to be treated like crap is why her and her brother do that. How do correct the situation?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shirley D. “Mother of 7 Children, and 9 Grands”

    Thank you so very much for posting this rewarding article! I LOVE it! I has really taught me a lot about caring for myself while I take care of my family! No more will I be the “GOOD MOM WHO FINISHES LAST”!!!!!!!! Thanks to this great lesson you have taught me, I will now treat myself as a real person, a human being with feelings, just like the ones I try to die for everyday! If they are so special, then I must deserve more for treating them that way! God LOVE ME!!!! And Now my final lesson the I take from all this: “HUMILITY IS NOT LOVING YOURSELF LESS, BUT THINKING MORE OF YOURSELF FOR BEING THE KIND PERSON YOU ARE” Sounds a little confusing, but; It Works For Me!!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jackie love .

    thank you , i have been saying no for about 1yr now , my family and friends didnt understand , however iam doing things that make me happy and i feel better about myself . now i tell people i will think about if i can do it , if i cant i just say NO and enjoy my day .

  • http://wow Maureen L.

    You have no idea how much I needed to hear that message today! Thank you. I have been working so hard on positive thoughts. But continuing to do for everyone but me! Ridiculous. “Doormats often complain that people don’t treat them right or return their kindness but keep on giving anyway.” I have gotten so much worse in this marriage and can’t help but think it is because I feel that is what I need to do to make it work. Sad stuff.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shy

    This is a great article. I have also suffered from being the doormat to many people in my life. And like the article said it makes you unhappy and the users are fine because the are receiving all these things and favors from you. My college advisor once told me that 3 important things people should do is 1. DRINK WATER 2. HAVE ALONE TIME FOR YOURSELF and 3. LEARN TO SAY NO WITHOUT AN EXPLANATION. She was a very wise woman for telling me that and I live by these rules everyday. It is not easy coming from a caring person who just wants to help and people please but I learned that it is for the better, for my happiness.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rudy

    I have not been a doormat. As I grow older, I realize that lending money to friends causes to lose the friend and the money. I like to keep both. I can easily say ” no ” because I grew up to be a very independant person.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marlene Emmett

    I’ve never been a people pleaser~ I’m a rebel.
    I’ve always done the opposite of what my parents told me
    to do~I was adopted when I was a baby at the age of one
    month & when I was 6 I came down with Epilepsy.
    Now my parents wanted me to keep these things “quiet”.
    But no I felt that it was a priviledge to be adopted.
    It meant that my parents chose me. I considered myself
    to be “Special”. I know I was in my mom’s dad’s eyes.
    As for not keeping quiet about the Epilepsy I wanted other kids to know and not be scared if I had a seizure.
    But you know how young school kids are?
    They were cruel and teased me about it.
    But I fought back and didn’t let it keep me down.
    And when I began to date it was the first thing I’d tell
    a boyfriend so that he’d know what was wrong and could
    get help if I needed it.

    The only time I listened to my dad was when he told me
    to marry the guy who’d become my husband of 33 years!
    I’m a fighter and survivor.
    I’ve had to be~ but one thing you must know about me is
    this~ I tell it like it is,I don’t sugarcoat things and
    I always tell you the Truth. I’ll never lie to anyone.
    I can’t deal with liars or people who’ve betrayed me.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Rhonda–they assume you’re taking it to be your choice, hence what you like. Read the tips in my other posts, read my free self-love book and stop allowing them to treat you like crap. It is YOUR choice.

    Love your attitude Shirley!

    Good for you Jackie!

    Glad it helped Maureen!

    Hope you follow your wise advisors tips Shy!

    I agree it’s best to not lend money Rudy and I post occasionally about that.

    Sounds like you’ve created a way to cope that works for you Marlene!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Louise

    every time I agree to work an extra day at work, I hate myself as I REALLY want to say no, but don’t want to seem like I’m not a teamplayer :(

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Debbie R.

    This is a great article. something I’ve been needing to read for the longest. I’ve never thought to consider myself as a doormat, but after reading this, I know for certain that I am. my family and so called friends both use me a lot. most of the time they ask me to buy them something because they can’t afford it, or they want me to buy something good for there birtday or christmas and always put on a guilt trip with me. I always buy what they ask for even though I can’t afford it and I know I’m already behind on my bills. another one is that I have one of my siblings child staying with me during the week in order to go to school and this came about without it ever being discuss with me first, it just happened and I did not say anything, I went through 4 years of this and and it’ still happening and not getting any help from the mother… this is just a few of whole list of of doing things for others without realizing that I’m hurting my self in the long run. I would love to do what you did but it’s impossible for me because i’m always told that I’m the nice one and every loves to be around me, I want to be myself and have a good time, but yet it really eats me up when I always have to do for someone else… sorry for the long comment, just had to get it off my chest…thanks

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Louise, make legitimate sounding excuses if necessary. Your mom is having a problem and you need to help. Or you have a wedding to go to. If you make occasional excuses and then more often, they’ll understand you’re too busy to work.

    Debbie–tell them all you can’t afford it. Period. Tell the mother of the girl staying with you unless you get some financial help it must end. Period. If they get angry, let them. They should feel guilty, not you!!!

    Build your self-love and you’ll tolerate a LOT less!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Patty

    I have to agree with the above posters. Once you are a doormat its a hard habit to break. I go out of my way to help people some appreciate it and others use you. I really have not made myself sad over it, when I can help it makes me feel good. I am bad at always offering advise. It is not well taken, even if it could solve the problem, expecially with your adult children, so now I try really hard to keep my mouth shut. Usually I end up helping them after they didn’t listen and got into a mess. The circle goes around and around.
    Some “Friends” I have just dropped as they are leaches and when I realized that, bye bye. So choose who and what you do for people and it will be rewarding. Help the animals that need us, they appreciate it. Trust me. We are their voice.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lynn

    This is a great post. I have been a doormat for my mother for many years. I have been there for her since I was 18 years of age. I made a allotment out to her when I first went into the military until I got married and had my own child. I eventually had to stop it. Then later on in life as I went into my 40′s my mother has been asking for money to help when she was working and now after she retired. Now she has moved in with my husband and I and it is nagging me to death because my spouse and I have no real privacy. My mother does not offer us anything for electricity or nothing else. She gets a retiree check and a SSN check. My sister and I tried to find her a assistant living home and she gets mad and says she is not in nobody way, meaning my husband and I. I feel like she has gotten too comfortable in my home. It is not fair to me or my husband. She feels she cannot afford to live on her own with her income. I have 1 other sister and 2 other brothers who are not worth two cents, so they cannot help her. My mother feels like me and my baby sister owe her something as if we have to take care of her. I am ready for her to move, but I do not want it to seem like I am putting her out on the street. What shall I do? She has been living with us 4 months too long!!!!!!!!!


    dO i please you

  • http:blog.beliefnet.com/lessonsfromarecoveringdoormat/2011/05/people-pleasing-habits.html#post Jeanne

    Where is the [post that I just made, I had left my email address.

  • http:blog.beliefnet.com/lessonsfromarecoveringdoormat/2011/05/people-pleasing-habits.html#post Jeanne

    My problem is getting enough time for the artistic drive that I have and maintaining spiritual responsibilities also. Am considered to be outspoken, and have never looked in a mirror and hated myself. I have felt shame for not doing what I really want to do about practising my music and artistic interest. But more of us should be willing to stand for truth and not be apathetic, but a teacher once told me that he would rather do “something like this” speaking of the study with him, telling me he had seen some terrible things when studying abroad. Your thoughts are well taken and will spend time thinking and praying for the right inner strength and balance in time and energy.

  • http://THANKYOU tammy


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sieed

    Stop being a doormat! What a good subject. Ive often felt like
    people have treated me like a doormat. But I have learned not to
    try and fit in with others,and just being myself is wonderful. I think
    people try and treat you as a doormat if you let them.And if they feel you have no back bone.All the opposition I face and I continue on knowing the greater me and not allowing others to dictate who I am and who I should be!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jane Dippel

    I realize I need to listen to my feelings more about who I like or don’t like and doing things best for myself.

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  • Pingback: 17 Ways to Empower Yourself - Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Alice

    AWESOME!!! Thank You For Helping Me to Get A Reality Check!!!

  • Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Glad it helped Alice!

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    My name is Melissa, My Ex-boyfriend dumped me two weeks ago after I accused him of seeing someone else and insulting him. I want him back in my life but he refuse to have any contact with me. I was so confuse and don’t know what to do, so I reach to the internet for help and I saw a testimony of how a spell caster help people to get their ex back so I contact the spell caster and explain my problem to him and he cast a spell for me and assure me of 48hours that my ex will return to me and to my greatest surprise the third day my ex came knocking on my door and beg for forgiveness. I am so happy that my love is back again and not only that, we are about to get married. Once again thank you Dr Aluya, You are truly talented and gifted. Email: aluyakespelltemple@live.com is the only answer. He can be of great help and I will not stop publishing him because he is a wonderful man.or call +2347059498969

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