Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat


Whose Thoughts Are Yours?

Years ago I had a friend I’ll call Lori, who was a parrot for her boyfriend’s beliefs, which I often disagreed with. He had staunch views on politics, which were the opposite of mine. Before meeting this guy, Lori didn’t have many opinions. But she was so enamored with him that she allowed herself to be brainwashed in some ways. Lori argued with me about politics in ways that almost killed our friendship. It felt like her vehement shouting of her beliefs were an act of love to this man. I’d try to avoid politics but she’d bring it up.

You own your thoughts. It’s your choice to think your own way or adopt someone else’s beliefs and opinions.

Often our strongest thoughts are someone else’s, because we care about them or are too scared to have our own opinions. When I was a DoorMat my opinions were rarely my own. If asked what I thought, I’d ask back, “What do you think?” That usually became what I thought! I was too scared to voice my real thoughts, when I had them. Often I didn’t get that far. I was too focused on what others thought so they’d like me.

Going along with others causes you to lose your voice, like I did, and has many repercussions. It kept me from developing good self-esteem. It’s hard to feel good about yourself if you don’t know who you really are. Adopting what others think also keeps you from developing your ability to consider issues objectively and ponder about what you actually want. Insecurity is a common trigger. If you’re brought up to be liked, as I was, and don’t feel confident about yourself, it seems safer to just agree with everyone. When Lori’s boyfriend completely reversed his political opinion, she seemed lost.

Women tend to start going along with others when they’re young more than boys. Years ago when I worked with kids at a summer recreation program, I noticed that until age 9 or 10, the girls enthusiastically participated in activities they liked. After that, activities become more “we” than “I”. When the groups had a choice of activities, they asked each other, “What do you want to do?” Usually there was one or 2 confident girls who had no problem deciding and everyone else went along. These kids could have split up to do a few activities but it rarely happened.  I saw it happen with boys who weren’t as good at sports too. They were too insecure to choose independently of the others.

Childhood habits of suppressing your own voice get stronger in adulthood if insecurities don’t heal.

Think about whose beliefs are yours? Do you have preferences based on what YOU would like or do you go along with other people? Often we can do the latter without realizing it when pleasing is so ingrained. In my DoorMat days, I thought I was giving my opinion since I automatically absorbed what others said. When I left DoorMatville, it hit me that I didn’t know how to think for myself, which is so important for your self-empowerment. I got a kick at first from exploring my real opinions and desires.

Having your own thoughts reflects self-confidence and feels better in the long run.

This was illustrated to me once when I had a dinner date with a guy I’d just met. When he picked me up, he suggested going for Mexican food. While I do like it, I wasn’t in the mood for to eat Mexican. I caught myself before agreeing to it, as I’d always done in the past. I liked the guy and wanted to please him. But now I loved me, and wanted to be pleased too! So I told him I’d prefer something else. I expected an annoyed response but instead, his eyes lit up as he said, “No woman has ever expressed to me what she’d like. They always go along with what I suggest. I find you even more attractive for having an opinion and telling me.”

I was elated but it also showed me that my needs can be accepted without a problem. If you tend to go along with others, pay attention to your thoughts and think about what you’d really like. Slowly speak up, to one person at a time. Get comfortable with saying what YOU think instead of repeating the opinions of others or agreeing to go places that aren’t your choice. The more you do, the more empowered you’ll feel!
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