Beliefnet
Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I have a friend who had been very overweight and after years and went to OA (Overeaters Anonymous) for help. With lots of faith and support from her sponsor, she lost over 100 pounds, and kept it off. Now she’s happy to give back, but it’s gotten excessive. People call her all day long to cry about mistakes they made with their eating and also to share their personal problems. She’s happy to help. She sounds like Dear Abbey, as she comforts and makes suggestions.

Whenever I see her she has a phone in her ear and she’s giving advice. For her it’s not a problem. She enjoys helping others and has made it part of her lifestyle. Yet for many months I, and her family, have observed her making food too important and eating more unhealthy things. It seemed like she used helping others to avoid helping herself. While she was keeping the weight off, her eating habits were starting to reflecting she was losing control. She also neglected things she needed to do because she was too busy supporting everyone else. I finally sat her down for a heart to heart. I explained that while it’s nice to help others, neglecting herself was NOT nice.

You’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating. You can’t fix anyone but yourself.

You can support people and make suggestions but change has to come from each individual, just as your changes can only come from you. Yet we often get carried away in our efforts to fix someone and end up frustrated when it’s an effort in futility. All change comes from inside.

•    Someone may help you learn about a job opening that’s perfect for you after you’ve complained incessantly about your current position, but you have to get yourself to apply for it.  All the bugging in the world won’t make you do something you’re not ready to do.

•    You can compliment an insecure woman often but until she develops self-appreciation she still won’t believe your words. You’ll constantly have to prop her up as nothing you say will stick for long. She has to build self-esteem from the inside out.

•    You can encourage him to dump the woman he knows is using him but until he loves himself enough to end it, he’ll continue to be her banker, and feel lousy about it. He has to build his own self-love and love himself enough to trade her in for someone good for him.

•    You can believe that love is enough to make your guy become the man you want him to be but it won’t happen unless he wants to be that guy for himself.

•    You can do what you can to rescue and take care of a woman with problems but unless she decides to get her act together for herself, she’ll be a burden for you until you’re drowning in her problems and end it.

Fix yourself first! By that I mean make yourself happy and healthy. Tackle issues that make you unhappy. Eat well, exercise, read, go for therapy if necessary, be more loving to you. That makes you stronger and more able to help others. When I was a DoorMat I thrived on trying to fix others. I wanted people to depend on me since they usually stuck around for what I gave them. At times I found it “hilarious” that people called me to get help, yet I couldn’t help myself!

I got the kind of satisfaction from what I did for others that I’d have gotten by working on me, which I couldn’t do back then. I’d listen to the same complaints over and over, give advice which they rarely took yet continue to try to fix them. Back then I wasn’t in the right mind space to fix me. I felt good trying to fix everyone else. It made me feel important for a moment, though people’s memories were very short and appreciation limited. But it kept my mind off of what I should have done for me.

Rob Reiner? said, “Everybody talks about wanting to change things and help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot. Because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.”

I’ve had a huge ripple effect from fixing me. The more I loved myself, the stronger I felt; the stronger I felt, the more I had to give to others. Self-love also motivates me to set boundaries on what I can give and also to give support by listening, expressing my thoughts and letting them fix themselves. Don’t let fixing others distract you from taking care of yourself, or use it as a substitute for fixing YOU. That’s what my friend was doing. After I pointed out how she neglected herself, she slowly got herself back on track by reaching out for support from people who could give it well. She still supports others but she supports herself the most.

People aren’t projects to take on for credit. Focus on YOU so you can be your best for others. But don’t try to fix anyone! Just give support and an ear when you can. It’s each person’s choice to fix themselves.

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