Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I make a lot of “To Do” lists. They help to keep me on track for doing what I need to do. But recently, I thought about all the things that I did in my DoorMat days that I didn’t want to do. But because I was compelled to please everyone, I did them anyway. As I began to feel more empowered, I found that writing things down made them stick more. So I began to also make a “Not to Do” list—all the things I didn’t want to do any more.

A “Not to Do” list is a little different from a “To Do” list. The latter is usually specific things you need to remember or make time to do, like people to call, things to send by email, and other chores to take care of. A “Not to Do” list is a reminder to empower yourself so that you don’t get sucked into doing things that you don’t want to do or that meant you had to neglect yourself in order to make someone else happy—at your expense.

A “Not to Do” list can be very flexible. Some days you might be willing to do more than on others. This list is written proof that you’ve chosen not to do certain things. For example:

•    I won’t say “yes” to my neighbor asking me to drop her off and pick her up at the train when I’m busy since she’s capable of walking.
•    I will not change my plans to do favors for others, unless it’s someone I care about a lot.
•    I will not feel guilty about not calling my mother as often as she’d like as she expects too much from me.
•    I will not let my friend always pick the movie we go to see.
•    I won’t allow myself to be treated like a DoorMat!
•    I won’t loan people money anymore!

Keep your “Not to Do” list where you can see it every day. Read it and remind yourself about the things you’re giving up doing. Let it empower you to stop doing what doesn’t serve you well. Making a list like this can help you break people pleasing habits. Your “Not to Do” list is better than just vowing not to do something again and then weakening. Declaring it in writing helps it stick.

Every time you don’t do one of the things, put a check next to it. At the end of the week or month, see how many checks you have. You can have lots next to one thing. Of course there may be exceptions, like your sister is in a bind and needs a short term loan and you trust her or your neighbor breaks her leg and you feel sorry for her. But otherwise, do your best to stick to your “Not to Do” list until you get used to not doing those things. Keep making new lists as things come up. This can be a very empowering tool for you!

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