Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat


Speaking Up for Your Personal Freedom

silhouette3As a young girl I was advised to try to be as agreeable as possible with everyone. That would help people see me as a good girl—a nice girl who they liked because she didn’t cause problems. That helped me to become the DoorMat I was for years. Yes, people liked me, but I didn’t like never getting to eat where I wanted or to choose the activity I did with friends. My middle name back then should have been, “Whatever you want,” especially with men.

As I began to value myself more, I began to leave DoorMatville and got over my fear of losing people in my life if I spoke up for me. That helped me to accept that I had a right to turn off agreeable autopilot and say what I wanted when it mattered to me. Logic hit me. Other people spoke up for their desires and asked for favors all the time. Why not me? Wasn’t I entitled to my share? YES! I was. So are you! Wasn’t it okay to speak up when someone did things I didn’t like? Absolutely! And it’s your right too.

If you feel like you’ve been doing all the giving and going along with everyone else’s desire, or being treated in ways that don’t feel good, it’s time to speak up for you—nicely, with an approach that shows you’re serious! Free yourself from whatever fear made you a people pleaser. Embrace your right as a good human being to be able to have your personal needs met. It might sound ridiculous to some people but the first time I spoke up and got to choose a restaurant to go to with friends I always deferred to was thrilling  for me. And all it took was saying that I always went along with them and wanted a turn. They readily agreed. I was no longer in a prison of having to go along with everyone else’s desires and it felt freeing.

Express yourself in small doses instead of socking it to people. For example, if Mom always nags that you do nothing right, calmly explain why it bothers you, and change the subject so she can process it. Don’t dump everything that annoys you on her. Reinforce it by pointing it out periodically until it gets through. If you lose someone, it may be for the best, as my client Tara discovered.  She was happy to meet Marie when she moved to large city. She loved having a friend who was single and available to do activities.  But Marie was often nasty and controlling. Tara was afraid to address it and possibly lose the one person she could count on to go out with.

She complained to everyone but Marie. When she shared her feelings with me about things Marie did she got very emotional. Marie would do awful things and then became temporarily sweet for a while—like an emotional seesaw ride. Tare worked with me on building her self-esteem and confidence. When it increased, she knew she had to stop Marie’s nasty jabs and gently told Marie that she, and the anger created drained her. Shortly after Marie disappeared. By then Tara wasn’t scared of being on her own. She began doing activities Marie didn’t like and met nicer friends. She was grateful to enjoy her personal freedom.

If you don’t speak up clearly, how can people know what you want? Be straightforward and give concrete examples and suggestions. “I don’t like that” gets little resolution. Explain why and what you’d appreciate. Don’t drop hints and pray they stick. Give details. Make what you want or what bothers you, and why, clear so the person can understand. Some people won’t want to understand but losing people who always want THEIR way isn’t a loss for you. It’s freeing yourself!
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