Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I’ve been writing about how to live more in the NOW and not let past issues influence your present mood, decisions and view of your life in general. We often carry old baggage into work. If you develop workplace relationships based on things that happened with others in the past, it can adversely affect your job.

Today I have an article by Debra Mandel, Ph.D., renowned psychologist, columnist, speaker, media expert is the author of several books, including Your Boss Is Not Your Mother: Eight Steps to Eliminating Office Drama and Creating Positive Relationships and Work, Healing the Sensitive Heart and two CDs, Creating Healthy Boundaries in the Workplace and The Abuser Friendly Syndrome. She has appeared on multiple national television and radio programs, and has hosted her own radio show. Dr. Debra’s suggestions can apply to other areas of your life too!

Workplace Relationships
By Debra Mandel, Ph.D

According to, 66 percent of women who are unhappy at work attribute it to their relationships with coworkers. People like these suffer because they continually get sucked into needless workplace drama—with coworkers, bosses, subordinates, and clients. In doing so, they’re usually replicating problems they had with parents, siblings, or others in childhood. Once ensnarled, they don’t have the knowledge or tools necessary to escape these traps.

As a clinical psychologist with more than twenty years of experience, I’ve worked with hundreds of people whose unhealed childhood bruises have caused them problems in the workplace. Although most of us understand that “old stuff” can affect intimate relationships, we’re caught off guard when they affect workplace interactions.

Nevertheless, once those familiar buttons get pushed, we may transform our overbearing boss into a bullying older brother, or respond to the judgmental coworker as though she is the parent who failed to applaud us for our achievements.

Mind you, unhealed hurts don’t have to be the result of blatantly abusive experiences. Millions of people walk around unaware that events from childhood might still affect them today. For instance, Jenny had grown up realizing that her parents loved her, even though they weren’t demonstratively affectionate toward her or generous in their praise. She hadn’t realized until she was in her thirties that she ached for approval from others because she had never been given enough strokes as a youth. In the workplace, she unknowingly played out this emotional lack by being an excessive people-pleaser, which caused her to lose the respect of her coworkers. Yes, her parents did love her, but they missed the boat when it came to fulfilling this very important developmental need. In fact, most people’s emotional “bruises” come from well-intended caregivers who did the best they could in raising.

As a result, it’s often very difficult for people to acknowledge their old hurts—let alone understand how these affect them in the present.

Regardless of how a wound came about, if it’s still sore—consciously or unconsciously—it’s bound to wreak havoc in the workplace. Ask yourself the following questions to see whether you have old bruises manifesting in the workplace:

1. Do you expect coworkers, bosses, or employees to be your friends?
2. Do you expect or wish that coworkers, bosses, or employees would grant you special favors when you perform below standard, such as when you’ve been out sick, shown up late, or missed a deadline?
3. Do you wish that your boss or coworkers appreciated you more?
4. Do you take responsibility for the workload of others who are slacking off?
5. Do you have a fear of conflict that keeps you from speaking up about unfairness?
6. Do you censor yourself because you fear being fired or hurting someone’s feelings?
7. Do you go out of your way to befriend people in the workplace whom you would not want to be friends with outside of the workplace?
8. Do you envy other people’s success?
9. Do you have trouble keeping boundaries with your coworkers (e.g., you let them know things about your personal life that have nothing to do with your work situation)?
10. Do you feel hurt or become defensive when you receive criticism about your work performance?
11. Do you ever feel that others in your field judge you harshly even when no one has voiced criticism?
12. Do you have difficulty not thinking about your work or the workplace when you are supposed to be enjoying free time?
13. Do you have difficulty evaluating your own job performance?
14. Do you become argumentative with coworkers, bosses, or employees?
15. Do you believe you are not living up to your full potential?
16. Do you keep yourself from excelling in the presence of others for fear of their envy or jealousy?
17. Do you let others make decisions for you, even when your gut tells you it’s the wrong choice for you?
18. Do you have difficulty saying “no” to unreasonable requests from coworkers, bosses, or employees?
19. Do you withhold your honest opinions about work-related issues for fear that you’ll be disliked?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you most likely have old stuff interfering with your ability to thrive in the workplace. But don’t despair! You can heal your bruises and eliminate drama by applying the following tips.

1. Identify and acknowledge how your bruises affect you in the workplace, eliminating shame and judgment.

2. Transform adversity into a resource by recognizing that whatever you’ve endured has made you a stronger person.

3. Take responsibility for your life in the present by becoming your own good caregiver rather than wait for others to fill in the gaps. Don’t blame others for what you didn’t get in childhood.

4. Create healthy boundaries. Learn how to say “no,” “yes,” or “maybe” as is appropriate to the requests of others.

5. Empower yourself by embracing the notion that you are in charge of your own choices. Acknowledge that very rarely are we true victims in adulthood.

6. Recognize that you are only responsible for your own feelings and actions. Don’t burden yourself with trying to control what others do, say, or think.

7. Practice ongoing self-care. Be kind to yourself, create balance between work, play and rest, and regularly acknowledge the value of your contributions.

By practicing these tips you can create better relationships in the workplace. Granted, others whom you encounter may not be repairing their wounds as you are, but you can still keep the energy more positive by having a good handle on your own behavior. And, should you find yourself getting stuck, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Thrivers use all possible resources!

Visit Dr. Debra at Her next book, Don’t Call Me a Drama Queen: A Guide For the Overly Sensitive and Their Significant Others Who Need to Learn to Lighten Up and Go With the Flow! will be published in October. She practices out of Thousand Oaks and Encino CA.

In the first post on this topic, I talked about why it’s so important to focus on the good you have NOW instead of recalling negatives from the past. In Part 2, I explained how the past can manifest limitations in your present, with a technique for moving on from them.

In this post, there are some more suggestions for letting go of the past so you can live more consciously and happily in the NOW. When I discuss the importance of living in the NOW with some of my clients who are still wounded, they argue that it’s hard to let go. I agree. But making excuses for why you don’t let go of misery or pain or bad habits is counterproductive to being happy.

It’s YOUR CHOICE to be a victim of things that happened before right now. And it’s YOUR CHOICE to move on.

When I was a DoorMat, I was also the walking wounded, battle scarred from what people did to me, or more accurately, what I let them do to me. Something innocuous that someone said or did would remind me of something that happened before, and I’d often respond as if that happening again was a given. So I’d be defensive and also hesitant to do a lot of things that I wanted to do. It created a lot of fear.

Keeping my focus just on what’s happening right NOW helps me not remember old incidents and hurts in ways that could affect me today. When I start to look back, I remind myself, sometimes out loud if I can—all that matters is right now, and right now everything is fine. Here are some things you can also do that have helped me stay in the present moment.

* Make an effort to be loving to yourself. Say “I love you “ in the mirror. Find ways to be kinder to you. The more self-love you feel, the more you’ll be motivated to cut negative ties and move forward. When you show yourself lots and lots of love, you’ll heal wounds faster.

* Make a list of why you want to live in the now—why it would be good for you and what you want to let go of. Really think about old situations that may contribute to your current attitude and behavior and why it hurts you. Let that motivate you to take some baby steps.

* Find the lessons in old situations. How can you handle a similar situation in a healthier way? Do you jump into relationships and then get burned shortly after? Go much slower the next time, no matter how good it feels. Maybe you gave someone too many chances. Cut them off quicker in the future. Don’t trust as quickly as you used to. Make people earn it over time with actions that show their words are for real! How might your response or behavior in a situation that ended up unpleasant have contributed to the outcome? How can you avoid repeating it?

* Monitor your thoughts. What negative beliefs may have run through your head, putting the Law of Attraction to work—bringing you more negatives? Consciously think more positively, even if you don’t believe the thoughts—yet! The more you stay aware of what you’re thinking, the more you can change it. Do positive affirmations when negative thoughts arise. Since it’s hard to think two thoughts at the same time, you can protect your thoughts by blocking negative with positives.

* Remind yourself that you’re not the person you were in the past. I talked about how I did this to swallow pills in Part 2. It’s today. You’re healthier, older, wiser. You know more than you did in the past. You understand what you don’t want to attract. The person you’re with now isn’t the one who hurt you before. You’re not the child who had trouble in school or the teen who was abused. Keep reminding yourself who you are now. Consciously refuse the limitations of who you were in past situations.

* Focus on the present with affirmations. When you repeat a belief over and over it can become your reality. Try “Right now is all that counts and right now I’m fine.” Create your own—ones that have meaning for you. And use them often! Put it out to the Universe as much as you can and it will replace your old reality.

* Forgive anyone who hurt you. Forgiveness is a critical tool for moving on. I’ve been able to let go of anger by having compassion for the person who hurt me. That makes it easier to forgive. If you don’t, you continue to hold the anger in and it will continue to resonate in your NOW. Forgiving isn’t for the person who hurt you. It’s for YOU! You don’t even have to communicate with the person. Forgive in your heart and move on.

* Write down everything and everyone that’s hurt you in the past. If you have many memories connected to one person or situation (like your home environment or a boss who drove you crazy) write a separate list for that. This greatly helps you forgive someone. When you put feelings on paper, you can let go of them inside. When you feel ready, read each list out loud, grieve, then burn it. Your anger will go up in the smoke. Then forgive each person in your heart.

* Forgive yourself. You may not think about forgiving the most important person of all—YOU! You may beat yourself up often yet not forgive yourself for being human. I had a post about it called I’m Not an Idiot, I’m Silly a while back that talks about a technique I came up with that generates instant forgiveness. To stay in the present, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s okay that you made mistakes or aren’t perfect. That’s part of being more loving to YOU!

* Recite your blessings. Say out loud what you’re grateful for NOW. Write them down and hang your list as a regular reminder of the good you have NOW. When old fears and memories come up, recite your blessings as an alternative.

* Get an energy clearing. A lot of people don’t know it but I’m a certified Reiki (hands on healing) practitioner. I’m currently studying to get to the second level with a wonderful teacher named Janet Dagley Dagley, who writes The Reiki Digest. I just do it for personal use. As I study with Janet, I feel a huge transformation happening since I still have some DoorMat scars. I’ve learned that there are a variety of ways to clear bad energy from your body. Studying Reiki or getting a treatment can help with that. There are many practitioners who can help clear negative energy.

Years ago, I heard from a spiritual counselor, who’d read one of my books. I mentioned I was struggling to remove a block from an old belief that I couldn’t let go of. It kept me from making progress in my career. I’d had several negative incidents that made me expect one to happen when something g
ood was on the horizon. I’d tried all of the above but couldn’t let go of that nagging in the back of my head that warned what I hoped for wouldn’t materialize. And of course, the Law of Attraction sabotaged my getting what I wanted, as per my thoughts! The spiritual counselor generously offered me a session on the phone. It opened me up to many opportunities that my subconscious blocked before that. You must be open to this kind of treatment. It truly does work when you’re open to it working!

Open up your consciousness so you can become more aware of self-sabotage. When I got to a point where I wanted to live for today badly enough, I did all of the above. Now I’m happily living in the present moment. And in this moment, I’m blessed beyond measure! He hurt me last year and that’s not NOW so it doesn’t matter anymore! She called me names but they’re not true NOW so I don’t accept them. Oprah has a series with Eckhart Tolle, who wrote The Power of Now. I listened to it on a CD when I did a long driving trip and it upped my awareness by a lot. Oprah’s series is free if you register. Living for right now is such a lovely place to be! Please join me! ?

Thanks to Anand Dhillon for including me in the Carnival of Self-Mastery.

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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I caught a segment of the Morning show with Mike and Juliet today on women who only date men with a LOT of money and the men who are fine with it. They actually referred to the Sugar Daddies Club, where sugar daddies—wealthy men—can hook up with sugar babes—women who want a sugar daddy to take care of them.

What a sad commentary on some of these women! A prostitute has sex for money. These women have sex for the money these guys spend on them. Hmmmm…

In NYC where I live, a majority of women I talk to say they wouldn’t date a guy who isn’t making at least a certain level of income. It’s usually pretty high. They say they’re used to a high standard of living and want a man who can maintain that for them. They’ll blow off terrific guys if they don’t make enough money for their taste.

What happened to love and passion and all the delicious stuff that money can’t buy??! And these same women later complain that men are jerks. Hello!

Women say they want to be treated equally. We bitch about double standards. We whine about not having equal opportunities. We fight for equitable salaries. Some of us say we don’t need help and rebel if a guy holds a door. Yet some women will ditch a guy who doesn’t buy dinner and spend what they consider enough. Women in my workshops indignantly say they expect a guy to pay for everything, otherwise he gets nothing from her.

I asked what that makes them besides hypocrites. What does that say? That we want equal rights when it suits us? That men can’t use double standards but we can? We’re used to men treating us. It makes us feel special and we don’t want to lose that. Many men aren’t comfortable having us pay either. Few men I date let me kick in for the check. But women who don’t at least offer send mixed signals.

Women with a more equitable attitude about dating agree with me. Those who want to be taken out, receive gifts, get wined and dined, and be treated for everything scoff at my words.

Many men have expressed anger at women who seem almost mercenary. I agree. Our actions may say we’ll take equality when it’s in our favor. Many women are accustomed to an expensive lifestyle and want a guy to accommodate them. Men say they feel like they need to bring a resume on a first date, to pass the tests women put them through.

I was horrified when Maggie described a dating experience at her summer-share. She met Joseph in the Hamptons. The main social activity was going to parties in people’s homes or at clubs. She and Joseph spent every weekend together immersed in the party scene. She was very attracted to him. They’d kiss and flirt when he took her home. After six weeks, he initiated sex. I almost burst out laughing when she said she was furious about his advances. Maggie told Joseph how dare he expect her to sleep with him when he hadn’t bought her dinner yet!

I asked her if she was a prostitute, since she’d sleep with a guy if he bought dinner. Plus, she was a cheap one if she’d do it for a dinner!

She was clueless in her anger about my question. I told her to think about it. The big factor that determined whether or not they had sex wasn’t attraction, desire, passion or just liking him enough to want to jump into the sack with him. No, she wouldn’t sleep with him because he hadn’t bought her dinner yet. He’d provided transportation to all sorts of parties and the beach for 6 weeks. She liked him enough to spend all her time with him. But just because he hadn’t had the opportunity to take her out for dinner (they served it at the parties), she wouldn’t sleep with him.


These kind of women need to ask themselves what’s more important? Having money or being happy. Of course you can be happy with money. But making money the most important factor often makes you go to someone for reasons that won’t ultimately make you the real kind of inner happy. You may soothe yourself with possessions. But happiness in a relationship comes from having a good relationship with him, not his wallet.

But then there are the unabashed sugar daddies—men who’ll use their money to get young, attractive chicks. Yeach!

The women interviewed on TV who went after the Sugar Daddies were attractive and flip about wanting a man to take care of her in style. I believe the minimum income was a half million. And the men, rich and not bad looking didn’t care that that’s why they got these women. SHALLOW!

I’ve met men who made a point of letting me know they had a large bank account, as if I’d like them more because of it. I want a good man, not fat wallet! Money does NOT bring happiness if it isn’t there without it. I feel sorry for people who think they must have lots of money to enjoy their lives. The best things I can think of to do with I guy I really like don’t cost much at all! ?

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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For my Embracing SUCCESS interview series, today I have Brian Klemmer. His latest book is The Compassionate Samurai: Being Extraordinary in an Ordinary World (Hay House, 2008). I was delighted to read a book that encourages a mindset so close to what I believe. The business world is known for being cutthroat at times. Business people become aggressive in their pursuit of success. But it doesn’t have to be that way! There is great SUCCESS in being a good person. And when you follow Klemmer’s advice, that personal SUCCESS leads to accomplishment in business.

The Compassionate Samurai has brilliant suggestions for keeping your integrity in ways that can help you win. Like my upcoming Nice Girls Can Finish First book does for women’s life skills, Klemmer gives business practices a makeover to provide constructive alternatives for getting ahead in an ethical way. I had lots of questions for him that he kindly answered for you to learn from.

How would I define a Compassionate Samurai? “A compassionate samurai is a huge result producer whose life is about contribution. Most people tend to be either nice people who do not produce large results OR large result producers who are greedy self centered and even non ethical. At Klemmer & Associates we train people to be Compassionate Samurai.”

What made me write the Compassionate Samurai? “The world is in trouble. Especially our country. It doesn’t take a genius to see that although it does take a great deal of courage to admit it and do something about it. The key to solving the problems are character issues. That is so with an individual, a company or a country. The book, and Klemmer & Associates Leadership Seminars Inc. is dedicated to creating bold ethical leaders committed to a world that works for everyone with no one left out.”

How important is it to maintain a balance between having compassionate values and working hard to do what you can to pursue career goals? “Balance is a key to a lot of things including power and happiness. What the book is about is that compassionate values are not contradictory to material success, but actually complimentary and supportive. Contribution focus is not just a high moral principled thing to do it makes the most business success financially. A mediocre owner pays their employees just enough to keep from quitting. They do that thinking that maximizes profit. A mediocre employee works just hard enough to keep from getting fired thinking that maximizes their personal interest. Abundantly successful owners contribute to their employees by paying more than normal, by giving recognition, by listening to their viewpoints, by paying for opportunities to grow. In return they maximize profits. They have long term employees who take responsibility for the business reducing their work load who are exceptionally creative at solving problems. Same goes for contribution focused employees. They get promoted or fired. Sometimes fired because they are very threatening to mediocre managers. But either way they make more money.”

There are 10 codes in the book-that a compassionate samurai lives by. Why are they more important than business skills for getting ahead in business and life? “Skills produce incremental success and achievement. There is nothing wrong with that. Character changes however, produce both exponential increase and it is long lasting. Klemmer & Associates can create a bigger change in the bottom line in a shorter period of time in any company with character changes in honesty, trust, contribution, boldness, responsibility, honor, than anyone can with any skill set. Plus you can teach a skill set and people still won’t necessarily do it! My first book was titled, “If How To’s were enough we would all be skinny rich and happy”. People know how to lose weight, save money, be honest or respect others. It is character issues that prevent them from doing what they know to do.”

Why do I think so many people ignore many or all of the codes I discuss in the book in their pursuit of success? “Because it takes hard work and one character issue is that people want something for nothing. So they don’t want to invest money on a seminar to help solve the problem. They don’t want to take the time to do it. They want to do one seminar or talk to one person ONCE and have learned it. To make a samurai sword they take two metals, heat, fold, and beat them 80,000 times to produce the incredible sharpness, hardness, and yet flexibility they are known for. It is the same in becoming a leader. I think also that people are afraid as they start looking at themselves what they might find that they don’t like. That’s ironic because in my experience whatever they discover they don’t like is usually covering up something incredibly beautiful they currently can’t see.”

How can someone best face a challenge that creates a lot of fear? “First of all decide whether they really want what is beyond the challenge. Fear is not good or bad. It is simply an indicator that you are about to act outside your comfort zone. Sometimes that is dangerous and harmful and sometimes not. So there is a risk reward ratio that assists us in making that decision and in having the courage if the decision is to proceed. In other words you cannot make a valid decision on knowing only one side of that formula risk and reward. A $100,000 is not expensive or cheap until you know what value you are getting and what are your odds in getting the value. The problem becomes in that many rewards and risks are hidden. To the average person who is afraid of leaving their job they often have never experienced a higher paying, more fulfilling work and have no idea what all the rewards are to include things like being a great role model for your children so they have belief they can do what they want. Nor do they see or are willing to see all the risks in staying with their current job such as in ten years being a dead walking zombie with no passion in life. If the reward is high enough in ratio to the risk you will overcome any fear.”

How would I define success? “I have my own definition, but that is very different than the majority of people’s definition. You ask most people today what is success and their answer revolves around accumulation, acquisition, and consumption. I am not against those things, but I believe success centers around contribution. I would define success as being in alignment and fulfillment of your unique God given purpose. When people explore their unique purpose it somehow someway always deals with making a difference
or contribution. In the process of achieving that we invariably accumulate things, but it is not the focus.”

Why do I think people believe that nice guys finish last? “Average people are myopic. They only think short term. How do I feel today. How much money am I making right now. Often times the not nice approach produces immediate results, but it does not last over the long haul. I have talked to young males and they have flat out told me, treat women a little mean and they stay with you. Be nice and they leave you. In the short term that is often unfortunately true. However in the long term it will not produce a great 20 year marriage. You can exploit someone in business whether it is a worker or a client and make more immediate cash. In the long term however it will be harder to keep employees or clients and to make as much money. Look at our environment. We do many things because we are myopic. We need to educate people on the value of thinking long term. Sustainability of a business or marriage is as important a part of your definition of success as is immediate quantity of results.”

How can nice guys give themselves the best chance to finish first? “By reading the book, taking our seminars and applying these ten character traits. We are result freaks. We like finishing at the top. In our corporate work it is often structured so that we don’t get paid unless we produce agreed upon results so we know these ten traits work. We are the only company that for people in the direct sales industry measures the participants increased income and recruitment and we publish it by company on our web site so we look foolish if we don’t produce.”

What is my best advice to someone who says, “My goal is to be successful”? “Clearly define it. Most people are vague in order to avoid failure, but ironically that produces failure. Then ask yourself whether that “success” resonates on three levels: your mind, your heart, and your spirit. It is a great way to make any decision. Does it make sense? Does it feel right in my heart? Does it resonate spiritually with you? Once you get a yes on all counts go for it full tilt. True happiness is knowing you are where you are supposed to be. It is being in alignment with your purpose.”

Brain Klemmer has studied leadership since being at the United States Military Academy (1968-1972). Known for his humorous and practical style of communicating, Klemmer is one of today’s most in demand speakers. His character development and leadership seminar company, Klemmer & Associates Leadership Seminars Inc., has conducted its works for more than 100,000 people around the world for over 20 years. His clients include well-known corporations such as Aetna Life Insurance, American Suzuki Corporation, General Electric, Walt Disney Attractions, and many more. Check out The Compassionate Samurai (Hay House, 2008). It’s a wonderful resource for achieving a very positive SUCCESS.