By Rupali Grover *
I was amazed at how I easily became someone’s personal doormat.
I was 18 years old, and my mom’s friend had a 15 year-old daughter. My well-intentioned mom was pushing me to be this girl’s friend. I had told my mom that I didn’t have a good gut feeling about this girl. Of course, I was told that I needed more good Indian female friends. Like a typical doormat, I ignored my intuition and felt like I had to just give in.
Little did my mom and this girl’s mom know, I was being used to help this girl see boys behind her parents’ backs.
My friend came from a stereotypical strict Indian-American family. She would tell me how her parents treated her badly.
One of the traits of a doormat is that you start to feel guilty when you hear people’s pain. My guilt led me to give in to my friend’s eager requests. I ended up driving my friend around to go on dates with random boys. She used my cell phone to contact boys. She used my AOL screen names. She instructed me to make up lies to my parents about what we were doing. I had even gotten into a car accident, when she begged me to help her see a boy that she met online.
You might be thinking, “Why did you agree to all of that?” At 33, I’m thinking the same thing. Back then, I felt obligated to put other people’s feelings and needs above mine. When I was told what to do, I blindly did it.
One day, my mom and this girl’s mom found out about her secret escapades. Guess who got thrown under the bus? Me. To add insult to injury, this girl told the other Indian-American teenagers how I ruined her life. I thought, “I bended over backwards to help this girl feel happy. And, this is what I get?”
Toddlers can easily say no.
Why is it difficult for us adults to say a simple two-letter word?
Well, humans want to be liked by others and would rather avoid conflict. But, there’s one problem.
When we struggle to say no to others, we invite other people to walk all over us. If we are trying so hard to make someone else happy, our emotional well-being gets neglected. We may start to feel drained, resentful, and discarded by the person that we are bending over backwards for.
My story might help you recognize yourself in your own personal relationships. Are you more focused on the other person’s happiness, where you end up neglecting your own? Do you become involved in romantic relationships that are one-sided?
When we bend over backwards for others, we think that we’re winning. As you can see in my story, you end up losing on both ends. I didn’t get the approval that I craved. I didn’t get people to like me more. I didn’t look like a hero. The negative consequences of my story could have been avoided, if I just learned how to say NO.
If you struggle with saying no and are getting taken advantage of, here’s what to keep in mind.
Here are 5 steps to stop being a doormat in your relationships:
- Know that YOU matter. Unfortunately, you may have grown up in an environment where you were never told this. Doormats don’t always realize what they’re doing, because they may not know any other way of being. But, it’s never too late to acknowledge your self-worth, your opinions, your feelings and what your priorities are. When you say yes to someone all of the time, you’re sending the message that you don’t matter.
- Check in with how you feel, before you say yes to something. Doormats may be too preoccupied with how other people feel, where they forget to listen to themselves. You may say yes to something, and then realize that you shouldn’t have done that. It’s okay to ask yourself, “Is this something that I genuinely want to do? Will this honor me?”
- You can still say no, while being kind and compassionate. Doormats think that saying no is going to make them look selfish and mean. They may feel that saying no means that you have to be aggressive. You will not lose your gentle demeanor, just because you tell people no.
- You’re going to realize who your true friends are. Doormats are scared of people getting angry at them. The harsh reality is that some people WILL get mad at you for saying no. Guess what? These people weren’t your real friends to begin with. Let the wrong people walk away, and allow the right people to come into your life. You might be pleasantly surprised at learning that there are positive people that will respect your boundaries and preferences exist.
- Lastly, be gentle with yourself. You may not become the queen or king of assertiveness overnight. And, that’s okay. There may be days where you make mistakes and slip up with your boundaries. The more you practice at honoring yourself, the easier it gets.
When you start taking care of yourself, it’s a lot easier to take care of others.
When you start valuing yourself, you will attract others in your life that value you.
* Rupali Grover is a licensed clinical professional counselor that is dedicated to helping others achieve a lifestyle that is balanced and thriving. She has worked closely with children, adolescents and adults that struggle with anxiety, depression, relationship problems, low self-esteem and difficulty with letting go of the past. She believes that empathizing and validating is one part of the process, but guiding each person to their own inner wisdom is just as important.