Hello, my name is Jill and I am a Recovering People Pleasing Doormat.
Don’t laugh…I’m being serious! I truly was a doormat (aka: Codependent, People Pleasing, Confrontation Avoider, etc). I work with SO many people who can identify with this, too. The reason I share this piece of information is because I want to make sure my clients know that, when I refer to them as a doormat, I’m not judging…I’m speaking from personal experience.
(FYI: I will be using the feminine “she/her” since I work with women, but this is just as relevant for men, too).
Doormatism can appear to be unproblematic because, to the outsider, it just seems as though this person loves to help others. She loves to always drive, always pay, always be there at 3am for hysterical phone calls…the “Yes” person. And to the doormat herself, she feels as though saying yes to everything is the nice, kind, and loving thing to do.
Important note: I’m not saying don’t be a helpful person. Helping is good. Thoughtfulness is good. Chronic “yessing” and people pleasing…no bueno.
Why no bueno, you ask?
It’s the People Pleasing Doormats (PPDM’s) who are some of the angriest people I know. Secretly, whether the PPDM knows it or not, she is waiting for someone to return the favor. Somewhere amidst the white noise in her head there’s a voice saying “When’s it going to be my turn? What about me?” And that white noise will eventually get louder. And it will start to turn into anger because eventually the PPDM will realize…it’s never going to be her turn.
Look, we all either know this person, are this person, or used to be this person. We know people treat us the way we teach them and allow them to treat us. So a PPDM teaches people she is here merely to serve because she doesn’t set boundaries for herself. She doesn’t realize that “No” can be a complete sentence. She fears that asking for what she wants or standing up for herself will cause a nuclear war. In her head, anything but “yes” means she’s a horrible, terrible person and everyone will leave her. So…the PPDM has trained people to take advantage of her and use her because she’s let that be OK.
It’s not OK.
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? So, the first thing the PPDM has to do is admit that, yes, in fact, she is a People Pleasing Doormat. You can’t change that which you are not aware of. So getting out of denial and being honest about it is first and foremost. It usually requires some love and understanding from her support system to admit it…or a 2×4 to the head…but I did it, so can you.
Then comes the hard part.
The PPDM has to learn how to say “No”. She has to learn how to walk through the fear of having boundaries and seeing that the world will not come crashing down all around her if she stands up for herself. Usually I will have a client pick something benign to start with. I’ll ask her to think of a request she commonly says yes to that may come up soon and have her practice by saying “No” the next time the request occurs.
It just takes time and willingness.
From there it’s a matter of practicing new behaviors, not trying to be perfect, and slowly but surely transforming into a confident person who creates space in her life for “Healthy Selfishness” (aka: self care and “me” time). It can be done.