If you want relationships worth their work… find your backbone.There is no one less respected in any relationship than the pushover. It’s true. Despite the fact that abusers, narcissists, and bums will gladly attach to personalities that can’t say “no” they garner no genuine love or respect for them. How could you? The person who moves through life as a doormat is someone who is never genuine. Always masking their truth behind the desires of others, we never have time to see them shine in authenticity, glory, or grace.
Being a doormat is never the right way to go.
Having grown up in the south through the 80s and 90s, I know well what it means to be a doormat in terms of intimate relationships, family bonds, and friendship ties alike. It’s a custom of living there, where it’s easier to say “whatever” than it is to say “no” for women, minorities, and social outliers.
Being a doormat never works, though. It weakens relationships in every way. That’s because no one respects the doormat. No love can be fostered in a relationship without respect.
Making yourself small will never make you big in the eyes of someone else. It will never make them crave your presence in any way, save one. The person who acts as the doormat is appealing only to those who wish to destroy. This is not a person who loves, but a person who consumes.
Consumption is not love. To build authentic relationships with people who show up for us, we must be ourselves in the fullest possible way. But that cannot happen when we are shaping ourselves according to the whims and demands of others.
Why we choose to become doormats.
We can choose to become doormats. Falling into old patterns, we can make excuses and allowances. Or we can choose a better way. Getting to that higher path requires that we look back first. We do we allow ourselves to be put down? To be put at the back of the line? When we understand our reason for behaving a certain way, we are empowered with insight to change it.
Bad examples in childhood
It’s hard to be a professional boundary setter when you never get good examples or good practice. It’s a skill that has to be learned like any other. Putting ourselves second is also a skill we learn — usually from parents and partners who make us feel small, or who punish us for speaking up and speaking out. Those with turbulent and abusive childhoods can very often find themselves falling into people pleasing patterns in a bid for love and validation.
Trauma left unresolved
Trauma is a haunting reminder of the most painful moments in our lives. But rather than lingering solely as an emotional memory, it also becomes lodged in the tissue of our brains and our bodies, too. The longer this trauma is left locked up and unresolved, the worse our mental and physical conditions can become. Our behavior is affected, too. Forever rattled and at odds with the emotions and upset we can’t face, we learn to back down and approach life (and relationships) from a scared and defensive place.
Lack of skill and knowledge
There is a distinct lack of interpersonal skill and knowledge that manifests in those who people please and play the doormat to others. Most of them adopt these behaviors as a means of coping and self-preservation. While they believe that this overtly placid behavior brings them closer to love and acceptance, it ends up leading them squarely down the road of those who are incapable of either. And so heartbreak and disappointment follow. Building better relationship skills is a must in order to break our bad habits.
Low quality relationships
Playing the doormat gives you a first-class, direct ticket to low-quality relationships. It’s inevitable. Placing yourself always in the backseat lands you with partners who are attracted to people they can control or manipulate. More often than not, this lands us in the lap of abusers who take everything they want from us in order to fulfill their own twisted habits. Or we end up users, who also take everything from us until there’s absolutely nothing left to give.
You don’t play doormat because you have high, healthy self-esteem. These are behaviors adopted by those who don’t realize what they’re worth. Hating themselves, or believing that they’re undeserving of respect — these individuals take whatever the world will give them, rather than demanding more. Bottomed out self-esteem will fool you every time, and it will convince you that you have to sell yourself short in order to earn love or success.
Stuck in the abuse loop
When someone gets used to abusive and destructive habits, it becomes familiar. Even though it hurts them, that familiarity is a comfort. Whenever they’re pushed over the edge or into a new place, they revert to it. If all you’ve ever known is selling yourself short, that becomes your loop. You can jump from relationship-to-relationship into the same boiling pot. You seek the things you know and the pain you’ve become used to.
How to find your backbone and break your doormat habits.
Breaking out of our pushover patterns requires that we re-instate a backbone we never knew we had. This strong core is composed of self-esteem and self-acknowledgement. New perception of self enables us to create a new appreciation for our own space — regardless of who’s in it. Prioritizing yourself as much as others is a superpower. Cutting ties with those who demand less is a must.
Next, move down a level deeper. Look within. What are your internal strengths? What are you good at? What comes naturally to you? Start even on a superficial level here. Then, when you’re good at celebrating the simple things, expand. Look back over a past that hurts, or the mistakes that were made. Embrace those things which make you feel insecure, in pain, or lacking. This total self-acceptance is a must in escaping your doormat patterns.
Acknowledge the cycles that you’re in. Acknowledge the choices that you keep making and the reasoning that lies beneath. Question yourself. Why do you keep choosing people who take more than they give? People who punish you for taking up space. Step outside of your current relationships, and consider every other relationship you’ve held in your life. How have they played out? Are you always chasing something just beyond reach? Admitting where you’re at is a must if you want to create a new path forward.
Value your sovereign space as much as you value having people around you. This must (necessarily) come with a willingness to be entirely alone…for as much time as needed. Only those who value peace more than the chaos of others can put themselves in this state. And it is these people who can break from their external validation patterns.
Consider your peace and what it brings you. Spend times on your own, and note how substantially gratifying it can be. If you’re dealing with a lot of chaos in life or relationships, find a way to spend 10–15 minutes on your own weekly (or daily). Take a journal with you. In silence, describe what it feels like to be alone. The more time you spend alone, in this place where you can enjoy yourself and your thoughts for company, you will learn to appreciate the silence and stillness of a life lived without those who cause chaos.
Stop apologizing all the time for who you are and what you want. Stop apologizing when you set boundaries or stand up for yourself. None of these things are wrong. They are reacted to wrongly by people who don’t want you to take up space around them. When we stop apologizing, we see just how much we have been trying to squeeze ourselves down into tiny little boxes for the sake of others. Start small. Keep a small hairband on your wrist and pop it gently each time you apologize (or get the urge).
Find an unwillingness to compromise with these people. Think about it. Why do you have to compromise your happiness so that they can be more comfortable? You don’t. That’s a one sided relationship, and it’s blocking your greater growth. Distance yourself mentally and emotionally from those who are unwilling to support your independence of mind and heart. If their behavior becomes toxic, cut ties entirely and allow yourself to start over with people who can see and value you for who you are.