Doormat’s Anonymous: How Not to Be a Doormat

Hello, I’m Marly. I’m a recovering doormat. I thought I’d share with you my tips on how not to be a doormat.

A photograph of a doormat by Marly illustrating the point of shedding doormat tendencies.

To make sure I really understood what I was talking about, I looked up doormat in the dictionary. Two definitions seemed relevant. A doormat is:

  • a mat placed in a doorway, on which people wipe the grime off their shoes.
  • a submissive person who allows others to dominate them.

For those of you who think this is an affliction reserved only for women, Bob Walkenhorst is here to prove you wrong. He just changed the terminology a little bit in his song, Punching Bag. He croons, “Ain’t going down, bound and gagged, I ain’t gonna be your punching bag.”

It’s a perfect song for a recovering Doormat. Along with this quote:

The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them. — Maya Angelou

I’ve sometimes described my own Doormat ways as reminiscent of a golden retriever. I’m constantly running myself ragged trying to get people to like me. Fetch that stick? Sure! Get out of your way, you scream? Oh, ok. I can do that too. The Pixar movie, Up comes to mind where the golden retriever has a collar that allows him to speak. He says via his collar, “I have just met you and I love you.”

A photograph of a golden retriever. Learn How Not to Be a Doormat through this playful, but thoughtful post

Sweet, eh? What could go wrong with that?

I mean, don’t we all want to be liked? Loved?

Doesn’t it make sense that the best way to get people to love us is to love them first?

In fact, the whole “more is more” mentality comes into play here. If you love them extra hard, then that means they’ll love you back even more! Right?

On paper that seems like a good strategy, but in reality it’s riddled with flaws.

The first flaw that comes to mind is people. People are complex. The good people out there see the Doormat person as someone who just tries too hard. It’s annoying. Especially if they see the true value that person has to offer. It’s not easy to watch a Doormat devaluing (and degrading) him or herself.

Then there are the Users. They are drawn to doormats like dirt flaking from the bottom of an uninvited guest’s shoe! You want to give your talent away? The Users will take that and then some, without so much as a thank you in the end. In fact, they might even end up feeling a little disgruntled at you for not giving a little more.

It’s a sobering reality to face – that there are people who feel entitled to steal your talents and present it as their own. And that they’re in your life because you opened the door and welcomed them?

That’s what we call salt on a self-inflicted wound.

How Not to Be a Doormat

Recognizing Doormat characteristics is the first step to recovery. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • You want people to like you. (This one should come with a “Danger! Will Robinson” sign attached to it)
  • You volunteer your time to people who don’t say thanks
  • You’re afraid to say “no” for fear the person you’re trying to please might get mad or not want to work with you anymore
  • Even after getting burned time after time, you’re eager to forgive and put that unpleasant thing they did or said to you in the past
  • You want to show/prove to the other person that you’re a good friend/partner/worker

These characteristics seem harmless, but are fraught with problems. Wanting people to like you is the granddaddy of them all.

There’s a woman in my life, Marty, who I like to refer to as my adopted mother. Marty tells it to me like this, “If only one of you can be happy, it might as well be you.” That’s an important thing to remember because oftentimes Users are not the happiest people in the world.

Doormats also like to be fixers. We like to think we can fix those Users and make them happy. That our optimistic, golden retriever selves can provide enough happiness for everyone.

Oh, if only that were possible.

The truth is, Users are like dark holes. They will suck the happiness out of you like a Dementor at Hogwarts. And then when your happiness is finally depleted, they move on to their next victim.

It’s why we Doormats are such convenient prey. Easy pickings. We want to be liked so much we give and give, and then we even forgive their bad behavior.

If you don’t like being a doormat, then get off the floor. – Al Anon

I’m (finally) starting to realize my Doormatty ways and I’m taking charge. I know I won’t recover from this all at once. Learning How Not to Be a Doormat is something that takes time.

The thing is, I do like to be liked. I crave it like a Soy Chocolate Chip Frapacino on a hot summer’s day.

I also like the feeling of making other people happy. Sometimes I feel like I have this radiator of happiness; it feels so good to share with others.

I plan to continue that, but I’m just going to be careful about on whom I choose to bestow my happy vibes. Very, very careful.

Care to join me on my Doormat’s Anonymous program? Because you know what they say, recovering doormats love company. Is that what they say? I’m not so sure about that, but you get the idea.

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