Twice in the past week I’ve received an email offer for a personalized doormat. The words struck me as funny (although not as funny as the forum question that appeared in my inbox about My Little Pony, but the less said about that, the better). Anyway, the “personalized doormat” email got me thinking – am I a personalized doormat? For the record, no, at least not anymore.
I was raised by an incredibly strong woman, which makes my youthful behavior even more inexplicable. Or maybe not. In my teens, I was terrified – terrified! – of displeasing anyone. This led to some paralyzing behavior that, with the help of an incredible therapist, I overcame. A short four-month course of weekly sessions turned me into a badass who was afraid of nothing and no one, which probably explains why I blithely had three children. By the way, Marta Kagan wrote a great piece on “How to Stop Being a Doormat & Start Living Like a Badass!” I highly recommend it.
Don’t Be a Personalized Doormat – It’s Not Good For Anyone
According to Shawn M. Burn, PhD, writing in Psychology Today, “The way some women understand and identify with their gender and culture promotes unhealthy self-sacrifice and martyrdom for others.” I would certainly hope that today’s generation of women, steeped in the #metoo culture, have learned their lesson and will not be raising daughters to act this way – or boys to expect it. But I’m not sure; I’ve seen way too many women who are completely submissive, at home and in life. Trust me: Just stop. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for your relationships, and it’s certainly not good for your children.
5 Ways Not to Be a Personalized Doormat
Often, it’s hard to tell whether you’re compromising because that’s what relationships are, or submitting to the will of others for the sake of peace and harmony, whether at work, at home, or in your group of friends. If you’re not sure, make a habit of asking yourself these questions:
- Is this compromise conflicting with my core beliefs? For example, you want to go to dinner at Restaurant X, but other(s) want to go to Restaurant Y. Honestly, who cares which restaurant you go to? In the end, what matters is that you enjoy a meal out. On the other hand, you want to have children and your partner is dead set against ever having kids. Repeat after me: redflagredflagredflag. Sure, some people have a change of heart. Generally, most don’t. If you can’t agree on your big hopes and dreams, you’re probably not meant for each other. As hard as it might be, you need to consider walking away.
- Do I feel like the other person always “wins”? Here’s what I’ve learned from personal experience: if you’re thinking in terms of wins and losses, then either the relationship isn’t meant to be or you need to shift your thinking. In the relationships where I thought this way, it was due to fundamental differences that were unlikely to be resolved. My husband and I have been married for 20 years, and it’s the most effortless relationship I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it’s because I’d calmed down enough by the time we met, or because our personalities are just perfectly suited to each other, or what, but I’ll take it. He’s also really good at reminding me of my more difficult qualities in a kind/humorous way. Take the time that I was mid-rant about God knows what. “You know,” he observed, “Someday, I’m going to kick that soapbox right out from under you.” Point taken.
- Never, ever, ever, stay in a relationship where you fear making the other person angry. Period.
- If you find yourself resenting someone in your life because you feel that they “always get their way,” try talking to them about it. It’s quite possible that they just have a more forceful personality than you do, and they think you’re both compromising. I’ve got a pretty strong personality and constantly have to guard against steamrolling people. But when someone in my life brings this up to me, it’s incredibly helpful and I’ve learned to tone it down based on others’ feedback.
- Remember that no matter what someone else does, you and you alone are in charge of your reaction. Keep in mind the so-called “Ann Landers Admonition”: “No one can take advantage of you without your permission.” ⧉