How to Stop Being a Doormat

How to stop being a doormat

It’s nice to be nice. It’s nice to do nice things for others. However, when nicety is unreciprocated, taken for granted or turns into an excuse for others to be dismissive of you as a human being, then it becomes a problem.

It occurred to me a few years ago that I was held in a very different regard by others to what I had always assumed. Activities and meet-ups often involved multiple changes that would inevitably make it more inconvenient and expensive for me. I spent hours waiting for people to turn up. I was repeatedly interrupted. I was owed money. It wasn’t uncommon for me to receive messages or have conversations that began with a phrase that I have come to loathe:

Can I ask a favour?

The favour. The seemingly easy and straight-forward request that would always turn into a complicated mess and leave me feeling stressed and resentful, particularly when there was no acknowledgement or thanks afterwards. And yet, the one time I remember needing help which would have meant someone having to go out of their way, not a single person responded. Not one.

Of course, being kind, having empathy and sympathy for others and doing our bit to make someone else’s life should be a natural part of our existence. I like doing things for others to make them feel better. I like surprising those close to me to make them smile. Nevertheless, I’ve found that, for self-preservation and self-care purposes above all, clear boundaries have to be put in place for the more high-maintenance. This isn’t because they were bad people, they were simply used to Suzie: The Lapdog.

I decided to make some changes and use words that I had previously found difficult to use:

No, thank you.
I can’t I’m afraid, I’m busy today.
No thanks, it’s not really my thing, but thanks for the offer!

At first, it was really interesting. What I discovered was that my ‘no, thanks’ was not considered to be my final answer. It actually caught some people off-guard and surprised them. Often, a conversation would ensue as to why I wasn’t available or couldn’t do something, as if an explanation was required. I would be asked the same thing multiple times in the hope that I would change my mind, only for it then to be passed off as a joke if I made it clear that I wasn’t impressed.

However, over a period of time my consistency started to pay off and now I feel confident enough to understand and verbalise what I will and won’t accept, which is something I would never have done in my younger years.

Here are things you can do to make your life a little easier:

1. Learn the power of no and stick to it. Don’t permit yourself to become involved in what I refer to as a ‘bartering’ style discussion ie. ‘How about you do this and I’ll do this…’ or ‘What about if you do this instead?’ The answer is no. No no no. No. There’s isn’t any need for nastiness or negativity while you’re saying it, but stick to your guns. No.

2. Don’t be afraid of potential disagreement or verbalising your boundaries. It’s ok to tell someone that consistently showing up 45 minutes late is unacceptable, unless it’s an emergency. If plans are frequently changed, it’s ok to tell someone why it has become less convenient for you. Don’t negate your own feelings to accommodate those of others if it means you are left feeling upset afterwards.

3. Remove your expectations. The primary cause of my disappointment was that I had an expectation of how someone would feel and/or behave, or that they would be willing to help me out in the future in return. It was wrong of me to make those assumptions.

4. Avoid explaining yourself in too much detail, but remember that you don’t have to be nasty about it. An ‘I’m really sorry, but I’m busy I’m afraid’ should be more than enough.

5. Pick yourself up from the floor, stand up tall and realise your self-worth. You are a good person. You have your own life. You are entitled to an opinion. You deserve to be treated with the same respect and consideration that you show others. Start reminding yourself of this regularly.

6. Learn from your experiences and avoid repetition in the future. I don’t hold grudges, but I don’t forget, following the ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’ idea. It works.

7. Try to avoid feeling guilty. Guilt is the primary reason for many of the ‘favours’ I have done over the years, and became the aftermath after saying no. You’ve done nothing wrong, therefore have nothing to feel guilty about.

8. If necessary, distance yourself. Don’t make yourself as available.

9. Stop apologising or accepting blame! I’ve written a number of times about this. You are allowed to feel the way you feel about something.

10. If all else fails, get rid of those causing you distress. Harsh, but necessary in certain circumstances.

Remember: You are only treated in the way you allow yourself to be. There is a difference between being easy going and a doormat. Set your boundaries, remove your expectations, build your confidence and live life for your own happiness and not just the happiness of others.

And life will be much better for it!

What about you guys? Do you find your good nature being dismissed or taken advantage of?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to follow my Facebook page, my Pinterest page and my Instagram page

137 thoughts on “How to Stop Being a Doormat

  1. Great points! I’ve had to go through some of those same steps. Feeling guilty is the worst thing for me. I like what you said about that. I’d like to frame it and have it ready for those who think I should feel what they feel. Way to go!

  2. I liked number 10. I’ve had to do that to a few people in the past because of their toxicity seeping over onto me. A long time ago I was such a doormat and attracted quite a few people that liked wiping their feet!

  3. These are really good tips! As a fellow-ex-doormat (who sometimes still falls victim to her old behaviour) I can relate to you story AND your tips! It’s difficult, but not impossible to stand your ground and learn the value of those two letters: N-O.

    Well written, I really liked this post 🙂

  4. One thing that gets to me sometimes is the non-reciprocity. I will do something that I don’t have a lot of interest in because someone else wants to (like see a movie I didn’t especially want to see, for example) – but then when I ask the same person to accompany me on something I want to do, she’ll say, “No, thanks, I have no interest in that!” When you get right down to it though, my friend’s answer is what I should have said in the first place!

    • Yes! This! The amount of times I’ve done the exact same thing and been bored out of my mind! Mind you, a few have reluctantly done karaoke with me at times which I knew they hated, so I can’t completely complain haha!

  5. Great post Suzie and happy new year! This is me with ‘mug’ in capital letters stamped across my forehead! Over the years I’ve continually found myself over justifying why I can’t or don’t want to do something and it’s so infuriating that some people just don’t take no for an answer! This year for me is about self-care and saying ‘no’ and there’s some great advice here. I’ve already stood my ground on a couple of occasions in the past week and it felt very empowering for a change! I hope it made the individuals in the situation realise that they’re no longer dealing with a pushover!

  6. I was, seriously, just about to blog about this very thing. Wow, you addressed this so acutely. I apologize to others when I can’t do something – even when it’s because I’d rather use the time for me! I feel guilty when I say no. It’s a sad cycle! And people take advantage…oh, how they take advantage. When I realized last week that I’d accomplished next to nothing for myself and a TON for others, I decided a change was in order. I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling these things. And you helped me confirm I need to make that change. Great post.

  7. A completely perfect post Suzi! Too many accept the social abuses of others without even thinking how wrongly they are being treated. I find people who are “work” in the sense that I am always having to raise my energy level in order to deal with them – they go by the wayside quickly!

  8. OMG I love this! I was always a people pleaser and it was only when I became ill a few years ago that I HAD to start saying no because my body wouldn’t allow me to function. I got the same responses as you, the ‘what?’, ‘but why?’ and the ‘are you sure?’. It also opened my eyes to who my true friends were and who the emotional vampires were. Fabulous post, Suzie 🙂

  9. I am a big believer in saying no. You have to keep your sanity and if that means saying no then so be it. I also feel like we have to give a reason when we say no and don’t like that. We should just say no and no one should expect an explanation.

  10. Wonderful advice,Suzy. Friendship – true friendship – is a two-way street, and sometimes you need to give the friend a reminder of that. Friendship can be hard work, but honesty is the basis – something all your reminders reinforce.

  11. So very apt. There are limits to decency and to being taken for granted. If one just cannot walk away, the relationship could cause a lot of stress.
    I wish to put this on my ‘to be reblogged’ list, if you do not mind!

  12. It’s good to read your post Suzie – we all need to be reminded of these things and start the year as we mean to finish it! I totally get no.3 – expectations always get me. Happy New Year to you 🙂

  13. Oh man I needed to read this! I’m horrible about going out of my way for others and not getting the same in return. My biggest problem is the fear of how others will feel of I say no or voice my opinion. Thanks for sharing. 😊

    • I can really relate to that – I was so scared that people would stop talking to me if I refused to do something for them, which seems ridiculous as I’m in my 30’s!

  14. I think most people with a good nature get taken advantage of, I’ve let it happen for years and still let it. I don’t know how I do it…

  15. I really needed this! Been having troubles at work because of me being nice and always available and when I really couldn’t, I was told I was never available! I’m saving this! Thanks for sharing!

  16. I have found that I can be dismissed or under appreciated. So I put the bulk of my generous nature in service to people who appreciate it. Everyone else finds out quickly that I live life in choice. I always have another option if something doesn’t work out, and get to moving towards that option before I allow myself to be mistreated. I select where and to whom to give my time, money, and attention. I hear them the first time if they communicate disrespect. I have clear boundaries. No is a complete sentence, and requires no explanation. I can happily play in the sandbox alone. Since I use my senses to navigate the waters of life, I’m rarely if ever disappointed. I expect nothing. Teach people how you want to be treated. They may not realize it right off the bat, but they want to learn!!!

  17. As a former therapist, what struck me as the most impactful point you made was, “You are only treated in the way you allow yourself to be.” That is a universal truth that very few people really understand and live. Awesome post Suzie!

  18. What an article. It stirred up many emotions inside of me. Too often I found myself on the wrong side of the door… It took me years to find a way out of the spiral… and still, it seems I’m not completely over this yet. Still people try to take advantage of me – and are too many times still successful. It’s a hard fight. But I’ll find my way. Thanks for this post.

  19. This is my year to reclaim my time. Just said no to an event on Monday and felt good about it. Like you said just said I have another commitment sorry. People being late drives me – I find it disrespectful. Thanks for another great post.

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  21. I am somewhat of a “Yes Woman” myself so reading this was refreshing and inspiring. I feel that this is great advice for everyone. As someone who hates to disappoint people this was a great read and reminder that “Saying No” is okay too.

  22. It took me ages to realise the problem lay with me not them; expecting change from others is futile as is the old Einstein cliche that doing the same thing time and time again but expecting a different result is the definition of madness. Oh to speak to the younger me and tell him not to be a pillock. Now I understand even if I still beat back the wave of guilt. Mind you, I do get cantankerous if someone asks me to justify why I won’t do them a favour! Lovely post and it clears applies ot a lot of people.

  23. This is such good advice. Establishing boundaries and staying firm are some of the hardest lessons to learn. It can be so difficult because different people expect different responses. Because of this, I do have to skew the way I deliver my responses. For example, the way I say no to my boss or to my parents will differ very wildly.

  24. Sheesh–and I just wrote about this today (or, yesterday rather–didn’t realize it was so late). It sucks when you can’t get rid of the “pushover” tattoo on your forehead and everybody wants you to be nice to them and do things for them, no matter how uncomfortable you are or how much time it takes from your day/week/month. It’s a process, but it’s a start to live your own life, that’s for sure. I’m learning how to do that now, though I gotta figure out a way to not be suckered into things at work I don’t want–or better yet, find a new job soon.

    • Work is THE WORST for this sort of thing – if you wrote down every single thing that you did outside of your job description I bet it would be really insightful, but to then go and complain about it would be regarded as petty, which really infuriates me

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  26. Reading this just came at the right time. 2017 has not started off on the right foot for me, but a lot of these things are stuff that I realized I need to change. I am one of those people that says “sorry” all. the. time. To the point where my boyfriend had to ask me to stop, that I say it wayyyy to often. Loved this article.

    • I’m really sorry that you haven’t had a good start to the year! It’s really tough to get out of the habit of apologising, but when you do, I promise that it will be incredibly freeing!

  27. I was JUST talking to someone about this today then saw your post. I seriously can’t believe I still haven’t dealt with this issue in my life. And by the amount of comments, I’m not the only one. Thanks for sharing. 💖

  28. Love love love what you say here. I’m from the Midwest, which means ‘being nice’ is practically a requirement. It’s taken me years to stick up for myself and what I want. I should have “‘No’ is a sentence” printed on a tee shirt — which I would then wear every day. (Got that quote from Arianna Huffington, BTW)

  29. This is all vital to your self preservation! In my family I was the one that did it all, and when I pulled back that’s when the nasty came out! People come to expect you to behave a certain way, based on what they need. It’s awesome you realized that it is not about them, it is about you!

  30. LOVED this! It’s so easy to be taken for granted when you’re nice to everyone, there really is a difference between being nice and being a doormat and it’s taken me years to understand that but recently it’s become very apparent.
    Jas xx

  31. I love the thought, “If it’s not a clear hell yes, it’s a clear no.” This invites me to think about what I’m being asked to do. Do I really want to do it, because I want to, or because I don’t want someone else to judge me/be upset with me/ feel disappointed if I don’t? I owe it to the person asking me for the “favor” to tell them the truth, not unkindly, but sincerely. Too often I’ve done something out of obligation rather than interest. Of course, there will always be things I’d prefer not to do. But if I can’t find a true yes in the request, making it a positive choice of my own to contribute in one way or the other, I say no (most of the time.) I try and do, just as you say- let go of my expectations and give up on guilt. Thanks for the post!

  32. I just wrote a post a couple of weeks back discussing how I always hand off compliments and then accept the blame for everything. Argh! Why is my guilt and apologies such a hard thing to break!? Great post!

  33. This post was really helpful. I can definitely see myself in a lot of these situations where just saying no or politely declining would actually be the better option for me:) Maybe I’ll try some of these tips out!
    Also, I noticed that you have like 18,000 followers. Damn girl, good job!

  34. Love this post! Number 9 is totally me… constantly apologizing for things that need no apology. I am such a people pleaser. Thankfully I think I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older. You can never please absolutely everyone so may as well worry about yourself!

  35. I was just talking with my friends about this thing. We read this blogpost together and we all think that number 3 is the most important. When you have low expectations, you will probably get a positive reaction.
    A good and helpful blogpost!!
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  36. Excellent advice here. I used to be something of a people pleaser. In the end I used the tactic of hiding to avoid the confrontation I was worried there would be if I said no. Once I had the confidence to say no, it got easier and easier.

    I have a couple of friends who really need to read this- really well put! Especially true about the expectations.

  37. For nice people, the hardest thing is to say ‘no’ because they are afraid, when they should not be. I really like your post, and it is good to read such things once in a while 🙂

  38. These are lessons I need to learn. I have gotten better over the years at standing my ground (although I always feel guilty after doing it!). One comment I have however is when telling people “NO” about something, there should be no explanation as to why. If people can’t accept the fact that you said no, that is more of a statement on the other person’s part.

  39. I’ve always had a difficult time saying no because I hate confrontation. I always feel so guilty afterwards. I see those patterns trickling over into my blog as well. I have yet to say no to any sponsor request even if my heart isn’t in it. I definitely need to work on picking myself up off of the floor.

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