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As I write this, I know I am speaking for so many people who have been victims of bullying and thereafter became either of two; a doormat or a monster they created. Being treated like a doormat sucks. It can happen for no apparent rhyme or reason; people using you, treating you like a dogsbody, walking all over you or not thinking about what you want or what’s best for you. The trouble is, the more it happens, the more you feel like you can’t change it; the more it happens the smaller you get.Being a doormat makes you become a people-pleaser; You do everything to please everyone. As for the monster created; a person becomes so bitter about life and people and just hate the idea of having to deal with human beings. They become like an angry lion who doesn’t want to speak to anyone and just wants to be alone because people can’t be trusted and are just too evil.

For a long time my personality fluctuated between being a doormat and being the bitter monster. Between trying so hard to please people and pushing them away at the same time. I read this from an article called, ‘From Doormat to Bitch In 5 Seconds Flat; Assertiveness: The Happy Medium’ about another victim who says, ‘Those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder ( a condition characterized by difficulties in regulating emotion. This difficulty leads to severe, unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and stormy personal relationships) often think in black or white terms (all or nothing), or dialectics. In the case of being passive versus assertive, in the past, I saw no middle ground. I’d either respond in a completely passive way, allowing others to take advantage of me, or I’d turn into a complete and total bitch, full of anger, hostility, and judgment. I would go from feeling like a doormat to exploding in response to the resentment, and I could be quite cruel. There is a middle ground, and the journey there is paved with learning boundaries and self-care.’ And I too go through the same extremes being submissive and being too bitter. You just get too moody and trust me, it’s not the life you’d wish for.

I didn’t even know that this is the consequence of the childhood bullying I went through and I kept asking myself, ‘what is wrong with me?’ This question can be so damn irritating and annoying because you don’t know if you are the problem or the rest of the world.

The seeds of people-pleasing are usually planted in childhood, according to Jay Earley, author of Finding Your Life Purpose. “Often, parents will simply tell kids what to do and never encourage them to assert themselves,” he says. “When the kids obey, the parents give them conditional love.”

Such an environment sends a subconscious message to children: The only way to feel valuable is to comply with others’ demands, give others what they need, and “go with the flow.” The pattern only solidifies as children grow up, fearing that if they do not strive to please, people will not love them. They respond to this perceived threat by becoming obsessed with meeting others’ needs. Because girls are typically trained from an early age to accommodate and defer to others, a disproportionate number of people-pleasers are women.

Once established, such behaviors become self-reinforcing which makes them difficult to uproot. They get rewarded by bosses, co-workers, and friends just as they do by parents, prompting pleasers to assume doormat postures over and over again in hopes of receiving more kudos.

A doormat typically thinks he is below everyone else on earth. He/she apologizes a lot. And by a lot I mean A LOT. I have been apologizing my entire life; saying sorry for things I didn’t do, taking the blame, apologizing to people who don’t even deserve a greeting let alone an apology. I said sorry like it was the only vocabulary in my dictionary. And even when saying this I feel sorry for myself; for having neglected myself for too long. No, this is not for you to feel pity for the ones with doormat syndrome/ personality. It is for you to watch up your actions when dealing with emotionally ‘weak’ people rather than taking advantage. Nonetheless, doormat personality never really made me weak; it made me stronger and a survivor. It made me know how to cross oceans on foot and how to walk on cactus. It made me value the true people in my life and appreciate humanity.

A doormat easily gets walked on by others and is a victim of mistreatment. He/she believes she is always in the wrong somehow and thus the continuous apologies. They often feel life is unfair and wants people to feel sorry for them. They need approval from others because he/she doesn’t approve of herself. I for example have been seeking approval of everything I do and say; of every single thing with the exception of going to the loo maybe lol. My friends are my witnesses. I always needed someone to tell me ‘you have done the right thing’, ‘yes you should do that’ ‘Yes you are not wrong.’ And even when I do something without an approval, I would still seek it after. It’s depressing because you will never miss someone opposing your thoughts and in turn, it makes you start feeling guilty that you did the ‘wrong thing’. As such, doormats are very poor decision makers and being put in situations where they must make a decision is a great dilemma. This does not only go for great life decisions but also simple issues like choosing a dress. This makes them go for anything and accepting being kept as the last option because they don’t really know their worth.

A doormat complains to others the unfairness of others because they get comfort in sharing their pain with others. They are easily taken advantage of and are afraid to confront people in their lives. They can rarely say no when asked to do something by others and they usually find their power by making others feel guilty. Lol, the latter has always been my number one weapon to deal with wicked people (followed by my number two weapon of using sarcasm). And the more bitter I was, the more i’d make you feel guilty. Well, it’s never on purpose. It just comes automatically. Yes, I will re-tell what you did to me, how you hurt me, how it damaged me and how you are going to regret 😀 Yes, you are definitely going to regret especially when you see my 50 messages and 20 missed calls 😀 Yes again, I am that paranoid but I have always believed that confronting people who have hurt you is always best than telling it to other people. So I usually write to the people involved; I’d write until the pen goes dry and my hand aches. I’d make sure to describe my every feeling at that moment and send it to the person who hurt me. When I am too angry, I could write it in both paragraphs and point form. You know, to make it more interesting 😀 The ones who have fallen victims of my very long paragraphs will vigorously nod at this and be like, ‘damn she can write!!’ 😀 Trust me, it makes you damn satisfied. That you were able to make a heartless person have a pinch of guilt in their heart is not a joke you know? 😀 You feel accomplished; like you have put that person in their place and now let karma and guilt deal with them. Well, making someone feel guilty has never been the right way to deal with villainous people because even their guilt is never long lasting, but when you are a doormat, you barely have anything to make you feel better. To make it worse, very few people actually understand what you are going through and the support is little so you just do whatever makes you feel right and for me, it has always been to write you a detailed description of the state of my heart. Oh yes, it works miraculously. Always made me feel like super woman, cat woman or something like that 😀

So how does a people-pleaser end the cycle? While perpetual pushovers often lack self-worth and clear direction in their lives, breaking the cycle is complicated. The cure is not abstinence—neglecting others’ needs entirely means crossing the border into narcissism. Take a close look at what situations trigger your pleasing behavior and why. “People-pleasing behavior comes from fear, from an assumption that others are in control of you. Healthy behavior comes from genuinely wanting to be connected to people,” Earley says. “Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this? Is it because I really care about this person, or because I’m afraid I’m going to lose them?’ ” This kind of questioning can help you uncover the source of the fears underlying your people-pleasing bent. Did your parents’ conditional love lead you to dread abandonment? Did the pain of a past heartbreak make you overly anxious about offending or disagreeing with your new partner? Consider the answers and discard fears that don’t make sense anymore.

Be receptive to others’ concerns, but don’t leave your own by the wayside. How to make sure you’re the one manning the controls:

1. Start with you: Change starts with you dialing up your self-worth; something that can be started in the following ways:

a. Really give yourself credit for your achievements—all those things you’ve done and gone through in your life.
b. Get to know your values—those things that are woven through you and are the cornerstones for who you are.
c. Prioritise the nourishment of your body, mind, and heart—nobody else can keep you nourished and caring for yourself.

2. Start teaching others: “You teach people how to treat you“. If someone is regularly treating you like a doormat, their behaviour is not okay. Your task, and I get how scary this might seem, is to change your response to start giving them that message. This doesn’t have to be a big, dramatic showdown; it can be done gently and with the same respect that you want. You might be scared, but you know what you need to do.
As the famous line goes, help them help you.

3. Stall for time. If someone puts you on the spot, politely defer: “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you tomorrow.” Then you can assess whether the request fits in with your schedule and goals.

4. Examine your motivations. People-pleasing seems like the epitome of niceness, but pleasers may assume their submissive postures because of what they expect in return. Being a people-pleaser might begin with the best intentions, but if you’re not careful, you keep on doing so because you want to see how pleased they are with what you’ve done or even to hear those magic words: “Thank you”. Being a people-pleaser can turn you into a bottomless pit—that not only sees others take advantage of you, but seriously damages your self-esteem. People-pleasing is not a selfless act; it’s a selfish one. It’s a flawed way to feel good about yourself, so stop it. How can you be more generous with yourself? And how would it be if you could be generous for others, not because of any validation but because there’s value in the very act of giving?
If you grant someone a favor, do it because it fulfills you—not to get something back. As a famous quote says, ‘when you do someone a favour with expectations, it’s business not kindness.’

5. Role-play to practice asserting your needs. Get a friend to play a pushy boss, parent, or acquaintance—whoever triggers your people-pleasing. Then practice saying no to unreasonable requests until it starts to feel natural.

6. Apply confidence: If you’re used to people walking all over you, it’s likely that you’re not used to asserting yourself. Natural confidence is being able to trust your behaviour with implicit faith in your abilities, so when you’re doing something, there’s no doubt about your ability to do it—you have full confidence. Applying that same sense of confidence to a new situation is what allows you to operate right at the edge or just out of your comfort zone, and this will feel uncomfortable. That feeling of discomfort isn’t the enemy and it doesn’t mean you don’t have confidence, it just means you’re someplace new. Trust yourself to do what’s best.

7.You’re Not Alone: If your ill-treatment has been happening for some time you might be feeling isolated in your experience, so it can be extraordinarily useful and important to talk about it, or even to ask for some support or help. Other people are going through what you’re going through, and you don’t have to do this alone.

Asking someone you trust to talk about what’s happening is not only a great way to offload a little, it just might allow you to step back enough to see a fresh perspective or another way through. You don’t need anyone to fix things for you, so don’t let that be your motivation here—the point is to connect with another human being so that you’re supported through this.

Think about it this way: if a good friend of yours was going through the same thing, wouldn’t you want to hear about it and support them in attaining something better?

8. Raise your expectations: There’s a massive cost to lowering your expectations to that kind of level, and the act of lowering your expectations and accepting bad treatment can be more damaging in the long run than the bad treatment itself.

Don’t ever make assumptions about what you should put up with or what you should expect. If you’re going to have any expectations about how things should go, base them on what you’d love to see happen, not what you wish wasn’t happening.

9. If All Else Fails
If you’ve truly done all you can to change things and to stop being treated like a doormat and nothing seems to work, then get the hell out. Life is way too short to have your experience of it and your self-esteem damaged by someone else, and sometimes you need to make a brave choice.

If you need to, be willing to remove yourself from the situation or relationship and start building the kind of life you’d love to live.

10. You deserve better: You don’t need to “keep on keeping on”, and you don’t need to put up with being treated like a doormat.

You deserve better, so make a start.

It’s not easy, I very well know but this is our journey to self-love, to happiness, to healing and to have wings. Let those demons out. Do not let all the bitterness, anger and pain destroy you. Again, do not forget, you are not alone. Seek help and most importantly, learn to forget. It may take time for you to forgive the people who made you what you are but do know that forgiving people is good for your soul. Do it for yourself. Do it not because they deserve it by because you deserve the peace of mind. Because you deserve better.

Also do know that not everyone will be happy that you are changing. For now people may shower you with praises and say you are the best but that’s just because you are always there for them and ready to serve them in whichever way. Well who doesn’t like to play the queen/king role? They are glad to have you because you can easily be manipulated and controlled. Perhaps this self discovery journey is what will make you know your true friends for they are the ones who will support you to change and to become assertive and firm.

Before I end this, I’d really like to thank my family and very few friends who’ve been SO patient with me; my mood swings, my bitterness to the world and my low points. And to my best friend; for always pushing me to be assertive and for fighting for what I deserve from other people. Thanks for trying to understand me and for encouraging me to seek help. My most sincere gratitude to Mrs Salma Bashir for leading me on this healing path.

Psychology today


A freelance writer, journalist, poet and blogger venturing mainly in social and community issues, study and analysis of behaviour and life, and the plight of the under-dogs in the society. 'I feed on human stories.'

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