Three Steps to Stop Being a Doormat

I joke sometimes that I need a yardstick for my office. I’d only ever use it to prop up the chins of folks who are ashamed to talk about themselves and what their lives have become.

She’s returned to therapy but cannot bring herself to face me. “You told me years ago that this is where I’d end up.”

I take no pride in being right. It’s just not hard to predict where self destruction will take a person.

“I keep trying to trace it back to where it all began.”

Oh, fuck. Ok. Stop. We’re not doing self pity, nor are we asking rhetorical questions. You don’t have to ascertain every detail of a problem to get into the solutions. What is it you need to do?

(What follows is a number of romanticized notions that sound like they were taken from the Lifetime movie channel). (Stupid shit like, “I need to find myself.” And “I have to love myself”)

Nice ideas that have no application.

How about this: You need to stop medicating your pain. You need to stop taking care of every anxiety ridden person in your family and you need to stop becoming horizontal under disgusting men.

That’s harsh, huh?

Maybe it’d be better if I said, “I’m concerned about your caretaking, your drinking, and the ways in which you seek approval from older men.”

Nope. It’s impossible to change until we call a spade a spade and get down to what needs to change. Being subtle with an avoidant and/or self destructive person is a waste of everyone’s time.

She asks, “How do I change?”

H.O.W. is a great acronym. It stands for Honesty Openness & Willingness. Here’s her homework:

Honesty:
– I take care of others to avoid myself
– I drink/use meds/get high to not feel my emotions and to feel ok about not changing.
– I use sex, caretaking, and/or sacrifice to earn love/acceptance. I don’t feel I have much else to offer.

Openness:
– I recognize that ignoring me means that nothing can improve
– I accept that I need support I need to be open to new ways of coping and managing my life.
– I do not fully trust myself. I’m going to share my goals and decisions with at least one person who will hold me accountable.

Willingness:
– I can be fair to myself as I am to others.
– Regardless of how I feel, I will act respectfully toward myself (We see the value of respecting bosses, cops, and other authority figures regardless of how we feel because it’s in our best interest)
– I choose to be active and not passive. I am the authority in my own life. I will not be a door mat or a martyr.
– I may not yet be comfortable with being powerful (assertive, direct, confident, expressive) but I will not play small nor surrender my power to others (submissive, meek, silent).

The hardest part of accepting responsibility for our holistic health is that it requires caring for a person we don’t sufficiently value. It’s the opposite of what we’re used to – the person we avoided is now the person we take care of.

That’s a distinction that most of us miss – caring for vs. taking care of. The only person I take care of is me and doing that makes it more feasible for me to care for others. If I take care of someone (assuming they are capable of caring for themselves) I am co dependently taking on responsibilities that are not mine. In so doing, I will deny myself fulfillment of my own needs.

When we make ourselves door mats, deep down we’re wishing that someone would rescue us. In our hearts there is the false hope that those we take care of will give to us as we give to them. They’ll pick us up and make us feel that we deserve so much more than we’ve allowed ourselves. We seek this from our families of origin. We seek this from romantic partners. In truth, it is no one’s job but our own.

If we more fully accept responsibility for our health and happiness, we move away from codependency and toward independence and a life that is manageable, healthy, and fulfilling.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.