I’m a recovering doormat.
I should be ashamed to admit that, but I’m not.
It’s the way that I was raised.
Growing up in an abusive environment, you are often told by your abusers and their enablers that there are justifiable reasons for their abuse of you. Either, they are having a bad day or a bad life. They have an anger problem or a drinking problem. Their boss is a jerk, so they are taking it out on you. Or, you upset them, so it’s your fault that they treat you so badly.
In short, it’s okay if these people mistreat you and walk all over you; they have “good reasons”.
You take that nonsense from childhood and carry that baggage with you into adulthood. When you meet new people out in the world, you allow them leeway to mistreat you because you were raised to be understanding of people and compassionate towards their personal issues, to a fault. Sure, the world tells you that if a person physically harms you, you should run like the wind, but very few people, at least, when I was growing up, would tell you that you need to hit the curb if somebody abuses your kindness. Instead, we are taught that we should be gentle and meek and turn the other cheek, in hopes that those people will get the message that you are good person who doesn’t deserve to be walked all over and soon those people will change their “evil ways” due to your compassionate example.
That may be true, but only up to a point. But, so long as you appear willing to let them, some people will abuse your kindness until you get fed up and tell them to kick rocks or until you pack your own bags and hit the road, leaving them behind.
Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t yet gotten that full memo. Even as late as last year, I was still buying the baloney that maybe I was not giving new “friends” the benefit of the doubt because of pitiful treatment from old “friends”. The way that I feel nowadays is, “if the shoe fits…”
Just last year, I helped an acquaintance, who seemed like a nice person and, at the time, I was glad to do it. Someone close to me had handed me a kindness, so I thought that I would pay it forward. Almost immediately, upon helping out this acquaintance, I began to regret it. I was not going to let this individual treat me like a doormat, but there was no prior accounting for how persistent she was at trying to get more out of me, by trying to stir up my compassionate side. This individual was not even bothering to take “No!” for an answer. She kept coming at me, week after week for a year (no kidding!), in hopes that she would finally elicit a “Yes!”. It took me an entire year to send the message that I was no longer a doormat, because of ONE act of kindness. Then, after that one year, this same individual has gone on to attempt to smear my name because I refused to help her a second time. I have embraced the smear campaign, where once I would have buckled, in order to save my “good reputation”. I no longer make excuses to or for people who don’t respect me and if people who claim to be my friends are willing to fall for the smears, then I don’t have time to explain myself to them, either. It’s so much easier to kick the dust from my shoes and keep it moving to calmer pastures (yes, even if people are telling bold-faced lies about me).
It’s been a a very long road to recovery from being a doormat. I was afraid to hurt people’s feelings if I said, “No!” I was afraid that it made me look mean or selfish. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me. I was correct, for the most part, but then, again, who needs friends who won’t be friends with you when you say “No” to things that will only benefit them and likely harm you? On the other hand, I only got invited to hang out with them if and when I did say, “Yes”, but never the times before or after.
As I’ve been in recovery, it’s been interesting to note just how many “friends” I actually have that have never asked anything more of me than my company. I’ve had people befriend me for my checkbook (“they’ve got a wonderful new business opportunity to share with me…oh, I’m not interested?…well, um, it’s been nice knowing you”). I’ve had people befriend me for my faith, or lack, thereof and vanish once they’ve been told that I have no intention of attending their church, even for a brief visit. I’ve had people befriend me when my business was popular in the community; If I got something for free, they hoped they would, too or because we were “friends” I would give them my business services for free (and, of course, their word of mouth was supposed to expand my business…a win-win for “everyone”).
It’s been a slow recovery, at least, to start, for pretty much the same reasons that I was a doormat to begin with. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I also didn’t want to be perceived as projecting my baggage onto new friends. Now my philosophy is simple, “If the shoe fits,…prove me wrong!” Sadly, my circle of friends is much smaller than it was a decade ago and I still meet people who disappoint me, and I have to walk away from them. But, I feel more self-confident now, than I ever have before; my worth isn’t measured by my friend count or the favors that I do or don’t do for them.
I have no illusions that there aren’t still people out there who will try to walk all over me, the difference today, than in the past, is that I no longer have the patience to tolerate people with dirty feet.