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Are You a Relational Doormat?

Do you identify yourself as someone who is a doormat? Do you know someone (or are you) someone who allows people to socially step on you, tell you what to do, or invalidate you? For someone who wants to please people, myself included, this experience is all too common. It can be hard to say no or set a limit. When this experience is happening too often and you’re ready to make a change, think about taking a stand in these ways with the three S’s:

  1. Self-Appraise. Take a look at yourself and notice your strengths. Maybe ask someone who you trust to notice the positive traits you have. Perhaps you have a spiritual or religious experience that acknowledges your inherent worth. As you are able to see the value you have as a person, being a doormat is less of an option.

  2. Speak Up. When I want to please people, it is common for me to say yes to virtually every request they ask of me, or go out of my way to accommodate them, regardless of whether they ask. Remembering that my time is valuable and there are other things I want to do, I have found value in being able to say “I can’t this time around” or “no thank you, I have other plans” when I feel I am being treated or treating myself like a doormat.

  3. Step Away. When a relationship becomes too difficult to manage and you have done what you can to speak up and it is ineffective, take a break from the relationship. As Kenny Rogers sang, “You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” 


Lou Lim is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.

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