How to Stop Being a Human Doormat for People

by Karen Kleinschmidt
Learning to set boundaries and say no to others can take time.

Learning to set boundaries and say no to others can take time.

Women often fall into the role of pleasing others; it begins with finding it difficult or being unable to say no. While it is important to acknowledge the needs of others, it becomes an issue when you do so at the expense of your own needs and desires, according to Elizabeth Svoboda in her Psychology Today article, "Field Guide to the People-Pleaser: May I Serve as Your Doormat?" It can be challenging to change your long-standing behavior; take baby steps toward your goal to create boundaries with your time and energy.

Consider Your Needs

Often, people-pleasing begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. The rewards you received as a child from your pleased parents lead you to similar behavior with your friends, spouse, colleagues and boss as you grow and mature. Each time you strive to please someone, your self-esteem is validated and you attain short-term fulfillment, according to Psychology Today. Often, you realize too late that you have failed to meet your own needs, or worse, don't even know what those needs are. You may fear losing others if you don't meet their needs. For example, ask yourself why you are watching your neighbor's children for the third time this week when it makes it impossible to complete your errands. Be honest with yourself and take steps to eliminate irrational fears.

Pause Before Answering

Since the people in your life are used to you saying yes, it can be difficult to say no, and can be a shock for those close to you to hear it. Begin to keep a weekly calendar. This way, if your boss asks you to work on a special project this Saturday, you can pause and look at your calendar before giving your answer. If you're free, you might consider, but if it's your son's championship baseball game, it can spell disaster to try and squeeze too much into one day. Take a deep breath before responding, "Thank you for thinking of me for the special project. I'll be unable to make it in on Saturday. Is there an evening this week I can help you out?" This conveys your appreciation and offers alternatives in an assertive manner.

Set Boundaries

Keep a journal for a short time to identify which people and what situations set you up to be taken advantage of. While there is no need to shut people out of your life, setting limits can help you avoid allowing resentment to build, which can keep you from damaging or ending the relationship. For example, if you notice a pattern with your brother stopping over unannounced every Thursday night with his kids just as you're trying to settle your own down for the evening, you might say, "You're welcome to come over, Mike. However, please give me a call first and come before 7. I start to get the kids ready for bed at 8." Your brother will know he's welcome while also recognizing the boundaries regarding calling and the time frame.

Be Yourself

To avoid getting hurt in the future, remember it's impossible to please everyone, and according to Psych Central, you can only change your thoughts, feelings and actions, not those of others. By realizing this, you will begin to take notice of what is important to you and what makes you feel good as a person. As you say no to the things that you don't want to do, such as the school bake sale or the town-wide garage sale, you will free up time to spend with your loved ones, take up a hobby, or relax with that book that's been sitting on your nightstand for three months. It takes persistence and effort to make these changes, but the end result is freedom.

About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

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