Relationship Rescue: How to stop always putting yourself last

Anne asks Jo Lamble for tips on how to stop feeling like a doormat.

Help! I feel like a doormat!

Anne is sick of always doing things for other people. She’s feeling unappreciated and yet, she continues to put other people first. So, she’s asked Jo Lamble for tips on how to stop feeling like a doormat.


Q. Anne
I always feel like I do more for others than they do for me. It may sound selfish, but I’m starting to feel like a doormat, and yet, I keep doing and doing for others. Do you know why? How can I stop? I’d like to have more ‘me’ time, but I always put myself last. Can you help me?    

A. In psychobabble-land, we call what’s happening to you ‘continuous reinforcement’. In plain speak, it means that if you always give to others, they come to expect that you will give and they will receive. Over time, their behaviour is reinforced – it becomes stronger and stronger. They take more and more, and stop thinking about what you may need. They start to take you for granted and you’ll feel like a doormat. It’s amazing; the same person can happily take from you but give to others. That’s because it’s about the relationship dynamic that develops over time. The more you do for them, the less they’ll do for you. The less another friend does for them, the more effort they may make with that person.

Most people who feel like doormats are their own worst enemy because they are the ones who are offering to help before they’ve even been asked. So, what’s the answer? You don’t want to play games by not being the generous, giving woman that you are, but you can change the dynamic by adopting the mantra: I matter too.

It’s not selfish to consider yourself before doing something for someone else. You don’t have to put yourself before everyone else – that would be selfish. But you shouldn’t always put others before you – that’s selfless. Just aim for somewhere in between where you matter just as much as others do.

Finally, remember that it feels good to give. If you are always giving, you can be depriving another person of the joy of giving to you. Think about a friend who always compliments you the moment she sees you. It doesn’t feel as good to give her a compliment in return.

Sometimes you want to get in first when you genuinely believe she looks great or she’s done something wonderful. It’s the same with giving anything – allow your friends to give to you by not being the first to do something for them. Stand back and wait to be asked. And when you’re asked, seriously consider whether giving that help is what you want to do. Remember – I matter too.

If you have a question for Jo Lamble, please send it to

Jo Lamble is a Clinical Psychologist who has been in private practice for over 25 years. She sees individuals, couples, and groups and specialises in parenting and relationship issues. Jo has been a regular contributor on Channel 7’s Sunrise and is the resident psychologist for the online magazine The Carousel.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    The Sheriff
    21st Feb 2018
    Anne, let all that Jo said go through to the keeper except for the last three sentences. If you altruistically offer to help someone or even to give them something you feel will be a benefit to them I can assure you that 9 times out of 10 they will resent your "interference" and mentally put you down as a busybody. As Jo has indicated wait until you are asked and if there is no or limited inconvenience to you consider the request. Always remember you are the most important person in your life and make it your daily goal to enjoy that life to the fullest extent. With your obvious kind giving nature one way to achieve satisfaction is when you see someone desperately and genuinely in need of help with a Go Fund Me page make an anonymous donation to their cause. Acts like this will certainly lift your spirits to say nothing of your confidence.
    21st Feb 2018
    Ah - there are givers and takers in this world and the takers can identify the giver very quickly and latch on as the most friendly parasite you have ever met.
    To remove the taker from ones shoulders usually requires something as powerful as methylated spirits on an embedded tick. However the tick by its very nature can not then become the host and allow itself to be feasted upon.
    This means that parasitic friend was in fact not a friend but a user and you will feel lost if you don't continue to have the life blood sucked from you.
    The solution is easier than you realise. Choose your hobbies and activities well. Don't have activities that rely on you transporting people, entertaining people in your own home or paying for group holiday trips. There are fellow sole mates out there who just want a chat and a meet and greet and that's it.
    This is one a friend recommended: - A holiday with lovely people and no commitment.
    21st Feb 2018
    White women are the most privileged self entitled group on the planet. Most are greedy shallow and demanding. Everything done for them is their right and anything they do needs constant praise. Most know all about their rights and nothing about their responsibilities. So Ann if you have a close look at yourself you will most likely find like most women you are a taker not a giver but you have just learned to accept everyone else's sacrifices as your right.
    21st Feb 2018
    Ouch !
    I think you meant ALL women:)
    21st Feb 2018
    I would say Tib that the women in your life r takers however that doesnt mean we are all like that. I feel sorry for you.
    21st Feb 2018
    Right on, Tib - as usual.

    Marriage vows:
    Man: "I do";
    Woman: "He will".
    21st Feb 2018
    Tib, I have met you on other opinion pieces, and come to realize that you are either a born mysogenist or have gone through some very negative experience with the female gender. This is the only way I can understand the comments you make. Believe it or not, there are many good and caring females out there!
    21st Feb 2018
    Ditto for Knows-a-lot. Life for these men must be unutterably sad!
    21st Feb 2018
    I'm not a misogynist. But let's be clear misogynist aren't born theyre made. And there's more every day.
    21st Feb 2018
    Wow - just look at the females attacking the poor man just because he stated his views

    Tib - be thankful you arent married to one of these
    21st Feb 2018
    Jenny our lives are very happy
    21st Feb 2018
    Raphael you are so right imagine how unhappy I would be... And broke.
    21st Feb 2018
    Someone got you a real beaudy, Tib. Oh so bitter! Still!
    Try judging people by the behaviour, rather than by their gender. Generalising helps no-one, especially not yourself.

    Back to Anne's problem now. We all learn these behaviours from our childhood situations. It obviously "served" you to be helpful and generous when you were a child. Friends and parents may have rewarded you for these traits. People like to have friends who are helpful and giving. Trouble is, you end up attracting friends who might take advantage of your helpfulness and generosity. So try to step back from situations where people expect you to be constantly giving, and situations where you expect it of yourself. It takes two to tango, so to speak, and old habits die hard, but at some stage you must choose where you want to be, if you are to ever break the chains. Once you've freed yourself, you'll be a much happier person and therefore, a better friend and companion.
    21st Feb 2018
    Boohoo we are always hearing from women how they can't stop sacrificing and how giving they are, ohhhh and how generous they are. Funny it's always them telling the story. Ha ha I bet everyone around them tells a different story. How women can have such a high opinion of themselves never ceases to amaze me. They are such martyrs, in their imagination.
    22nd Feb 2018
    You are 100% correct Tib.
    21st Feb 2018
    I think you need to question your own motives, why are you helping others all the time? Some people will never ask for help but truly need it, others don't need it but are happy to take it, and you need to sift through and decide who you want to help, but stop to ask can they really do it themselves or get anyone else to do it. My mum is 81 and finally learned how to say no. Also do you accept other people help or are you the one who says no I am right thanks. I like to be independent so I find it hard to ask for help, so The Sheriffs comment about not offering may not always be correct. Look after yourself first and meet all your needs, if you have the energy, time and patience to help others, pick and choose who you think is worthy. Encourage others to do it themselves by showing them or suggesting how, or just ask can you ask anyone else. Share the burden and make it lighter on your shoulders. Don't wait until you wear yourself out and get sick then who can you help then.

    21st Feb 2018
    "In giving you receive." - Jesus Christ.

    22nd Feb 2018
    Just another example of all women being 'the victim'.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles