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.
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 [email protected]
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.