Last updated on September 25th, 2023 at 11:10 am
What is a doormat?
I’ve been creating short videos to help people understand different elements of what makes a relationship work or not work. My most popular video thus far is on being a doormat. Being a doormat is a term I got from Al-Anon years ago. It means we are the one who gets stepped on. We are the one who is just there, without needs. Today, we are going to explore being a doormat.
Elements of being a doormat
Being a doormat is someone who puts up with too much and doesn’t ask for enough from others. This often includes:
- Being afraid of abandonment.
- Not knowing how to hold a boundary.
- Not knowing your self-worth.
Being a doormat is painful.
- It means you can be easily manipulated.
- That you put up with unhealthy situations.
- That you give up your needs to stay connected, and you may take care of others at your own expense.
If you tend to be a doormat, you probably won’t get what you need until you learn your self-worth.
Why are you a doormat?
Now why does this happen? Why do people put up with too much and not ask for enough?
As humans, we innately need to be mirrored by our caregivers. We need to be seen as good, worthy, and we need to be valued. And while our parents or caregivers may mostly see us that way, there are always gaps between what we need and what we receive.
For example, suppose your mother was more interested in partying than being there for you. Or if your father never made time for you. Often, in those kinds of scenarios, it creates a sense of failure or lack of worthiness in the child. The ways in which our complete needs are not met are endless and often subtle.
Winnicott came up with the concept of “good enough” parents. Meaning we don’t have to be perfect as parents; we just have to be good enough. So, this isn’t about parent bashing. It is about understanding that as imperfect humans, even doing our best, we will probably not meet every one of our child’s needs.
We all have wounds because of the gaps between what we need and what we receive. Ways in which we do not feel good enough. Ways in which we were not affirmed. Ways in which we doubt ourselves or our value.
That leaves us hungry to fill those gaps and address those needs. And we may, as a result, be afraid of abandonment. We may self-sacrifice to keep the person we love close to us. We may put up with unacceptable behavior. We may end up “being a doormat.”
The Journey of learning and healing
For many of us, this sets us up on a learning trajectory. To have a good relationship, we must learn how to be with the one we love in a way that honors both of us. We have to decide that we want to be healthy no matter how difficult it is. We want to make good choices. We want to not just care for our partners but also care for ourselves. We want to understand boundaries. We want to trust ourselves and not listen to the voices (internal or external) that put us down or tell us untruths.
Sometimes we have a partner who helps us with this by being supportive. Other times we have a partner who helps us with this by being awful, by not being there, by being manipulative, or by treating us badly. As we struggle with the feelings that come up for us and seek tools and capacities that we do not yet have, we step into a journey of self-healing.
Learning how to claim and carry our self-worth into a relationship is a spiritual and emotional journey filled with meaning. Healing may be part of the purpose of your life and a significant accomplishment in your life.
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