By Laura Lifshitz
In the world of female relationships from day one, being nice is stressed; we are told that we should be a good, nice girl … not a bad girl.
Of course, we want our children to be kind. Of course, we want to be kind ourselves. To be good people.
But sometimes, being “nice” is really just a prettier way of framing the fact that you might be a doormat. That you might let others frequently walk, run and fly all over you.
I hear it from women frequently.
“I’m trying to be nice.”
Or, “I felt I needed to be nice.”
And when women say these things, it’s often in a situation where they shouldn’t be nice! Where they shouldn’t just suck it up and deal.
So, how do you know if you’re being kind and respectful, or if you’re being a complete doormat? Because being nice isn’t always the best thing. Sometimes, having a backbone and being tough is the best course of action. All too often, women are dissuaded from being tough, or even tormented for being “bitchy” when really, a woman might just be standing up for herself.
Here are a few ways you can determine if you’re being kind or being a complete doormat.
Trust me. There’s nothing sexy about having a bunch of metaphorical footprints on your face.
1. Are you giving in to avoid confrontation or because you think it’s worth the compromise?
If you find yourself giving in to avoid confrontation, this is a dead-ringer for doormat behavior. You’re not being nice— you’re avoiding standing your ground. You’re giving in due to fear. That’s a sign you’re allowing others to walk all over you without even putting up a good fight.
If you find you’re compromising because it’s for the greater good, that is a positive sign. Of course, if you’re always compromising, that’s not good, but to compromise sometimes is healthy and positive. To consider logically what might be the best course of action and then make a commitment to compromise is healthy as long as you’re not always bending on what you need and want.
2. Are you volunteering to do things or are people assuming you’ll volunteer?
Do you always find yourself ending up picking up the slack, and bearing the brunt of things? Are your kids’ friends always at your place? Do people volunteer you before you even get a chance to protest? Do you say yes to things when really, you want to say no?
If you answered yes, you’re a doormat with a big fat “Walk on me” sign all over you.
If you volunteer because you enjoy being in charge, feel better having your kids with their friends at your house, or just enjoy being active, that’s great. That’s just your personality. You’re a doer and a “take-charger,” and derive pleasure from this.
3. Are you saying yes out of guilt or are you saying yes because something works for you?
Do you find yourself agreeing to do things because you feel bad or guilty? Do you often say yes to avoid a fight? If you’re saying yes to doing things or agreeing to things to avoid uncomfortable feelings, you’re most likely engaging in doormat behavior.
If you say yes to something because you want to do it, it seems fair and ethical, and your values line up with this “yes,” then that is a positive and beautiful thing! Saying yes and feeling positive about that response is a sign that you are doing something because it is the right thing to do, and not because you are avoiding those uncomfortable feelings I mentioned before.
4. Are you giving out signs of displeasure or do you tell someone when you’re unhappy?
Those nice doormats are the absolute worst engagers of passive-aggressive behavior.
Somehow, nice doormats think being passive about their displeasure makes them less mean, or more likable, when in fact, it’s the total opposite.
If you expect others to gage you’re unhappy about something without you saying so directly, you’re a doormat engaging in passive-aggressive behaviors. If you’re giving off hints or slight suggestions, this is also passive-aggressive.
And guess what? It’s not only not nice, but it’s also maddening.
If you can articulate your uncomfortable feelings and share with others that you are unhappy in a direct and constructive manner, congrats! You are not a doormat.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, if you’re ever unsure if you are a doormat, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I happy with my choices?
- Do I feel taken advantage of or taken for granted?
- Do I feel guilt at saying no?
- Am I afraid to speak up?
If you answered, no, yes, yes, and yes … it’s time to address your behavior with yourself and maybe, a therapist to discover how you can uncover your voice and start to set boundaries with others.
There is nothing nice about losing your voice and identity in order to try to please a bunch of people, when at the heart of it, you’re unhappy. Take this New Year to change and embrace who you are and stand your ground!
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.