Release destructive emotions


The Doormat Syndrome & Self Esteem

Lynne Namka, Ed. D. - © 2006 

Doormat behavior is taking on too much at your own expense. Doormats come from a generational tradition of giving, giving, giving and then getting mad because no one gives back to them. As a typical Doormat, you: 

 doormat behavior End up cooking and cleaning up the entire Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners
 doormat behavior Run ahead of others to open the door for them
 doormat behavior Faithfully iron your husband’s shorts when you never have time to read a juicy novel
 doormat behavior Convince your family that you only like the chicken backs and necks
 doormat behavior Consistently bail out helpless people who are sure to fall on their faces if you are not there
 doormat behavior Make it up to those poor souls who have been hurt by life’s slings and arrows.
 doormat behavior Perpetually go without so that he, she or they can go in style

Doormat behavior is a system of learned coping strategies of trying to feel good about yourself. The bottom line is poor self-esteem. You can literally become “hooked” into feeling good by pleasing someone else.

Characteristics of “Doormats”
If you have even given to the point of exhaustion, felt dumped on or ripped off, and puzzled to find yourself coming back for more; if you are involved with people who don’t appreciate you, if you equate love with doing for others, you may be experiencing the Doormat Syndrome.

“Doormats” typically take on too much. They have a whole list of things they should do and should be. They strive for perfection, react to authority, appear strong, deny feelings, and keep a lid on topics that are “not allowed” to be discussed. They commonly think: 

I should always look good.
I should make everything in my life perfect or I am a failure
I should always be liked by everyone.
I should never make a mistake.
I should always be rational and fair (while others are allowed to lose their heads).
I should never argue with those in authority.
I must always make the peace and not allow people to fight or argue.
I should never get angry.
I should never talk about how unhappy I am.
I should always be strong.
I should do it all myself.
I should try harder to be perfect, then things will be better.
I should give everything and put my needs aside.
I should deal in thoughts and not emotions.
I should make others feel good.

Children who grow up believing that their needs are far less important than others are likely to become Doormats as adults. Brought up with the notion that the way to help people is to feel sorry for them, Doormats unconsciously reason, “He hurts; I don’t; therefore, I should feel bad.” Doormats then try to take on the other person’s pain for them, tell the other person what to do and how to do it - and, if possible, Doormats will take over and handle the problem. When they take care of others, they feel important, worthy.

They may take secret pride in how strong they are and how much they can take. This “no matter what” attitude is dangerous, because it encourages others to heap it on. Doormats are great at addition and look for extra burdens to take on, but they rarely are good at subtracting the unnecessary weight from their shoulders.

Doormats also are likely to blame themselves when things go wrong, in an attempt to ward off outside criticism and punishment of themselves or others. Trying to be all things to all people, Doormats commonly end up feeling that their self-sacrifice is not appreciated or acknowledged. They may become bitter, viewing themselves as victims or martyrs.

Doormats often have some level of awareness of these problems, but feelings of insecurity and a low sense of self-worth keep them trapped in the behavior.

They unconsciously choose to:

  • completely deny what’s going on
  • accept the “facts” but deny the consequences with a “so what?  What’s the big deal?  That’s the way things are.” attitude  
  • numb the emotions, refusing to feel badly, and adopt a Pollyanna approach 
  •  refuse to consider changing and maintain an underlying attitude of, “Yes, it’s true and it’s getting worse, but there’s nothing I can do."
Doormats need to learn ways of thinking and acting that are honest and respectful both of themselves and of others. They need to learn to value their own needs as much as they value the needs of others.

For the Doormat, there is no fix like the fix of fixing someone who is perceived to be broken. That’s the heavy part. Now for the lightness, cheer and happiness part. What has been learned can be unlearned!

Lynne Namka, Ed. D. is a happy psychologist, mom, grandmother, author of anger release books and founder of Talk, Trust & Feel Therapeutics. Her is mission is to promote peace in the world by teaching people positive communication skills. Helpful information and techniques can be found at and Copyright © 2006 Lynne Namka, Ed.D. All rights reserved. Permission granted to reprint this article on your website without altercation if you include this entire copyright statement and leave the hyperlinks live and in place.


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