11 Tips To Stop Letting People Treat You Like A Doormat (Ever Again)

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Are you tired of constantly putting other’s needs before your own?

Do you feel as though you’re being treated like a doormat?

That realization can feel both crushing and liberating. Crushing in the sense that you are facing the reality of how people treat you—people who you may have believed care about you. Liberating because you can now do something about it.

This article is broken down into four primary sections that explore the real-life meaning of being treated like a doormat, the signs that confirm you are, the reasons why people treat you this way, and how you can put a stop to it.

Are you ready? Great, let’s dive in.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you stop people treating you like a doormat. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.

What does being treated like a doormat mean?

Simply put, to be treated like a doormat means to be at the beck and call of other people without having any of your needs met.

It’s other people giving you responsibility and relying on you when they are unreliable to you. Being treated like a doormat is you showing up for others without them ever showing up for you.

Let’s look at some examples of being someone’s doormat to help illustrate the situation:

1. Your friend treats you like a therapist. They come to you with their problems, air them out, but never have the time or emotional energy to listen to you. They use you as an emotional dumping ground for their problems but don’t give you the same consideration.

2. Your coworkers “volunteer” you for their work. A person who can’t say no at work will often find themselves saddled with additional responsibilities as the lazier people shuffle their work.

Usually, this comes in the form of a request for help—”Can you help me with XYZ?” And then they just stop doing that thing, assuming you’ll pick up the slack. You may also have a boss who asks for an impossible amount of work from you.

3. Your romantic partner doesn’t pull their weight in the relationship. You may find that your partner shirks their chores, earning money, or general expectations of a relationship. They may constantly be asking you for money even though they have their own. They may not be working or looking for a job to help with bills. They may not do simple things like laundry, cooking, or dishes because they “just don’t know how;” as if it’s hard to learn.

Signs You Might Be A Doormat

How can you confirm whether you’re allowing yourself to be treated like a doormat? By looking for the signs. These signs include:

You resent people.

Do you find yourself resenting particular people in your life? Can you identify the reason why? Are they asking too much from you? Are they never helping you out when you need it?

Resentment is caused when someone doesn’t feel appreciated or acknowledged for their effort. They are being taken advantage of and they know it’s not right.

You may find that resentment festers when you are sacrificing your time, effort, and values for others.

You get into (and struggle to get out of) toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships deny you respect and consideration. You may not believe that you deserve respectful friends and partners, so you stay in bad relationships where people walk all over you.

People with codependency issues often find themselves in toxic relationships because they are convinced that they need and madly love this one specific person. And while one’s love for that specific person may be passionate, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

You are prone to people pleasing.

People pleasers are often treated like doormats because they have poor boundaries. You may want to be appealing to people so that you can be liked. You’re being too nice, which communicates to others that you will accept their poor treatment.

The problem is that other people generally aren’t all that good. When they find a people pleaser, that person just becomes another person to take advantage of.

People pleasers often lack the assertiveness to enforce their boundaries. They may also find that they are unappreciated. The people-pleaser may notice that no one reaches out to them unless they need something.

You engage in approval-seeking behavior.

Approval-seeking behavior orbits around social acceptance. People who engage in approval-seeking behavior often don’t have opinions of their own and tend to adopt the opinions of the people around them instead.

This behavior often backfires, however.

First, it teaches other people not to trust you because you can’t be trusted to be honest about your opinions. You need to have your own thoughts and opinions to gain the respect of others.

Second, it teaches other people that you are malleable enough to go along with whatever it is they are doing. They know you won’t stand up for yourself because you’ll just change your opinions to match theirs.

You are always the first to apologize.

Disagreements are a normal part of relationships. It’s how people mend those disagreements that determines whether or not that relationship stays healthy. There is a problem if you are the first one to apologize in most or all disagreements.

You are being treated as a doormat if the other person never takes responsibility for their actions or the hurt they cause you. Disagreements are going to happen. Anyone who is close to another is going to hurt them sooner or later because people are just messy creatures. There’s no reason why you should be the only one apologizing.

You’re treated as an unpaid therapist.

It’s normal for friends to commiserate about things they are going through. We lean on one another for support to try to navigate this thing we call life. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to do this.

On the healthy side, both people will be able to communicate the challenges they are facing and receive support, if not assistance. Both people will feel appreciated and supported. The relationship itself will be more than just trauma-dumping negative emotions on one another.

On the unhealthy side, you’ll be treated like their therapist. They will come to you, unload their emotional baggage, and then scamper back off until the next time they need to talk.

They will not support you, ask how you’re doing, and may even flat-out ignore you when you say you’re having a problem. They may also take a situation that you’re dealing with, turn it around, and make it about themselves.

They may be a chronic complainer, what’s called an “emotional vampire,” in that you feel emotionally drained after talking to them.

Your relationship(s) lack reciprocity.

Simply put, people are not there for you when you need them. People use you.

That may go as far as avoiding calls or contacts until they need something from you. In conversations, they will overlook negative things that you say or ask for help with. They make promises that they don’t keep. They don’t show up when they do agree to help you out with something.

Why do people treat me like a doormat?

We need to explore why people walk all over you if we are to find a good solution to the problem. The truth is that this problem is often rooted in poor self-esteem, poor boundaries, or past trauma.

Weak Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries help to ensure you have healthy relationships and tell others how you want them to treat you.

But strong personal boundaries aren’t natural to everyone. In fact, many people have to learn how to establish and enforce boundaries because they’ve been taught to not have any.

People with weak personal boundaries may exhibit some of the following qualities:

1. Difficulty saying no.

People with weak boundaries often find it hard to say no to other’s requests and demands even when it’s not in their best interest. They often feel compelled to please others at their own expense.

2. Overcommitment.

They often spread themselves too thin by taking on too many obligations or responsibilities because they have a difficult time limiting their time and energy.

3. Tolerating disrespect.

Individuals with weak boundaries may allow others to invade their personal space, disrespect their needs or preferences, or treat them poorly.

4. Difficulty expressing needs and emotions.

They may not feel comfortable expressing their own needs and emotions because they fear it will disappoint or upset others.

5. Emotional vulnerability.

They may be easily manipulated or hurt by others because they allow others to influence their emotions and well-being to an unhealthy degree.

6. Codependency.

People with weak boundaries often neglect their independence and self-reliance. Instead, they may become overly dependent on others for support, validation, and decision-making.

7. Role confusion.

Weak boundaries may negatively influence one’s role and identity in relationships. Instead of being their own person, they may merge their identity with another’s or constantly adapt to please others.

8. Stress and burnout.

Constantly accommodating others and neglecting one’s own needs can lead to high levels of stress, burnout, and even physical illnesses.

9. Difficulty asserting themselves.

Assertiveness is a skill that requires setting and enforcing boundaries. Individuals with weak boundaries typically struggle to assert their boundaries and avoid conflict at all costs.

10. Unfulfilling relationships.

Weak boundaries can lead to unhealthy, one-sided relationships that feel draining or unfulfilling. They often give too much and the other person takes advantage.

Childhood Influences

Many character traits are formulated in childhood as the child experiences life with their adults. A person with healthy, loving adults in their life is going to learn good habits they will take into adulthood.

On the other hand, unhealthy adults in a child’s life may negatively influence their development, perceptions of the world, and self-worth.

Here are some examples of how childhood experiences can influence personal boundaries:

1. Inconsistent or neglectful parenting.

Children with caregivers who are inconsistent in providing attention, care, and discipline may have trouble understanding boundaries. People who experienced inconsistent or neglectful parenting may struggle to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

2. Overprotective parenting.

A child raised by caregivers who are overprotective or excessively controlling may not learn how to assert their own needs and desires. Instead, that was always done for them by the overprotective adult.

3. Lack of emotional validation.

Caregivers who do not validate or acknowledge their child’s emotions may cause their child to struggle with establishing boundaries and advocating for themselves. The child may grow up unsure about the validity of their feelings as an adult.

4. Enmeshment.

Enmeshment occurs when there is not a clear separation of identity, individuality, and roles within a family. Instead, the people “enmesh” into one another by adopting pieces of one another’s identity, needs, and boundaries.

A child from an enmeshed family may grow up and find it difficult to understand where they end and others begin. That makes it difficult to establish individual boundaries.

5. Abuse and neglect.

Children who experience neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse often have distorted views of their own boundaries and self-worth.

They may struggle to protect or assert themselves because of fear, shame, and confusion. They may also come to learn that not having boundaries allows them to avoid abuse.

On the other hand, people with exceptionally healthy childhoods may struggle with boundaries as an adult because of naivete. They’ve been sheltered from the negativity of the world and people who do bad things to the point that they don’t understand how to have healthy boundaries.

6. Modeling behavior.

Children often learn by observing the behavior of the people around them. If they see adults with no or weak boundaries, they may learn and adopt this behavior themselves.

7. Cultural and societal influences.

Different groups of people have different expectations on boundaries. Some may emphasize individualism and autonomy while others emphasize collectivism and interdependence. These cultural or societal traits will shape the child’s perceptions of personal boundaries.

8. Peer relationships.

As a child, positive, respectful interactions with their peers help the child develop a healthy understanding of boundaries and personal space.

Childhood experiences significantly influence the behavior of and development of healthy boundaries. The good news is that these old habits can be relearned by developing new skills, learning social dynamics, and changing habits.

How do I stop being treated like a doormat?

A person who allows themselves to be treated like a doormat has likely experienced life circumstances that taught them to accept poor behavior. Their habits are often developed as a defensive mechanism for surviving abusive or traumatic situations.

The good news is that you can develop new habits. You can learn how to establish healthy boundaries and assert yourself when treated poorly.

The following 11 strategies can help you do that:

1. Improve your self-respect.

Do you respect yourself? People who respect themselves do not stand around and let other people mistreat them. They know that they are valuable and do not deserve to be treated badly by anyone.

Of course, some situations are different than others. Sometimes you just have to swallow the behavior and bear it, like in the case of a bad manager at a job that you need.

However, in other situations, you shouldn’t hang around in relationships or situations that put you down.

Take care of your mental and physical health. Learn stress management, get regular sleep and exercise, and cut back on things like caffeine, energy drinks, or substances.

Set meaningful, attainable goals that can help you feel accomplished. That feeling of accomplishment will remind you, “Hey! I’m a capable, able person!” Keep a record of your achievements and skills so you can go back, read them, and remind yourself of them when you’re feeling low.

Avoid self-deprecating remarks about yourself. Some people find self-deprecating jokes funny—and sometimes they are. The problem is that people without healthy self-esteem or self-respect often use self-deprecating jokes to tear themselves down under the guise “of just joking.” But they’re not joking.

What you say to yourself about yourself matters. Develop more loving language and affirmations to say to yourself instead.

Take some time to sit down and think about your core values. Use them as an inner compass when you’re facing a difficult decision. In doing so, you’ll help develop your confidence and remind yourself that you can make good decisions.

2. Learn what healthy relationships look like.

Relationships can be tricky when you don’t know what is and is not okay. Our perceptions of relationships are often formulated based on the people we spend time around.

The problem is that sometimes we’re surrounded by unhealthy people which makes unhealthiness look normal. Then, since we assume that’s normal, we carry those unhealthy behaviors into other relationships which make them difficult and painful.

You’ll feel more confident in setting boundaries when you know what is and is not okay. In a relationship, you always have the right to:

  • Make mistakes without being berated or bullied.
  • Change your mind or preferences without feeling or being made to feel guilty.
  • Say no without being made to feel bad, punished, manipulated, or coerced into changing your opinions.
  • Be treated with respect. No one has the right to threaten, intimidate, or bully you.

3. Think about your personal boundaries.

A boundary is a hard line that should not be crossed in a relationship. Essentially, they define what you will and won’t tolerate from others.

Clear, defined boundaries can prevent others from treating you like a doormat.

For example, you may set a boundary of never lending people money. By setting that boundary, no one can take advantage of you financially by asking for money and never paying you back.

Boundaries can sometimes shift and change. For example, you may be happy to check in on your friend’s dog when she’s away for a weekend. However, you draw your boundary at taking the dog into your home for a week.

It’s okay if your boundaries change as long as you communicate them clearly. Don’t expect others to know or assume your boundaries. Communication about your boundaries is ultimately your responsibility.

If someone asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself, “Does this cross one of my boundaries?” If the answer is yes, then you need to enforce your boundary by saying no or asking them to change their behavior.

4. Practice saying “no.”

Saying “no” is an important skill for enforcing your boundaries. You may have heard the saying, “The word ‘no’ is a complete sentence.” And while it’s true you have the right to say no without explanation, it doesn’t always work out that way.

In reality, you may feel too awkward to just say no or you may find that some discussion does need to happen for the sake of the relationship. If you do engage in conversation to not be treated like a doormat, don’t use elaborate explanations or reasoning. Something as simple as, “I don’t feel comfortable with that.” can communicate a lot.

You can also try making a suggestion that feels more comfortable for you and respects your boundary. Compromise is a better solution in relationships you want to maintain.

5. Ask for better treatment.

The ability to say “no” to requests that make you feel uncomfortable is a great start to developing your self-respect so that you’re not treated like a doormat. The next step is learning how to ask someone to change their behavior when they mistreat you. The following short process will help.

  • Think about how you feel.
  • Express when you feel that way.
  • Express what you would like to change.

For example:

“I feel hurt when you make fun of my hobby that I really love. I would appreciate it if you would stop doing that.”

“I feel afraid when you start yelling. I don’t want you to yell around or at me anymore.”

You can call them out if they repeat the behavior. If they refuse to meet your boundary, then you’ll need to show yourself some respect and decide how you can best stand up for yourself.

This may be something like removing yourself from the situation or even ending a relationship to stop the bad behavior.

6. Be clear about the consequences of continued behavior.

If you’ve asked someone to change their behavior and they keep overstepping your boundaries, you don’t have to give them another chance. It’s up to you to decide whether or not to forgive them or continue the relationship.

If you do want to give them a second chance, you may want to spell out what you will do the next time they overstep your boundaries. But, only do this if you’re willing to follow through. The other person won’t take you seriously if you don’t follow through.

7. Use assertive nonverbal communication.

Assertive body language makes you appear and feel more confident. When you need to project assertive body language, keep the following in mind:

  • Do not fidget.
  • Sit or stand upright. Practice good posture.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Maintain a sincere facial expression. Don’t grin or frown.
  • Don’t lean in too close or lean away. Stay a reasonable distance from the person.
  • Mind how you gesture. Avoid pointing as this can be interpreted as aggression.

8. Judge by their actions, not words.

Listen more to a person’s actions than their words. Words are easy. They require virtually no effort to speak. Actions, on the other hand, go a long way to prove a person’s intentions.

No matter how nice the words sound, they mean nothing unless accompanied by respectful behavior.

For example, someone might be taking advantage of you but say things like:

“How could you think I was using you? We’ve been friends for years!”

“I’m your partner. I’d never take advantage of you.”

Look for mismatches between words and actions. It’s less difficult than it seems. If a person claims to respect you, do you feel respected? Do you feel good when interacting with that person? Do you feel like they care about you and your needs?

Once you can establish that, you can decide to be firmer with your boundaries. If it’s a continuing problem, it may be time to end the relationship.

If someone often does or says things that they later deny, you are likely being manipulated. If you feel like it’s making you question your reality, then it falls into the territory of gaslighting. Both are considered emotional abuse.

9. Know that you don’t have to save every relationship.

Friendships and romantic relationships don’t always work out, and that’s okay. Very few friendships or relationships last a lifetime. Don’t sacrifice your self-respect and be a doormat just to save a relationship.

You may need to respond to someone who disrespects your boundaries or mistreats you by ending the relationship.

This doesn’t mean you failed or that you aren’t a good person. It just means that it’s time to move on to people who will treat you better.

10. Be ready for resistance.

Be prepared for some resistance when you start setting boundaries to stop trying to please everyone.

If someone is used to you saying “yes” or just going along with what they want all the time, they will likely be surprised or annoyed when you start acting less agreeable. Be consistent. People who love and value you will typically try to adapt.

But you may be in an abusive relationship if you don’t feel safe enough to stand up for yourself and talk about boundaries. In this case, your first priority should be to stay safe and look for help from appropriate authorities.

11. Seek help from a mental health professional.

There may be other underlying mental health concerns if you are regularly treated like a doormat and can’t seem to make progress out of that mindset.

It could be that you have unaddressed trauma, mental illness, or some other mental health concern that is affecting your self-perception and self-respect.

If you find that you can’t seem to make progress or feel confused, it would be best to seek help from a certified mental health professional.

BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome behaviors they don’t really understand in the first place. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.