Question: What is wrong with me? I ‘m in relationships where I’m walked on and ignored. Romantic, friendships, bosses, everyone thinks I’m a doormat! I tell myself it’s not really that bad since no one is actually hitting me, but I feel like crap all the time and I just want to scream. I’m nice to everyone, I make sure everyone else is happy, why can’t people be nice to me?
Answer: Because you’re not nice to yourself. Other people treat you in the ways you allow. You allow what you think you deserve. And unfortunately, you think you deserve however people have treated you. It is a vicious circle that you try to get out of by being nicer to people than they deserve. If you want out, you must learn how to make other people uncomfortable, maybe even miserable.
You’ve been making sure the boat stays steady and everyone can ignore you as you make their ride smooth. Time to rock that baby right on over and stand up for your rights.
A few things to remember before you start dumping people out (and it will be a good thing when you finally do this.)
- Your boat is not the Titanic and no one is going to drown. Other people are supposed to have some emotional skills of their own and the ability to weather the occasional swim in the river. Stop taking the responsibility for their emotional health. Let ’em swim!
- You might blow sky high the first several times you try this. Do it anyway. The other option is to continue stuffing these emotions and resenting everyone around you. Stuffing emotions leads to bad things like ulcers and heart attacks. Make people uncomfortable; it’s better than dying of resentment.
- This will feel weird and uncomfortable. Those feelings are about the newness of what you’re doing, not whether you’re right or wrong. Discomfort is a normal part of learning a new skill, don’t let the feeling stop you. What you’re heading towards feels better than where you are right now.
You won’t know the first thing about effectively making other people uncomfortable on purpose. You’ve never done it before. So expect that you’re on a learning curve and not everything you try will work. To make sure more of it works than not, here’s some tips on how to do this with maximum effect.
- The unexpected is your friend. Scream, drop to your knees in prayer, slam something, burst into tears, make it up as you go!
- But not your BEST friend! Whatever you do, return to normal fast for greatest impact. You want people to think that it’s better to have you happy so you don’t get wild again. You do NOT want them to believe you’ve gone over the edge and it has nothing to do with their behavior.
- You need a behavior you don’t like, not an explanation. You do not have to tell people why you lost it, just make sure you lose it strategically after a behavior you really hate. Whether they figure it out consciously or not, they’ll get it.
- Keep using all the niceness you’ve been practicing for years. Just use it more thoughtfully. Be nice to people around you when they are doing something you want to encourage. At the very least, be nicer to people who are less irritating to you.
- Guilt trips from the people you’ve rocked are a behavior you do not like! Look directly at the person attempting to do this and repeat after me, “Are you trying to tell me something? It seems like you want me to feel something and I can’t quite figure it out.” Your voice tone must be completely light, innocent, and slightly confused. Keep being confused unless the other person has the stones to actually ask for a behavior change in an adult manner. At that point, ask for one back and start some negotiations.
- You’ll probably want to keep being nice, since it’s part of how you see yourself. Be nice. Use a very nice tone of voice to tell people the awful things they need to hear. “Goodness, I just won’t put up with your bad attitude anymore. You will find all your things on the lawn the next time you call me a bitch in front of my friends!” Now imagine that line said by your favorite children’s show host. Use your nice skills, just put some new vocabulary to them.
- Notice the little things, both good and bad. People don’t usually start out treating you badly in big ways. They use little ways and see if you put up with them. Then they build from there. Stomp on the little ones, it’s like pulling weeds before the roots get too deep. Remember to encourage good behavior by finding the smallest kindnesses and thanking people for them. Sincerely appreciate even the barest hint of civility and empathy in people around you, while you stomp the crap out of the weeds.
Look at the picture again. The boys about to get tipped out are happy. The ones tipping them are too. It really is possible to have the kind of relationships where you look forward to hearing how other people feel and they want to hear about your feelings too. When you dump people out of your boat that can’t handle it, that’s a good sign they don’t need to get back in. Save the space for someone new. It will be lonely for a while, but you will go much farther in life with a boat full of friends who will actually help you paddle.
You are worth the wait.
Photo by james_at_middleage on Flickr