A Doormat Named Kristin

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on August 04, 2021 # Lifestyle

Kristin and her dogI used to be a doormat. That’s just to say that I was too concerned about making other people happy, and I carried myself in a way that was overly mindful of people’s experience with me – often at the expense of my feelings, needs, and comfort. I was a doormat in my interactions, how I spent my time, and in my inability to say “no.” In a way, my behavior was a gift to other people, often strangers, control over my emotions and every day.

In hindsight, that was a bad call, and it was very self-destructive. Duh.

I first heard the “doormat” metaphor in the context of someone letting people walk all over you. I related to it, adopted it, and didn’t make a ton of effort to move away from it; I made myself a punching bag for other people, to protect from potentially offending them, making them feel uncomfortable, or forcing people to take responsibility for a rude comment or interaction. If I can claim any victory in this, I’ll claim to be good at what I did, which is: bottle up my feelings and move on.

My justification: “I’ll just get over it and avoid the confrontation altogether. I don’t want anyone else upset.” It worked for me because I didn’t have to face my own negative feelings, and it worked for other people because they got to wipe their figurative feet on me, the doormat.

My approach to adversity was a successful one that got me through all of college and into my adult life, but it crumbled when I met my husband, Christopher. My Bottle It Up and Move on habit got in the way of our relationship growing and, I now realize, my happiness. More than a year in, I have some tips on how to stand up for myself. We’ll call this: Asserting Yourself, For Dummies.

Sit on it: Don’t be impulsive about your confrontations but, rather, reflect on what’s bothering you. When you call someone out, it’s helpful to have a solution. For example, don’t just get after someone for reacting aggressively when you don’t have time to help them move. Instead, try something like “I have a lot going on in my life right now, and I’m not able to help you move into your house.” If they don’t accept that genuine reason from you, move on. There’s nothing else you can do.

Use “I” statements: This is a hack I learned early on: expressing yourself, without allowing the other person to get defensive. Nobody can argue with how you feel. Try leading your confrontations with phrases like: “I feel like…”, “I don’t appreciate it when…”, or “I feel overworked and can’t…”. Leading with your feelings allows you to be heard, and gives the other person an opportunity to decisively resolve the issue.

Be see-through: When you sense something that doesn’t make you feel right, say something. So often, we hide behind a fake smile or saying “ok” but, if you express your discontent from the start, standing up for yourself is easier later on.

Be gentle: When someone is bulldozing over your feelings or being overly assertive to your contrary, remain calm. Don’t allow yourself to get lazy and react with low blows, but also don’t let them walk all over you. Take the high road, but also stand your ground.

Explain yourself: It’s tempting to take a stand of superiority in an argument, especially when you know you’re right. That’s acting with emotion, and that won’t get you anywhere. Instead, resist the urge to act on your emotions, and take a breath. Calmly explain your perspective, avoid accusatory tones, and listen to their response. If you still feel unheard, let loose on them. Just kidding, unless you’re calm about it.

Demand respect: When you tell someone “No” or “I can’t,” and they challenge you, don’t get sucked in. Your free time is so precious and so limited, and you deserve to control how you spend it. Push back when you feel like you or your time isn’t being respected, and decide when to disengage from the people or activities that you don’t want to dominate your schedule. You have to give respect to deserve respect, so push back in a tactful way.

My friends, learn from my lessons and stand up for yourself. Demand respect. When you don’t want to do something, say “no.” Life is short, the weekend is short, and the hours after getting off work seem to fly past. Stand up for yourself and stand up for your free time.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.