Being “Nice” vs. Being a Doormat

My mother raised me to believe that it was important in all situations to “be nice”. Being nice meant being compliant. It meant compromising, being agreeable above all else. It meant looking after the needs of others before my own. It meant ensuring that no matter what, people liked me. Being nice and being liked were the two most important things, according to how I was brought up.

As you can imagine, this has caused me lots of problems over the years. Because this version of being “nice” equates to basically being a doormat. It means laying down and letting people walk all over you, in the hopes that it will result in them liking you and believing you to be a good person. This has led to me having terrible boundaries, being taken advantage of, and giving everything of myself until I was utterly exhausted.

This week my oldest daughter, Kiddo, has been struggling with this very thing. She’s been having issues at school with another child. It’s a situation where good solid boundaries are required. I know from personal experience how difficult this can be. I will give Kiddo credit, she is trying. I have been coaching her on how to handle this situation in a way that will (hopefully) improve things. The problem is that setting and enforcing these boundaries is leaving her feeling guilty. She is feeling like protecting her own mental and emotional health means that she’s “not being nice”.

Ohboy. It’s like she opened her mouth and *my* inner voice came out.

It’s a little ironic (or perhaps, not ironic at all) that I find myself going through a similar struggle myself right now. For the past while I’ve been making a great effort to “be nice” to a certain person in my life. Get along. Keep the peace. It became evident this week that in my doing so, I’ve really been just allowing this particular individual to walk all over me. Patterns are just getting repeated over and over again.

This week I gave my head a shake and reminded myself that, like my daughter, I need to remember that there is a big difference between being nice and being a doormat. It isn’t “not nice” to have firm boundaries. It isn’t “not nice” to refuse to continuously bend to someone else’s wishes. It isn’t “not nice” to put your foot down and demand better treatment. I need to remember to stand up for myself when it comes to people in my life, just like my daughter needs to stand up for herself when it comes to this other child at school.

The best way that I can teach my girls how to be happy, strong, independent women is to be one myself. Because all the conversations with them in the world aren’t going to mean anything if the example I live in front of them every day speaks the exact opposite.

It’s time to not just talk the talk, but to walk the walk, too. Not only will *I* be happier and better off for it, but so will my two precious daughters.

2 Responses

  1. Get out of my head. It is even worse when you start to set these boundaries with your own parents. I hope that Kiddo gets this all figured out.

    • Thanks! I can see the day coming (very quickly) when my girls are going to have to learn how to set boundaries with their father. Which will prove challenging, since he generally sees boundaries as something that he must stomp on and crush in order to have things his way. We’re in for some challenging years, I think.

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