How to NOT be a Doormat

Have you ever suspected that you’re giving people more than they deserve?

You’re always there when someone needs a buck to borrow, a shoulder to cry on, a pair of hands to help with a move.

You’re eager to make yourself useful, to prove your worth, to NOT be a drain on society.

You want to be friendly, helpful, well-liked, but at what cost?

Perhaps, lately, you’ve been feeling a bit…tired. Used. Under-appreciated.

You’ve started seriously considering changing your name and phone number and disappearing to Mexico so no one else can call you up and say, “Hey! So I was wondering if you could help me with…”

If the idea of living alone in a cave has started to sound attractive to you, don’t start shopping for spelunking gear just yet.

Learn from my story, instead:

A Painful But Useful Lesson I Learned From a Persistent Choir Member

Once upon a time, I was a volunteer pianist.

I played for church services, weddings, nursing home events, you name it.

But there was this one particular lady (whom I’ll call Mrs. P), who was, shall we say, particularly persistent.

Mrs. P was involved in a choir two cities away that was about to lose its only pianist to graduate school. And she really, REALLY wanted me to take up the mantle.

She would find me in the mornings, and say “Good morning! Also, would you like to play for our choir?”

She would strike up a conversation, then slip in a “by the way, would you consider playing for our choir?”

I wanted to help, But at the time I was a student, suffocating under the weight of too many course units and 2 or 3 part-time jobs.

Also, the place where the choir rehearsed was, as I said, two cities away, meaning that for a car-less student like me, the bus ride alone would have taken 2–3 hours.

One way.

And no, Mrs. P was not offering a ride.

So I regretfully declined.

But apparently I was not firm enough, because every few weeks, Mrs. P would come back and say, “You know, Melly is starting school in a few weeks, and we still haven’t found a pianist, maybe just for now you could…?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. P, I just don’t see how I could make it work, time-wise.”

But Mrs. P wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

She even went so far as to call my mother to try to convince me to do it.

So eventually, I caved.

I agreed to play for the choir.

And it was one of the WORST decisions I ever made in my life.

Not because the choir was horrible. They weren’t. All the members were lovely people, and under normal circumstances, I would have enjoyed playing for them.

But these were not normal circumstances.

For one, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been manipulated into saying yes to something I should not have said yes to.

For another, I started my piano duties after a particularly difficult job that left me physically and emotionally drained, and working up the energy to travel and play for the choir every week made everything MUCH worse.

Mrs. P meant well, I know, but she had no idea of the cost of what she was asking. And I didn’t make it clear enough to her.

So really, you can summarize this entire story as Sarah Being Stoopid.

But enough of my sorry tale of woe.

What are the lessons we can glean from this episode?

From my vantage point, two things:

1) Persistence really does pay

and

2) If you know it ain’t right for you, even if it is, in all other respects, a good thing, say NO

But how DO you figure out what’s right for you?

If you’d asked my younger self, I would have told you that I liked playing for choirs and making other people happy.

But that’s not the point.

The point is, in this particular situation, it was the wrong thing to do because it took too much time and energy from my Life Mission.

What Life Mission?

Well, at the time, it was going through school without dying or failing, and preparing for my future career.

Now, of course, it’s different. But my question for you is:

What’s YOUR Life Mission?

You know what’s fascinating? A lot (I mean A LOT) of people don’t know the answer to that question.

So if you’re one of them, don’t feel bad.

But I would suggest that you figure it out as soon as you can.

Because every day you don’t is another day you are vulnerable to the likes of Mrs. P.

If my Life Mission was to become an accomplished Choral Pianist, then I would’ve jumped at Mrs. P’s invitation, 6-hour bus ride be darned.

I didn’t take the time to figure out what was really important and whether Mrs. P’s request aligned with it.

There’s nothing wrong with sacrificing for a worthy goal, as long as it’s YOUR worthy goal — the goal you are meant to accomplish with your life.

But if it’s not, then save your time, energy, and resources for things that actually align with your true Life Mission.

It’s Time to Stand UP

As they say,

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

So find something to stand on. Make it rock solid, and use it as your compass.

That way, when the Mrs. P’s of your life come knocking, you can cheerfully and respectfully reject their requests, knowing that you’re not being selfish or inconsiderate.

You’re working on something much more important.

Something that will, in the final calculation, contribute far more to the world than running yourself ragged doing odd jobs and errands that others can do better than you.

If you do this, you’ll be happier, more productive, and more effective in life.

The people around you will respect you more, and some may even help you accomplish your life goal.

And you will never be in danger of being a doormat, ever again 😃

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