The Importance of Being a Jerk (some of the time)

Posted on: April 8, 2019, by :

The Importance of Being a Jerk (some of the time)

Normal ‘no’ conversations usually go something like this:

Person 1: ‘Hey! Sam and I are going to the zoo next Saturday, want to come?’

Person 2: ‘Hell no, hate the zoo! I’d be up for meeting you for ice cream after 😉

Person 1: ‘Ugh. I can’t make it tonight, can we reschedule for next Thursday?’

Person 2: ‘I already have plans on Thursday. Sorry :/’

Some people struggle with this basic dynamic. They struggle with disappointing others, they struggle with stating their needs plainly, they struggle with saying no. So they don’t. In so doing, they become a Doormat — a lifelong invitation to be walked over.

Instead of ‘no,’ Doormats often use the following phrases, almost reflexively:

‘Ok, that works,’

‘That’s fine’

‘Sounds good to me’

‘Okay, I’ll move stuff around’

Capitulation is their primary language. They have learned to disassociate themselves with their needs, wants, desires, emotions, and commitments.

At the end of the day, doormats bend themselves to the whims of others. They painstakingly attempt to be the person others want them to be, and in the process, have a hollow identity. Encountering a doormat gives you that ‘lonely feeling’ in your core that makes you want to buy a one way ticket in the other direction. Which is peak irony, because doormats are doing everything in their power to make you stay.

Okay MaryBeth. I think I’m a bit of a doormat. How on earth do I stop?

When people identify that they have some doormat tendencies and aim to course-correct, they often make the mistake of swinging too far in the opposite direction. As a recovering doormat, let me warn you against these common extreme (& unhelpful) reactions:

The above reflexes don’t address the root issues of a Doormat, they just mask them, stifle them, or re-direct them.

Remember Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride? Every time she took up with a new man, she had her eggs prepared however he liked them. She didn’t actually know how she preferred her eggs. When the moment of reckoning came, and she came face to face with her own doormat tendencies, what she did was brilliant. She sat herself down in a diner and ordered every egg imaginable: scrambled, sunny side, poached, over-easy. All with the purpose of deciding once and for all how she liked her eggs. She would no longer be a chameleon. It was a powerful moment with a powerful lesson: know thyself. How do you start? Make a list of all your likes and dislikes. Start with the dislikes. People who don’t use turn signals. Dogs with human names. Josh Groban. And then the likes. Game show hosts. Getting lost in a bookstore. Little adventures in everyday moments. The lists should be long and fun and revealing. There is one rule, though: the likes can’t outnumber the dislikes.

2. Embrace your quirks.

Own the little things that make you you.

I can only sleep on the right side of the bed

Yellow m&m’s freak me out

I get excited to watch Lawrence Welk re-runs on PBS

Protein must be placed in the top left corner of a plate

I hate missing previews

Triangle pizza slices taste WAY better than squares

There’s nothing more confident than someone who not just accepts, but fully celebrates, the odd things about themselves. That sort of confidence is attractive. Embrace your quirks — the right sort of people will fall in love with them (and you!). And once you have your circle, who cares about everyone else?

3. Communicate your boundaries with kindness.

A ‘no’ doesn’t have to be delivered with a trumpet; it’s much better paired with playfulness. Here are some examples:

Why pair ‘no’ with anger when it goes so much better with kindness, cheekiness, and imagination?

4. Get (real) friends.

Sometimes I slip up. It’s usually when I’m feeling most vulnerable: sick, overspent, or not sleeping enough. I start look down on myself and that opens the door to the doormat mentality. The best people in my life usually call me on it. ‘Hey you seem down, what’s up?’ If you struggle in this area, one of the BEST things you can do is get people around you who actually care about you and will challenge you and get real with you on a weekly basis. People who, when you say ‘I’m fine,’ respond ‘B.S. What’s really going on?’ You need to be a jerk some of the time, and so do they 😉

5. Prioritize that which makes you stronger.

Think about a time in your life where you felt the most grounded, confident, and abundant. Chances are you were regularly doing things that made you feel strong, and as a result, you weren’t willing to put up with the poor behavior of others. In order to reverse doormat mentality, we must habitualize the things that make us stronger. Here are a few of mine:

It’s important that we recognize what makes us feel strong and then make a routine of incorporating those things into our lives on a daily basis.

It’s been 3 years now since I had my ‘Wow, I’m a Doormat’ revelation. I’m happy to report that no’s come easily now. I don’t change who I am to suit the whims of others. I don’t take offense when people challenge me or walk out of my life. My relationships are better, my productivity is better, and most importantly my self perception is much healthier. I got my dignity back.

But MaryBeth, how will I know I’m in a better place?

It’s kind of like waking up 4 months after starting to work out and noticing your muscles are now toned. It comes on gradually and you don’t often see it until you’ve made tremendous progress already. The two strongest indicators of no longer being a Doormat are contentment and abundance.

Contentment — You finally feel at home in your own life. Feet up. Laughter. Warmth. Respite. That joyful glow born of comfortability in one’s own skin. Contented people attract others because when you are content, people can relax around you. Which brings me to the next point..

Abundance — your life is overflowing with opportunities, joy, friendships. You get up early on a Saturday to take a long walk to the farther coffee shop just because. You’re feeling contrarian today, so you pick a fun and harmless debate with someone. You drive your Jeep on the highway, windows down, with no set destination. Wherever you go, you engage with the people around you because why the heck not? Your cup runneth over.

So, cheers to being a jerk (some of the time). Cheers to no longer being a Doormat. And cheers to that contented and abundant live you deserve. 🥂

📝 Read this story later in Journal.

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The Importance of Being a Jerk (some of the time)

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