The Atlas Personality
"The Atlas Personality: Drawing on the myth of the giant upholding the world—is someone obliged to take on adult responsibilities prematurely, and thus liable to develop a pattern of compulsive caregiving in later life."
Atlas with the world on his shoulders
The easiest way to describe a doormat "type" is the image of Atlas. Like everything else in life, it is a pattern of being we learned far before we knew better; childhood.
"The Atlas personality is typically found to have felt obliged in childhood to take on responsibilities (extending beyond normal household chores or looking after siblings) such as providing psychological support of the adult in the house." (Wikipedia)
In adult life, characteristics begin to emerge, such as anxiety, high stress, overwhelm due to catering to others' needs, and inability to determine and assert their own needs.
The difficult part is identifying in one's self, and admitting to this role. These people can be seen as strong and caring, like they can handle it all. Instead of solely relying on the old doormat analogy, I like to refer people to Atlas. The strong physical form of a man with the "world's" heaviest weight upon him.
Doormats are not typically weak, they just lack the skills to effectively draw boundaries and use assertiveness instead of caregiving as their main strength.
How do you change the way people treat you?
The easiest way to change how people treat you is to change the way you treat yourself.
People think their suffering is linked to, and because of others, and not being able to change other people, when actually the answer lies in themselves. Obviously being a doormat to others' whims and wants before your own, is a self-worth problem.
Take a hard, honest look at yourself and place a value on your head; let's pretend we're playing The Price is Right! Do you first think of a money value? There are more ways than one to value yourself! These are also ways that people inadvertently decipher how to treat you.
- Your Priorities
- Your values
- Your attitude and energy
These are the price of your worth. This is what you show others about yourself!
If you are not caring for yourself, or valuing yourself in measurable ways to the outside world (in which other people can see), this will be the message you are sending to others:
"You don't have to care for me...that much."
"I would do anything for you even if you do not do anything for me."
"I may complain, but I'll do it anyway."
"I am accustomed to some suffering."
"I barely notice myself or my needs."
"If I help you first, you will treat me better."
"It's all my fault."
Notice how you care about yourself because other people notice! Do you give yourself credit or a pat on the back when it's due! Notice if you practice self-care; the way you dress, prioritizing your needs (mental wellness, stress relief, interests, body care), feeling worthy of time for yourself spent in ways that you want, assertive actions you take, and how you are practicing your values.
When was the last time you gave to yourself?
Most likely you are treating yourself like a doormat!
YOU TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO TREAT YOU...Dr. Phil
Doormats and Desperation
A doormat's behavior tends to be the type who puts out extra effort so that people will like them. This might have been their currency for love in their family or when they were younger.They must always give more to feel worthy of attention, love, friendships, etc from others; desperate for approval.
In fact, it becomes such a pattern, they lose sight of why and simply begin to resent others for not treating them well or that they always give more than the other person.
Hey, I can relate. My parents were a tough crowd to please and I carried that over into my life moving forward. It took me a while to make that connection though.
Relating to the world as if relationships are conditional transactions is a bummer! I didn't enjoy it when I was a child. Eventually I learned I wasn't enjoying it in my adulthood either. Something had to change. Usually changes must occur in ourselves before they occur in the our life and others around us.
When you change a learned pattern, it takes conscious effort at first, but if you have a plan in place and make it a habit, you can rearrange your place in people's lives to a higher level, definitely not being underfoot or consistently stepped on.
What can you do for me?
Did you know people like you more if they do something FOR YOU?!
If your doormat behavior stems from lack of self-worth and need for approval, pay attention to this study that was done.
Three groups of people were paid to participate in a study. After the study, one group was asked to return the money because the researcher had used his own and was low on cash (a favor). The next group was asked to return their money because the department had a low budget (not a personal favor). The third group was not asked to return any money (control group). The people who gave back the money reported that they liked the researcher more than those who didn't give back the money.
The same can be said that if you walk all over someone, you're more likely to not care the more you do it (speaking in terms of the people doing the walking and stomping on you). It's basic psychology (the kind of stuff that people don't realize they're doing). You can't change others if they don't know what they're doing; they're just reacting as humans.
This is important insight; to see yourself through the eyes of others. And as you can see, YOU have been making it easy for them to walk all over you; the more often, the easier it gets for them not to consider your feelings and needs.
Time to get dirty!
You already know what it's like to be mistreated and be no better than dirt on a doormat. It's time you stomp out people mistreating you!
First, you have to ask yourself...do you want the short-term unpleasantness of cutting people off from your not-so-eternal well of resources for others to take from OR do you want long-term unpleasantness to continue and let your well dry up?
Come from a place of strength. Being a "doormat" is only one way to express this image. The other is that of Atlas- a strong individual who carried the weight of the world because he could. But you should not! You are obviously strong! use that power to assert yourself and be enough (in yourself) without taking on the world.
There's no doubt you have takers in your life who treat you bad so now what? You'll instinctively isolate, and if not, it will eventually happen that some people will be dropping from your life.
Cut out those who will only use you or take from you. If you are married to one or related to someone who treats you like a doormat, cut out all the others (co-workers, "friends", neighbors, etc.) you do not have to live with! The less of them the better. You may have to continuously establish boundaries with those you choose to be with still. You will find that you only have so much room for these types of people in your life.
Take some time to yourself too so that you can begin to see yourself in your own eyes rather than perpetuating the cycle of seeing yourself as a doormat due to all those who treat you like one.
Decide how you want to treat yourself. If all others were out of the picture, how would you treat YOU?
Your club: How to build yourself up again!
Remember when you were little and EVERYTHING had rules! You had rules about your toys, rules you made up in the middle of a game you played with your friends, and rules in your own personal club.
You are your own personal club now! Treat yourself this way and create a set of rules, and even guidelines, hours of operation, and minimum requirements about how you treat yourself better, but also how others must treat you.
Your club! Your rules! This is the fun part!
Abdul Haseeb from Pakistan on February 13, 2020:
Nice. Friend, I am a new author here. Please guide me how can i get a chance to publish my article.
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on September 09, 2017:
Thanks for the encouragement! :)
L Izett (author) from The Great Northwest on September 08, 2017:
Kari Poulsen, Thanks for sharing. this is a common theme and not only a "lesson", but a habit that we have to be aware of and conscious of probably the rest of our lives. As you've noticed, The first step also includes some isolation. This isn't all bad unless it becomes a bad habit, but we have to start from scratch- get in touch with ourselves, treat ourselves well, decide on boundaries with others, and practicing it too before we feel confident enough to be treated how we would like to be by others. It takes practice!
L Izett (author) from The Great Northwest on September 08, 2017:
Chitrangada Sharan ~
Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately it's often people close to us that mistreat us as they have the inside scoop on how we treat ourselves.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 07, 2017:
Excellent article with very useful tips and suggestions worth following!
This kind of behaviour by others is so relatable and you are right in suggesting that self respect is most important. One should not allow people, however close they may be , to take you for granted. Drawing a certain line is necessary. Otherwise it becomes a habit of others to treat you poorly and not think of what is your wish.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful and important hub!
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on September 05, 2017:
So nice to find this now. It is one of the lessons I am trying to learn. Right now I just stay away from everybody and anybody. I guess I am scared I'm going to go back to my old ways. I know that I let people walk on me and I'm learning how to make it stop.
L Izett (author) from The Great Northwest on September 04, 2017:
Thanks for the comment Paula- You described this pattern well. Unfortunately with long-lived patterns, they become so ingrained in us right to the core of who we are. The reality is it's no different than addictions in that people who have once lived a maladaptive pattern must be more consciously aware of it to avoid it in the future.
I've played the doormat (accepting almost anything expect outright abuse) and it is something that I have to always be aware of just as an alcoholic must be on alert to old patterns of behavior.
As a helper, you probably know you must take care of yourself too. I can only imagine how it would've been to be in the company of those abused and with poor self esteem.
Suzie from Carson City on September 04, 2017:
Izetti.....Very well said. How my heart aches (and often to the point of anger) when I witness seemingly smart young women being mistreated, neglected and or abused.
For several years (when still on the job) I held classes, or meetings of the minds, if you will, with women who had gone through our crisis center or had found themselves & most often their children, in our Safe Homes.
There is not time nor space here to get into this in detail. Suffice it to say, by the time 2 hours had passed, although I hid it well, I was completely drained, from merely "listening" to the how, why and when these women had lost all sense of themselves so long ago. What had become habit for them, the normal state of affairs and all the accompanying imaginary fears & self-doubt, was the clear picture of a very long and arduous climb uphill for them.
It was nothing short of a miracle when most of them broke through and truly understood.
Of course, it is not only women who face these issues and it's not always related to personal relationships, I'm aware of this.
The quote from Dr. Phil is one of my favorites. So brief and yet some of the most powerful words which should be ingrained into each and every human being's psyche. I borrow that quote and use it often.
We DO, in fact, "teach people how to treat us." I hope this becomes one of your most read articles. Peace, Paula