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How to Stop Being a Doormat and Start Speaking Up

Woman Covering Mouth

“Speak your mind even if your voice shakes.” ~Maggie Kuhn

For years I was that person who needed to know what would happen in the near future. I wasn’t content with being in the moment and letting things unfold naturally because it made me anxious.

Knowing, or at least thinking I knew, was a way for me to relax and reassure myself that nothing was going to unexpectedly pop up. The idea of a problem spontaneously arising made me so nervous and anxious that I’d become a doormat instead of speaking up and saying what I really thought.

For me, a “problem” was somebody who threatened my peaceful near future and, as a result, I would have to figure out a way to subdue them without disrupting my peace too much. Often, I would have to step outside my comfort zone of being a wallflower and deal with people in a way that wouldn’t cause too much hassle.

I suppose you could say I tried to categorize the people around me according to their mood. In short, I tried to control the uncontrollable—human nature.

I started to obsess about my friends falling out with me. I’d say goodbye to them and spend an hour afterward worrying that they’d be angry with me and wouldn’t speak to me the next day.

It was exhausting and constant; I would convince myself that one friend was okay with me and then I’d start to doubt another friend. I remember one time particularly well because to this day I still laugh at how ridiculous it all was, though at the time it was really stressful.

I had this one friend who started to develop an attitude; where she was once reserved and not confrontational, she was now argumentative and volatile.

Although I didn’t argue with her, I’d seen her arguing with our other friends and she suddenly seemed really intimidating, definitely not someone I’d want to get on the wrong side of. The fact that she’d sometimes start an argument for no good reason contributed to my fear that she might get angry with me.

I did everything to keep the peace, but she was prone to spontaneous moods.

II remember looking at her one day and realizing that I didn’t care if she stopped speaking to me; it seemed ridiculous that I’d wasted so much energy on something so silly.

When she went off in a mood, I let her go and stayed with our other friends. And the crazy thing is that she came back to me asking what was wrong. Everyone was so used to me being the peacekeeper that when I stopped keeping the peace, they started seeing me as someone who had an opinion instead of the quiet doormat.

It’s amazing what happens when you stop overthinking and worrying about how things will turn out. When you speak your mind, you send a message to the people around you that you have a voice and you’re not afraid to use it.

Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone, but I respect someone who says what they’re thinking rather than what they think everyone wants them to say—even if I totally disagree with them.

Nothing in life is certain, and yet at some point we’ve all tried to desperately cling to something that we’ve wanted to stay the same. Some of us have even compromised our integrity just to hold onto the idea that we’re sure of something.

There is power in being uncertain and allowing life to flow naturally, responding rather than controlling. When you embrace uncertainty, you respond to the present moment rather than following a plan involving everyone else that only you know about.

Need help embracing uncertainty so you can start speaking up?

1. Lose expectations.

I look at expectations as agreements between two people that only one person knows about. By this I mean you may think you know how a person is going to act—you may even hope—but at the end of the day, nothing is certain.

Don’t let the thought of “what if?” stop you from speaking up if something bothers you. Let it go; what will be will be.

2. Follow the Two-Year Rule.

This means that if you’re worried about a situation and it’s making you anxious, ask yourself whether it will matter in two years.

Think back a few years to all those times you’ve worried about speaking your mind and being authentic. Are those situations still affecting you today? Assuming you can even remember them, I’m betting they aren’t.

3. Remember who’s important to you.

Maybe a colleague is doing something that annoys you or seems to have an issue with you. And you’re stressing about sorting things out because they’re a colleague and you have to work with them and it could get awkward and blah blah blah.

The truth is, nothing will change unless you do. How important is this person? If you do nothing, things will stay the same, so why not try a different approach and see what happens?

4. Prepare to disagree.

It will happen; it’s not all smooth sailing when you decide to stop dancing to the beat of someone else’s drum. Just remain calm and deal with those who are disagreeing with you in a mature manner, even if they’re being immature.

It’s hard at first, but it pays off when they realize that you don’t have to hide behind shouting to get your point across. Sticking to your guns is like giving yourself a hug; you feel amazing afterward, whatever happens.

And one last bonus tip: Make time for yourself. When you take the time to relax and unwind, it can do wonders for your confidence, so you won’t fall back into the habit of trying to control everything and not focusing on yourself.

Woman covering mouth image via Shutterstock

About Chantelle Fairburn

Chantelle Fairburn is an aspiring film director who blogs about fulfilling her potential by stepping outside of her comfort zone on weareuncomfortable.blogspot.co.uk. When she’s not busy being a student she’s working on film ideas in order to stop describing herself as ‘aspiring’ and fulfil her goal of making her first short film in 2015.

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  • latebloomer

    Awesome! It confirmed that I am on the right path.

  • F

    My problem is rather the opposite, which is funny, because I’m an introvert. I guess it’s because I enjoy my classes so much, so I’m pretty much always the first to speak and after waiting for a bit, it just gets too awkward to wait for any longer in this totally silent room. I’d like to help people in my group to speak up (when we have discussions in small groups and later on when presenting it to the whole class), though. What would be the best way to do that?

  • UCZ

    remain silent. someone else will awkwardly want to fill the gap, just like you do. 🙂

  • Good for you 🙂

  • I think encouraging people to speak up when you’re discussing in small groups could be done by going round to each person and asking them for their input. That way there’s less pressure because everyone will say something. It’s really important to give feedback when someone makes a point, if you think their point was good you could tell them and suggest that they make it again when you present to the whole class. Most people do have points to make it just takes some positive feedback from others to give them the confidence to share with everyone else.

  • Glad you found it useful!

  • HappyP14

    THIS is an amazing article, thank you so much for putting this into words.
    To whomever watches 30 Rock. There is a point where someone needs a place to stay and Kevin says “You can stay with me…” The person says “you mean it?” and he says “No, I don’t mean it…I nice it.” It is my goal to stop being “nice” or agreeing with people unless I truly mean it, then I will be being truthful and authentic…and not building up and worrying about weirdness. How can you build a long lasting relationship if you are worried and not being yourself most of the time?

    Truthfully, thank you for this!

  • anja

    LOVE THIS SO MUCH!! AMAZING! TNX!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Standing up for yourself is the most invigorating feeling in the world, especially when you refuse to tolerate drama from everyone!! There is a time and place for everything, so it’s best to pick and choose your battles carefully.

    When I’m standing up for myself, I don’t like to come across as aggressive.

  • strangeGamer SeerOfSpace

    “Sticking to your guns is like giving yourself a hug; you feel amazing afterward, whatever happens.”
    Nope.