I had breakfast the other day with a friend who runs human resources for a giant company. She’s grown good at understanding basic differences among people. We were marveling at another friend’s ability to carve out a very defined way of working at one important project at a time, his success at avoiding picking up other projects that really need to be done.
I said, “I want that to be my next job, a job where I get to focus on one project at a time.”
She just LOOKED at me.
“Do you think you COULD?” asks she?
“I’d love it,” I lied. And then, later, I had to admit, there is no way I’d be able to work that way.
That is, I haven’t yet mastered the art of saying no. I haven’t learned to limit what I take on. If there is a need or a project in my way that someone else has dropped, and I find myself tripping over it, I’m likely to pick it up, along with everything else on my plate, and try to do that too.
Because I’m a doormat.
I am not made into a doormat by virtue of being a girl, by virtue of my ability, my experience, my doggedness, my attention to detail, by any virtue at all. I have been a doormat because I need to please people. Or maybe because I fear displeasing them.
Oddly enough, it has been weight loss that has helped me identify my self-imposed doormattedness. By risking disappointing people when I choose to work out, choose to cook different foods or choose not to cook at all, choose to spend time learning about nutrition, finding sources for less processed foods, I learned that I wasn’t risking anything at all.
No one cares what I don’t do. It’s what I DO that they focus on. And by taking on too much, always, the people in my life see me as an overcommitted, unavailable, distraught and distracted person. If I chose to do less, in fact, I would likely come off as more sane, more focused, and oddly enough, more accomplished. More complete as a person. More available and thus more loving and lovable. Seriously.
But back on topic: I would love to figure out how to study the relationship between doormattedness and heaviness. I’m thinking you’d have a pretty interesting correlation there.
My hypothesis: Doormats grow fat. With no time to exercise, no time to prepare healthy meals, doormats fly from duty to duty, grabbing candy bars and soda between commitments, never having time to chew their food or serve a fresh vegetable.
I WOULD conduct this study, but frankly, I’m not taking on any new assignments at the moment.
See what I did there? That’s a start. That’s called, “learning to say no,” and it’s a very sane way to live. If you’ve never done it before, these next two weeks are a good time to try it out. Here are some phrases you might try:
*I’m not taking on any new assignments right now.
*My plate is full, sorry.
*My cup runneth over at the moment.
*Can I get back to you in 2010?
*This resource is endangered.
*I can’t this year.
*My quarter’s overbooked.
*I’m stretched too far as it is, sorry.
*I wish I could do all I’d like to do, but I can’t.
*It’s a worthy cause alright, but there are so many, and I’m booked.
*Sorry, but I needed to reprioritize all of my commitments, and this one didn’t make my list this year.
*Sorry, but more pressing personal matters are taking my time right now.
*I’m so sure!
And my personal favorite:
People who say yes become targets for people who say no. Try not to make things worse for other doormats when you’re saying no. Don’t direct people their way. Just say no, and leave it there. And, you know you really don’t need to explain “busy.” We all understand what busy is.
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