People Pleasers and Doormats

People Pleasers and Doormats


"When I was a little girl, I did everything that my parents asked of me," says Patti. "Now, as an adult, I pretty much do what everybody wants me to do and that includes my husband, kids and employers." Patti explains that her obsession to please started when she was 7, "I used to take turns wearing the clothes in my closet because I didn't want to hurt the other clothes' feelings."

Patti has been married three times, including the time she felt sorry for a former boyfriend and married him because he broke down after she refused his proposal. Now married to a different man, Patti has four kids who "play me like a fiddle. I feel like my kids have no respect for me." Her people pleasing ways carry over into her professional life as a nurse. Patti says she can't say 'no' to her boss when asked to work extra shifts.

Whether it's at work or at home, Patti says, "I really want people to like me. I spend every day of my life making other people happy. Dr. Phil, how can I take control of my own life?"

Dr. Phil isn't convinced that Patti really wants to change her people-pleasing ways. "I think you get a huge payoff from doing this ... I think you feel that it's the high ground. 'Be nice and everybody will like you.'
But the truth is, I think it is selfish, gutless, manipulative, passive-aggressive and a power play of an amazing proportion. I think it's selfish because you don't want to make a decision. You don't want to be accountable. You don't want to stand up for yourself, for what you believe or anything you do. You are going to let everybody else make the decision and then they have to own it."

As a surprise, Dr. Phil has written some example phrases he wants Jamillah to act out with him. The scripted scenarios have Jamillah playing the "tough guy," not allowing Dr. Phil to walk all over her. After several "takes," Cheryl's performance helps convince Dr. Phil that she's taken the first steps toward curing the "disease to please."

Dr. Phil continues, "It's very manipulative because if you do things for people all the time, then they have to like you ... It's bought and paid for. So you manipulate people by giving to them.

"It's a very passive-aggressive power play to be in the world. You escape accountability, and you never have to have the strength of your convictions. You never have to stand up and take a position. You never have to tell your kids, 'No way, buddy. I said, 'You're grounded.' You don't have to tell your husband, 'You blew it. We got married. It didn't work.' You don't want to do that. You don't want to have the accountability. This is a damn selfish way to be. It's just covered up and cloaked with martyrdom and high ground."


Cheryl admits, "I'm definitely a people pleaser. Giving to others is my life." Given she has. In addition to surprising family, friends and co-workers with gifts year-round, Cheryl says she's "always picking up the tab at lunch and dinner," and admits to throwing a $2,000 birthday party for a girlfriend last year. Her habit of treating people cost her a total of $5,000 last year. To add insult to injury, Cheryl says she rarely receives a "thank you."

Roy, Cheryl's husband, doesn't like seeing his wife's good intentions taken for granted: "Cheryl gives, but she never gets back in return ... Her friends are takers."

Cheryl says, "The worse people treat me, the harder I try to make them happy. Dr. Phil, how can I balance my giving without people taking me for granted?"
Dr. Phil asks Cheryl if she has learned anything from listening to his interactions with the pervious guest, Patti.

"I'm amazed," says Cheryl. "You're absolutely right, it is selfish. I never looked at it that way. Yes, it is taking the moral high ground. It feels good. People are going to love me. They're going to remember me."

Dr. Phil points out, "Do you understand, you just said the word 'me,' several times? What you're saying is, 'I'm giving to them so they will love me.' Which means, you're not giving anything to them. You're doing this for you. You have a dangerous combination. You have so little self-worth and such a high need for acceptance and approval. That is a dangerous and expensive combination. You're saying, 'I don't feel like I have what it takes for people to like me for who I am, so I have to pay them.' You are right, you are buying friends."

Dr. Phil brings up the $2,000 birthday party Cheryl threw at her house for a friend. "Now, I assume there was a big blow out for you on your birthday? But the fact is, you didn't even get a birthday card from them. Doesn't that tell you that there is something wrong with the metrics of this exchange?"

Cheryl answers, "It's shocking because I don't do things to get things back, but I do have this expectancy ... I do things because it feels really good to make my friends feel good ... "

Dr. Phil interrupts, "No, you do it to make them feel good towards you, because it all comes back to you. You said, 'I don't do it for a reason' and then in the same sentence you said, 'But I do have this expectancy.' That's what I mean about it being manipulative. Isn't that exactly what you do? It's like, 'You need to be nice to me because you are bought and paid for.'"

Dr. Phil tells Cheryl, "What I want you to do is recognize that you cannot keep buying friendships. If you define you're relationships at that level, it will never develop into any other level. Let me tell you what will happen if you quit buying friends: Your worst fear is going to come true. You fear that if you don't pay them to be your friend, they won't be. And when you stop paying them, you're right, they won't be. Why? Because you taught them how to treat you. You've defined it at that level.

"What if you quit trying to bribe people to like you and said, 'I need to be a friend to me first. And I'm going to decide what my true authentic self is, what my true gifts are, gifts that have nothing to do with lunches and money' ... What if you decided 'Everybody doesn't have to like me, that's OK'? If you like you, you're never alone. You really want to get to a place where you can say, 'If I have to be alone, I'm not a bad person to do it with.'"


"I definitely don't have a backbone," says Jamillah. "I am the ultimate doormat. I feel like I have a sign on my head that says, 'Walk all over me.'"

Jamillah says when people do walk all over her, she gets angry, but instead of taking it out on them, she takes it out on her husband.


"This is starting to ruin my marriage," says Jamillah. "Dr. Phil, I need a wake-up call. I don't want to be a doormat anymore. Can you help me?"

"Do you really want to be helped?" asks Dr. Phil.

"Yes, I do," answers Jamillah. "I'm tired of people taking advantage of me and disrespecting me. It's ruining my marriage. My husband is always upset because I'm upset and stressed out all the time."

Dr. Phil replies, "You've heard me say, 'You teach people how to treat you.' Let me talk about how you do that. The way I've always been with people is I watch how they treat themselves. I figure, they know themselves better than I do and if they treat themselves like crap, they must recognize something. When you're a doormat, you've got this sign on you that says, "I am not worthy of dignity and respect, so just walk all over me.' People say, "You know yourself better than I do, go ahead and lay down.' Aren't you teaching people to do that?"
"I'm just nice," says Jamillah. "I'm friendly and outgoing and I think people take that the wrong way."

"Oh, I think they get it," says Dr. Phil. "There's a difference between being 'nice' and being easy. There's a difference between approachable and being exploitable. Nice is not working. You're not nice to your family. Why?"

"I don't know," admits Jamillah. "I guess the statement that you made about my husband being bought and paid for, is the key. The same thing with my mom and my family, they're not going anywhere ... "

"They have to love you, right? You've got DNA on them!" jokes Dr. Phil. Turning serious, Dr. Phil adds, "So somebody will make you mad and you go home and dog on your husband. Why? Because he's safe. You don't dog on the jerk that's treating you bad in the world because there's a risk there. When it comes to strangers, you choke. You don't know how to do it. You don't have the phrase, the words. You don't know how to say 'no.'"