Ever since we were kids our parents told us to be nice to anyone older than us, to not correct someone when they are saying something that is blatantly wrong, and to not tell a person that he or she is not saying the truth. We were even told to simply not respond when someone is using us, speaking rudely to us, or hurting our feelings. In fact, many of us grow up believing that responding, standing up for ourselves, or simply stating the truth is a sign of weakness. Statements like “Be the better person” even become staples of our everyday language.
With such conditioning many of us become, and I deeply apologize for the term, doormats with age. I.e. without even realizing it, we become the people who remain quiet when someone is blatantly disrespecting us. We even teach ourselves to say pointless statements like “Karma will get them,” “God is on my side,” or “God knows the truth,” and year after year our status as doormats becomes deeply meshed with our characters so that it becomes who we are.
I am no exception; I have lived in the doormat status for almost three decades of my life. I used to be the person who was so shocked at rudeness to the point where I was unable to respond to anyone saying something outrageous to me. I used to believe that respect for my elders meant that I could let them say and do whatever they please no matter how deeming it is to my self esteem.
However, with time I realized that doing so is wrong. Today I am convinced that it is simply not right for anyone to be subjected to disrespect. I came to this conclusion only after being subject to lines of politeness being crossed by different people who believed that their age gave them the right to do so. It wasn’t their fault it was mine. They probably felt that it was normal because they were my elders and in their defense they probably didn’t even realize it. The truth is that I took it until disrespect took a toll on the way I saw myself.
When you find yourself in such a position you have a choice, you can either seek being polite and letting the disrespect continue, or you can choose to respond. One day, when being polite stopped working for me, I simply decided to respond and from that day forward things changed for me for the better.
A friend of mine once asked me, what I would count as the biggest lessons I learned in life. Without thinking I said 1: I learned that you should stand up for yourself and 2: You must always set your standards. However, I have to point out that none of these lessons are an open invitation to be rude. No rudeness is required. In fact, the best way to stand up for yourself is to do it quietly and calmly. A simple “Don’t talk to me that way,” said with quiet and calm authority is enough.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where becoming a doormat is normal for many when it shouldn’t be. Most of us continue to be doormats until life makes it absolutely impossible for us to tolerate ourselves in such positions. The change happens usually when you reach the edge and when you are forced to either do something or let yourself disintegrate into a vanilla character with no real attributes to be proud of.
We all have our limits as to what communication we find acceptable, and it is important that we set those limits and we never compromise on them. This is what I meant when I said “Set your standards”.
When you set your standards, something amazing happens. People have no choice but to respect you especially if you do it while remaining polite. So it is here that I have to correct the knowledge of older generations that taught us that being polite means being silent. It doesn’t mean that at all. Being polite means behaving and accepting behavior that is good for you.
So what will you do the next time you realize that you are turning into a doormat? Are you going to be quiet just like you were taught to be or are you calmly going to set your standards and stand up for yourself?
At the end of the day the choice is yours. But, that day will come when you have to make that choice.