Doormat Living

Q. What are the characteristics of being a “doormat?”

A. Let’s Talk! Being a doormat involves feelings of being walked on. Moreover, this form of codependency means a person fails to set boundaries and has difficulty saying “no.

In many cultures and families, saying “no” seems impolite and not kind. But when saying “yes” most of the time – when you really want to say “no” — gives way to dysfunctional living.

I never thought I would be teaching small children to say “no” to family members, friends, classmates, etc., but as an elementary counselor, I did teach them to refuse when they were asked to do something wrong or unsafe. This message is just as important for adults. We live in such a not-safe world.

When you say “yes” and don’t say “no” — and you wish you hadn’t agreed — that’s a clue you are doormat-ing. There’s also a sinking feeling, an uh-oh feeling in the pit of your stomach.

I love finding Scriptures that speak into my life and can you believe there are even some verses in Isaiah 51 and 52 that urge us not to let others walk on us? Let us know your thoughts on doormat living.

For Deeper Reflection

Isaiah 51: 7b, 22, 23; Isaiah 52:2

Do not fear the reproach of man,
Nor be dismayed at their revilings.

Thus says your Lord, the Lord, even your God
Who contends for His people,
“Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling,
The chalice of My anger;
You will never drink it again.
“I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
Who have said to you, ‘Lie down that we may walk over you.’
You have even made your back like the ground
And like the street for those who walk over it.”

Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.
You can contact me confidentially at 


  1. Joan Collins says

    I’ve introduced myself as a ‘recovering’ codependent from time to time, as my past and occasionally my present can stumble back into that trap. I had to learn to say, “I’d love to, but simply can’t fit it into my schedule”, in the beginning. I heard this on a radio broadcast and was shocked to learn it was okay to say “NO” and not feel guilty. It took YEARS to get comfortable refusing to be used by others and not worrying if I’d hurt feelings, wasn’t going to be liked, accepted, loved.

    • Dearest Joan – this is so good. Thank you for sharing your heart, your life, and even the broken things with us. LOVE, Helen

  2. It’s always a struggle as Christians taught to lay down our lives for others to know the difference between “door-matting” and sacrifice. If we CHOOSE to do it, it’s more of a sacrifice. Otherwise: doormat for sure!

    • dear Nancy – you always have a good word!!! Thank you so much for your input. Would that we would choose to lay down our lives to HIM more than we do! Love, Helen