Am I a Doormat, and How To Stop Others from Changing my Opinions?
August 29, 2018 8:18 AM   Subscribe

When I'm unsure of something, I look to others for opinions, and whatever they say will become the truth - even if it wildly differs from my original opinion. I'm also eager to please and forget that my opinion matters too. How do I discover confidence in my own truths and stick to them, and how do I recognize those who will exploit this weakness?

For the subjective topics with multiple viewpoints that I'm unsure about, (or in an argument) I'll swing back and forth upon hearing different opinions, until I don't know what to think. The more confident and firm the other person sounds, the more I give in and believe them. Sometimes it's like I suddenly have a revelation and what they are saying suddenly makes sense. If I tell myself something enough, sometimes I even start to believe it. This is beneficial only if I tell myself positive things.

My previous askmetafiler questions were an example of it happening. I had been looking at online communities for proof that I was right to be upset with my ex, but instead found people saying that driving after a few beers is fine and no one should put up with a partner who gained weight. After seeing all of the responses here, I now believe the majority here, even though I had thought differently while writing the question. (I had initially alone had the same thoughts as the community and had stood up for myself, but lost myself after years with my ex and therapy) Now due to my recent realization of how easily I can be swayed, I'm not sure what to think and wonder why the community has such a different opinion. Even though I know I didn't, I still wonder that maybe I didn't tell the story right and somehow crafted my own narrative to make myself sound better.

I think a lot of it comes from my upbringing. I'm seeing now that my parents regularly used a large variety of repetitive shaming, crazy-calling, and fear-based tactics to sway people's opinions when it doesn't match theirs (and they have a lot of opinions!). Plus they come from a culture where the needs of elders matter more and to not question them. I've learned to agree to appease, and perhaps learned to accept what people say as the truth, so that I could cope having my opinions changed.

With therapists, I was convienced by more than one that I was the one causing problems with my ex; they said because anxiety was clouding my view of things. The therapist I trusted the most to be the best (out of the handful I've been to) is actually terrible according to this community. With my ex, I kept hearing how things weren't how I saw them, and I started wondering if my perspective was wrong. During that relationship, I questioned my worldview and worried sometimes that I have selective memory. Now that I'm out of it, I can see my gut feelings were right, but still doubt myself occasionally.

Also, I internalize though my actions that other people's opinions matter more then mine. I find satisfaction in letting someone else have their way, and allowing my desires and wants aren't as satisfying as making someone else happy. For example, if someone wants to eat at a certain place, I'll agree even though I really dislike it, because it feels better to let someone have their way and be satisfied, than to assert my want and potentially cause resentment or disappointment. I know my thinking is off, that it is the potential dissapointment that I'm scared of and that most people wouldn't mind eating somewhere else. I do speak up sometimes, but other times I'm aware that I'm choosing to do something for someone's own happiness and ignoring mine.

Any articles, books, stories, questions to ponder, analyses and thoughts are welcomed! I've recently been reading a lot of self-help books which immensely help, much more than therapy. The Seven Pillars of Self-Esteem and the sentence completion exercises have been life changing. Thanks!
posted by LovingMyself to Human Relations (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Hi please read the New Codependency by Melody Beattie. I struggle with many of the same things and the book felt like it was written just for me. I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed my life.
posted by missjenny at 8:40 AM on August 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

There is no reason to hold any particular opinion other than evidence, and perhaps reasoning about evidence. In the absence of evidence, most people gravitate to opinions that support what they would like supported. When someone offers an opinion, ask yourself (or ask them) if there is any good reason it.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2018

I feel this a lot -- I never had to / learned to express opinions as a kid, and lost touch with the voice of what I want and what I think.

I don't have any reading materials, but if you want to practice having opinions and holding them, take part in a UX study or some kind of low-stakes group poll / discussion session. During these sessions, I can feel my own thoughts leaking out of my brain when other people start to express their opinions (and I start to think about they ways that they could be right), but then I have to remember to bring it back because I remember that my job there is to give opinions, especially when it is dissenting.
posted by batter_my_heart at 2:47 PM on August 29, 2018

I once met someone who used a dowsing pendulum to help feel more confident about decisions. And, well, to help make them. He believed in it having a mystical component .. I do not, but i can see it as being valuable regardless. Sort of like , say, if you arent sure if you want ice cream or cookies so you flip a coin. Its heads! Heads were cookies. And then you realize , upon feeling dissapointmemt at cookies, that secretly wanted ice cream all along! Well, this "dowsing pendulum" can achieve some similar effects, and that it's a way of tricking your noisy conscious mind into being a little quieter and letting perhaps your gut feelings come through. Unlike my friend, I think it's the user controlling the pendulum, but but the reason lots of people think it's Mystikal is because they're not consciously aware of controlling it-therefore it's useful in this kind of a scenario..

Here's a video to give you a sense - - he even says at one point "to clarify, we're not asking the pendulum, we're asking our subconsious mind" ( :
posted by elgee at 7:26 PM on August 29, 2018

Doh sorry for typos above.. I tried to edit again, but alas now I seem to be out of chances. Cursed tiny screen. I do know mystical is spelled mystical but apparently iOS thinks its "Mystikal" etc
posted by elgee at 7:35 PM on August 29, 2018

Best answer: With the subjects you describe, it's not like there's one true answer that has been the one true answer that everyone would have agreed on for all of time. There have been times not all that long ago when most people would have said that you needed to make sacrifices and put your family and husband's needs above your own, because being happy isn't that important.

Today our society is structured a little differently and has more room for people to make some choices of their own even if people around them don't agree with that, but one consequence of that is the communities aren't going to be as close in certain ways as in a society where people are making ongoing sacrifices for each other (even if they resent and fight each other a lot).

You're spending a lot of time looking for the true answer and maybe that's why you're finding it so easy to be swayed. There really isn't one true best way to live all lives.

The only thing I found that makes a difference is changing my attitude, looking for "what I want" instead of for "what is best". It's a hard transition to make, though. and sometimes it takes a lot of thought and imagining to really recognize what I most want to do especially since it's not actually usually the most selfish / self-indulgent thing - it may be sometimes but often I actually *want* to help someone or to study or to practice music or so on.
posted by Lady Li at 10:05 PM on August 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Missjenny, thanks for bringing the concept of codependency to light! I'll definitely get some books of it. I haven't looked too much into codependency yet because I know I don't need to be in a relationship to feel whole, and I enjoy the life of solitude. Now that I think of it, some of those attributes do match me when I spend long enough time with certain people. When I'm away from these people, I feel more confident in making my own decisions and things just seem... easier. The question is why these people - is it that they are co-dependent themselves, or have certain attributes that pulls something out of me? It took me longer than the average person to form an identity with strong opinions while growing up. After moving away from my parents, I suddenly became my own person. I was much more confident, and I could make decisions with ease. I'm going to need to consider how much time I spend with them - and others who bring out this side of me -, so that I can truly make progress on being more independent.
posted by LovingMyself at 7:49 AM on August 30, 2018

Best answer: It sounds like your life has been marked with significant developmental deterrents towards being your own person, or being loved and accepted for being your own person. This comes from patterns of abusive gaslighting and a refusal by adults around you to let you feel like what you see and hear and know is valid.

I had that experience growing up and I also was easily swayed and very sensitive to criticism of my abilities to discern things. When I read your questions I actually see (especially in this question) quite a lot of reflective insight. Even when you're vacillating you're aware that you are processing things in a certain way and you have hints of why.

Why not start some daily thoughtful practice of writing things about you that you know to be true. Start with eg 'I am a wide reader' or 'I love animals' and work from there to deeper self exploration. Like 'I was a sensitive young child who noticed .... x' and write down all the things you remembered as that sensitive child. Like, for me, recognising when other people were sad even if they didn't use words or be obvious. Like, noticing sounds and smells acutely, or being fascinated with drawing faces or decorating things with doodles. Or 'I am kind when I did ... x as a child. I still am that person and I like being kind.' Or 'when I come across new ideas I am fearful at first, but I always listen carefully and take them into consideration when I decide what fits well for me.' (Eg 'I've seen that some people think drink driving is okay, but I don't want to be in a drink driving situation myself.') 'I am a seeker eg x' 'I am a loving human being eg x' 'I am a seeker who can experience many angles of vision on a topic or value system eg x'

What do you know about you? It's hard but it's a form of growing into acceptance that you are certainly enough just as you are, doing well with the hand you've been dealt. Sure, there's always something to be learned from others, and it's worth listening to others. But something I've learned from similar origins to yourself, is that I do have a core set of attributes against which other people's ideas sit, and for which I do not have to make way to keep a unified position with the group.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:08 AM on August 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: UPDATE: I actually didn't find the codependency book as pertainable as the other books I've been reading. Message me if you want any recommendations.

One of my favorite books that relates most to this topic is The Art of Taking to Yourself by Vironika Tugaleva. That book gave me some amazing insight, especially the latter chapters. One of the concepts is binary beliefs and attributing bad vs good to personality traits that in actuality are both good and bad.

I can see now that I am drawn to people who also have binary beliefs, who also seem assertive and appear to know what they are taking about (in which I view as a good trait), because I view myself as hesistant and am quick to acknowledge that my opinion isn't always right (in which I will as a bad trait). I can see now that the opposite can be true: those who are assertive can also be stubbornly opinionated and have trouble understanding other perspectives, and those who are hesistant can also be thoughtful and open to different perspectives. Sometimes the people I meet have the opposing rigid view: that they must make their opinions known no matter what if they disagree; otherwise, they are inherently bad because not sticking up for their beliefs jepordizes their view of themselves being strong. When I'm with these people and we clash on opinions, I end up being "wrong" and believing myself to be wrong after debating with them.

What I need to do: learn to accept my personality traits as both good and bad as well as not putting myself in a box of how I should behave, acknowlege that there is no need to be judgemental to myself and others as there is no "right" way to do things, trust my gut as I deep down know my opinions are how I really feel and that I'm not wrong to feel differently, to not trick myself into convincing myself that someone else's view is right just because I want to fit in, remind myself that if someone sounds confident and tries to convince me that they are right then that doesn't necessarily mean that my opinions are wrong, and don't spend my time around those who can't let both of our opinions coexist without feeling threatened.

Notably, when I'm alone or with people who don't spar with me whenever a difference in opinions come up, I begin to feel more confident. I'm in a good spot in my life again, and everyday I'm feeling better! Thank you all, this community has helped so much!
posted by LovingMyself at 8:08 AM on November 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

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