overadaptationLately, I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who find it challenging to stand up for themselves, not only during the Christmas season. They find themselves in situations where they would like to react more according to their own wishes.
Although this ‘risk’ might be particularly high for (high) sensitive persons, everybody finds him or herself confronted with a challenging choice sometimes: be true to yourself or keep the peace?
Here’s why to stop over-adaptation –  and how!

Being a (sensitive) doormat

If you enjoy harmony, you may be inclined to give in too easily. Instead of being yourself, you somehow end up letting another person determine the outcome of a conversation, the duration of a telephone call or the amount of personal problems being unloaded on them – over and over again. I understand this dilemma very well. It is a challenge for anyone who likes harmony to stay true to your own self. Especially if you know how important something is for your partner (but not for you), and also if your friend seems to be in trouble (but never for the first time…). Let’s have a look at other pitfalls. Do you recognize any of the examples below?

  • You accept a position beneath our worth.
  • You behave obsequious, submissive, subservient.
  • You feel weak, socially, not physically.
  • You let yourself be easily defeated
  • You give more in a relationship than you receive. Especially in situations when you are the one needing backup.
  • You habitually talk on the phone until the other person wants to hang up, even if you wanted to end the call an hour ago.
  • You listen to you best friends love disasters over and over again, instead of telling her kindly that you really are not interested in witnessing her making the same mistake over and over again.

On top of this, you may call your submissiveness that you are  ‘just being nice’ or ‘showing empathy’. Or you may say you don’t mind. Or that it isn’t worth the hassle to get our way. Nevertheless, this feeling of being inferior withholds you from speaking our mind or being treated fairly. In a way, you don’t claim our space. Your boundaries are always following whatever the other person’s boundaries are.

Were you born a doormat?


What is interesting is that this behavior of ‘letting it happen for peace’s sake’ need not be something that was picked up during childhood. It might be totally independent of having been bullied, dominated, ostracized, criticized, used, abused, or ignored, by siblings, friends, or parents. In fact, more often it seems to be the result of other people’s opinions. Other people’s opinions that you, for some reason, valued above our own. But you can learn to ignore other people’s opinions, certainly once you’ve reached adulthood.

The holy grail: Other people’s opinions

People who suffer from the trap of over-adaptation usually value other people’s opinion higher than their own. They let the wishes of others outweigh their own needs. Particularly (high) sensitives can suffer immensely here. But what causes (extreme) adaptation? Think, for example, of:

  • (Religious) education.
  • Your urge to help others (especially for (high) sensitive persons).
  • De ‘role’ you wanted/were expected to ‘play’ in this life.
  • Experiences from earlier in life, or even in past life’s, if that is your thing.

If your pitfall of over-adapting is very strong, you might  feel that you have no influence on your life, that many things just ‘happen’ to you. You react to what happens instead of deciding yourself what you would like your life to be. Some characteristics include:

  • You are flexible towards others, but hardly ever prioritize your own needs.You do not communicate what’s bugging you and don’t ask the other person whether they want to change their behavior.
  • You don’t set limits to others.
  • You are afraid that if you indicate your limits, this will yield reprisals or annoying consequences.

Putting yourself last bears the danger that you are adjusting to another person so much that you lose yourself completely. You stop feeling who you really are and what you want, what you stand for. This loss of self can, eventually, manifest itself in the form of lung problems, skin diseases, sadness and even depression.

New holy grail: you


If you recognize some of these points and behaviors, and you want to change them, there is one thing you must realize. This is the most important conviction to change: You are not responsible for the welfare of the world. You can not make everyone happy. But you can increase your personal happiness. For example, try this:

  • Get to know your motivation, your dreams and your needs better.
  • Start to follow your heart more and discover what you really want to do. How you really want to live.
  • You can come a long way just taking some thinking time of, remembering good moments in your life and what happened there.
  • Or you choose to talk to friends or family about that you want to stop behaving like ‘a sensitive doormat’. This immediately sends a strong signal to them, as well, which will make it easier for you to go through with your metamorphosis.
  • Live your own life and do what makes you happy. Because everyone is responsible for his or her own life.
  • Manage your boundaries, time and energy wise, and learn to say ‘no’.

Last but not least, remember: others MIGHT interpret your taking up your space as selfishness, letting them down or that you become a lesser friend. But this doesn’t make them RIGHT!
Just realizing your own worth is already a very powerful step in overcoming the inclination to over-adaptation and helps to feel more “empowered”.
And you don’t need to become an egoist. You can still be kind, caring and fun to be with. Shining your own light might even attract other ‘sensitive doormats’ that are still stuck in the shadow, living someone else’s life, and help them to step out into the light.

  • Which suggestion will you try out today to decrease your over-adaptation?
  • Name one situation where you lost your borders and felt terrible and’ deflated’ afterwards
  • Do you think that your physical complaints are in some way related to over-adapting?
  • What is your motivation to minimize your over-adaptiveness?

If you are looking for help to overcome over-adaptiveness, just call me (06-53667256) or send me an email and we will find a way to help you taking up your space and shine your light-for your own benefit and for that of others!
It article is part of the ‘guide’ book about (High) Sensitivity that I’m writing. It will be published in autumn 2017.
Do you like this article?  The next article: “50 fun outdoor things to do (with your kids).” Online on January 4th.
Are you triggered by this article? Know then that I’m offering a (free) Inspiration session where you can get more general tips or tailor-made advice for your personal situation. Call 06-53667256 or send an email to info@ankewebersmit.com.
Don’t want to miss an article in the future? Sign up for my (monthly) newsletter with all articles and more interesting information! Go to: http://www.ankeweebrsmit.com.
Let other people in your network benefit from this article by SHAREING it through Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+.
Anke Weber Smit, P.h.D. is an passionate coach and approved healer with nearly 10 years of professional experience working with children, teens, adults, and companies. Anke’s mission is helping people with recondition the past and creating their future lifes. She has experience with treating (high) sensitivity issues, eating disorders, body image, relationships with others or with yourself, psychological abuse and anxiety. Anke is a honest, warm inspirational counselor, author and speaker who uses professional expertise, humor and personal recovery to help others to help themselves. For more information on her services, please follow Anke’s blog or visit her on www.cocreate.com (English) or www.ankewebersmit.com (Dutch)
 Image credits 1, 2, 3