It's not easy being a people-pleaser.
When you grow up afraid of confrontation and conflict, and spend all your time and energy trying to be as accommodating and "nice" as possible to avoid it, you set yourself up for a lifetime of stress and heartache and feeling let down. No one respects a doormat. Even worse, your self-respect takes another hit each time you fail to stand up for yourself.
Somehow it's taken me getting to the age of 46 years old to realize this is one of the big life issues I'm going to have to address. I'm trying to speak up for myself more, advocate for myself more, demand better treatment from others. It's going about as well as one would expect.
This all started last fall when I finally set some firm boundaries with my parents. For those of you reading who aren't regular readers, let's just say we have a fraught history. Growing up with emotionally abusive bullies (my mother) and alcoholics (both parents) is mostly what got me here in the first place.
Since I've been thinking about boundaries with them so much in the last several months, gradually I've started to think more about other situations where I need to advocate for myself. Work being the main one. I'm trying to do better, but it's so hard. Things kind of came to a head for me earlier this week.
I was (yet again) doing the work of three people (who were goofing off, as usual) when I got a request to take on yet another task that involved lots of complicated calls home to parents. I simply couldn't do it. I was already juggling too much to even get a lunch or a bathroom break! So I sent the AP back an email saying simply "It's not possible for me to take this on right now. I'm overwhelmed with all the work I have at the moment. I am sorry." I felt proud of myself for setting that boundary, but then............
...later in the afternoon I got called into the Principal's office for a conference with him and with the AP who had made the request, and she was furious with me. So pissed she wouldn't even look at me! Then the Principal said that the "tone" of my email to her had been "rude" and it read like I was "refusing to do what my supervisor asked me to do". I was stunned.
But I'm proud of how I handled myself. For once in my life I didn't start to tear up and choke up. I calmly said that if my tone had come across as rude, and if it seemed that I was "refusing" to do what she asked, that that wasn't my intention and I was sorry if I had given that impression. Then I calmly went on to explain what my workload looks like and exactly the reasons for it (without naming names, although there was no need. They have eyes). I made a gentle suggestion: in the future, if they have tasks they need help with so urgently, maybe it would be a better idea to ask the people who always seem to have so much more free time than I do. I smiled.
At that point the Principal hastily ended our little "conference" and I went back to my desk. I was proud of myself for standing up for myself, even in such a small way!
One more day until sweet summer freedom. I'm really looking forward to the break this year.