Thursday, June 10, 2021

Boundaries

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.



57 comments:

  1. I always stand up for myself, though sometimes I do so with less tact then I should.

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  2. Someone got angry with me about the tone I took in an e-mail. I was dumbfounded. I asked her what offended her. She said it was not the words but the tone. In my mind it was matter of fact but I was not angry when I wrote it. I pointed out that e-mail didn't have a tone. It was something the reader assigned. In the end she decided I was correct.

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  3. That "tone" didn't sound rude to me at all! I do believe that everyone involved is very lucky that you didn't channel Anne Marie! You go gurl, with your tactful self.

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    1. I keep thinking about Anne Marie and wishing I had her words of advice and encouragement. I miss her a lot. :(

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    2. Hugs, Jennifer. I miss her too, so very much.

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  4. Seriously well done, start to finish.

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  5. Good for you! I thought the tone in your email was fine -- you simply stated facts without any extraneous emotions, blame or other escalating language. And it's impressive how cool, calm and collected you were in the meeting with the higher ups! And that was NOT a "small way" of standing up for yourself, but a really BIG DEAL!

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  6. Well done; pointing-out the obvious often helps.

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    1. It helped me to feel better if nothing else! Haha.

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  7. I can relate to finding it hard to advocate for myself; it sounds like you did a brilliant job of that at work. And you stayed calm. It gave the two people in the meeting with you food for thought for the future, and seeing who has spare time!

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  8. I use to be nicey nice all the time, and had a hard time keeping my Cruella DeVil side at bay. Some years ago, I let my evil side out and started getting just as stabby and bitchy back. One has to or people will just walk all over you.

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    1. YES! Absolutely right.

      I feel the spirit of Anne Marie in your comments, MM. That's a comforting thing. xo

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  9. Good for you for standing up for yourself! I love that you said you need to advocate for yourself. That is such an important thing to learn. I've never been good at doing that and as a result I have paid the price most of my life, and I know it's my own fault. I'm proud of you Jennifer! You have learned what I failed to learn when I was your age.

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    1. I wish I had been a better friend to myself sooner. It takes so very long to grow up, doesn't it?

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  10. You say you were proud of having stood up for yourself, even in such a small way. Well, it is actually not such a small way - it was a major thing for you to do, and probably surprised the two others in the room with you quite a bit! Well done, Jennifer!!!
    You do your job and more what's asked of you, and it would be nice if others would do at least their job.
    With my clients, I have had to set firmer boundaries, too. It was easy for them to have constant access to me since the pandemic started and they know I am working from home all day, every day. Before, my time was neatly divided between several clients, working at their offices so that I was there exclusively for them. Now I need to re-establish a stricter schedule again, or I'll go nuts!

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    1. You deserve to draw a line in the sand when your work life starts to bleed over into your personal life! Good for you for setting those firmer boundaries with clients.

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  11. APPLAUSE from Yorkshire! I am especially proud of you for remaining calm and standing your ground in The Principal's office. Hopefully, your stance will ignite some managerial action though you have said before that Mr Nice Guy (The Principal) may not possess the wherewithal to tackle the work distribution issue effectively.

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    1. Thank you so much, Neil. Seriously. Your support and encouragement means a lot to me and when it comes to work issues, I would always trust your advice. xx

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  12. Applause from all around the world!! I'm not much of a pleaser so don't tend to have that particular problem. What does make me run a mile (and I thought of it with your second meme) is people who say "I respect boundaries. Boundaries are good." It usually means they are absolutely begging for boundaries.

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    1. I appreciate it, Sarah. :) I never gave "boundaries" a single thought until last year. Now they're on my mind regularly.

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  13. Good for you!!! You are my hero. Just imagine me, and obviously a whole bunch of others, standing on your shoulder cheering you on — always. You handled that perfectly and were the only adult in the room.

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    1. Well, I'm not THAT brave. I almost teared up after it was over and I went back to my desk. Luckily it was getting to be the most busy time of my day--dismissal. Afternoon announcements, calling buses, calling kids to the car lines, etc....distraction is a wonderful thing when you're trying not to cry! But by then the Principal and AP weren't around so it didn't matter anyway.

      I'm still mostly a big weenie when it comes to confrontation.

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  14. It has all been said, but I would like to add my cheers to the rest....well done girl!! (That email was in no way rude)

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    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate all the encouragement here!

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  15. You handled that very well. Good that you referred clearly to the people who seemed to have very little to do and could presumably take on some extra jobs quite easily. Of course your email wasn't rude, it was a perfectly polite response. I hope your firm stand gets you a bit more respect.

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    1. I'm so relieved this horrible, stressful year is over. I'm hoping things will be better when I go back to work in 6 weeks. Oh yeah....did I mention I'm on VACATION now?! Wooooo!

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  16. Good for you. It is difficult to stand up for yourself (well, it is for me), so that was brave - so sorry you got raked over the coals for it initially. Now, hopefully, they will think twice about evenly dividing up the tasks. -Jenn

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  17. Well done standing up for yourself!! That was rude of them to take issue with what you've done and avoid the actual problem of poorly delegating the urgent work. Not only that, they're clearly unaware of how much work you already do there.

    And the AP refusing to even acknowledge you in the meeting is such a childish move. Be better, educational administrators ::eyeroll::

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    1. The AP refusing to look at me has bothered me ever since. We've had no contact. I know she's been under a lot of pressure this year, and I had JUST heard a rumor that her husband had mentioned to someone that she's "miserable" at work these days. I was surprised by all that. I've always liked and respected her and she does a great job. Refusing to look at me (and even getting mad over something so trivial in the first place) is REALLY out of character for her. It hurt my feelings more than anything else in this whole incident.

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    1. More than I probably managed to convey in this post, Mary. Thank you.

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  19. Nice job. I hope they heard you.

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    1. I hope so, too. Either way, I think I'm going to start looking at other jobs within the district next year. I'll reassess after this much-needed 6 week break! :)

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  20. You did that perfectly! Staying calm but firm while you stated your case. Well done!

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  21. It's not easy being a people-pleaser. - no kidding, in fact it is probably not possible, but not to be worrying it isn't worth trying
    When i started working in my field, a wise nurse pulled me aside and told me the magic words are "Limits" and "structure" wise indeed.

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  22. Good for you. It sounds like they needed to hear that. Unfortunately, it's the more efficient, more competent people (you) who often suffer in these situations, being asked to step in at the last minute to solve other people's messes! I usually try not to respond right away when I get a request that annoys me. I find that if I take a few moments to let my blood pressure go down (!) I'll then be capable of writing a response that might not push the wrong buttons.

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    1. There's been a whole lot of tension and drama going on the past few weeks that really have nothing to do with me, so everyone has been stressed out. My email sounded a bit terse, and I'm willing to own that. But sometimes people should have a little more respect. I do way too much work for free up there to get harassed for such nonsense.

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  23. A honest share today
    Well done my friend

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  24. Yes! I could not be more proud of you if you were my own daughter.

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  25. I read what you said and I did not think it rude. You stated what was needed. Someone has lost control (principle) and it shows .'
    You did well !
    I can send Agatha over for a hug and Winston's new nickname is Tank. He could help with the bulldosing of the not so nice people.
    Hug from me.

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  26. My Husband is the kindest soul and was put on all through his working life. Now he can see that I was right about this but it's too late. Nobody will care about you when you are gone so speak out and stand up for yourself.
    If people take offence then they were not worth your time in the first place.
    Briony
    x

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  27. Shame on the principal for reacting that way to your perfectly polite email. I know how you feel. I'm always expected to do more and be more than other employees. I try to stand up for myself. It's hard. I'm very impressed with the way you handled the situation.

    Love,
    Janie

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  28. I'm 77 and I am so over giving a fuck about what people think of what I say do wear or worship..

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  29. Good job. It takes guts to stand up for oneself in a work situation. You handled it with class and style.

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