My past self was someone who just wanted to be liked. I wanted to be liked by everyone, no matter what the cost. No was not a word I regularly used with anyone…except myself. I told myself over and over, “you can’t say no to anyone for anything, they won’t like you”.
As I began examining this behavior, I saw what I had always seen — this behavior was hurting me. Through deeper examination, though, I saw another side as well — this type of behavior was also hurting the people around me. I was saying yes to things I really didn’t want to do. When I looked back at my career, the dots clearly connected as to how this behavior was hurting everyone involved.
In my early thirties I adopted a very strong work ethic. I started standing out at jobs as a person who gets things done. When bosses see someone standing out in this way, guess what they do? When they have something that needs to be done, they go to the person who will do it. Because I never wanted to disappoint anyone and just wanted to be liked, when a boss came to me with an extra project or a new duty, I always smiled and agreed to do it. As I got busier and busier in my positions, I kept smiling and accepting the duties and projects, but inside I was frowning at myself and wishing I had said no. There are only so many hours in a day, and eventually the yes answers needed to become nos. It’s just a fact of time versus duties and how much one person can actually get completed in a given day. Still, my answer kept being yes. I then started to have life cycles at jobs. At about year three I would become too overwhelmed, feeling like I was living just for my job. Sometime in year three I would reach a pivotal point where the workload became too much, and I would quit.
After completing this job life cycle at three companies, I saw the pattern. I would last only three years, and then I would leave rather abruptly. As I was leaving, I would be telling my close family and friends that my job was just asking too much of me, and I felt like my career was consuming me. I was definitely playing the victim. The truth of the matter was I had never told the job no, I can’t do that. The job hadn’t actually asked too much of me, I had asked too much of me. I also realized this type of behavior was hurting the companies I was working for in addition to hurting myself. If I had told them no, they would still have an employee they really liked five or six years letter versus having an employee with a lifespan of three years. So, while I thought I was doing the best thing for my bosses by saying yes to everything, I was actually do the worst thing I could do for all parties involved. I would overwhelm myself to the point where I felt I had to leave because I couldn’t take on one more duty, and the company was left with a position to fill and having to train a new employee all over again.
It was through this very clear illustration that I started to grasp the importance of boundaries. Internally I knew what my boundaries were, but externally I was still letting people cross them. This wasn’t serving me well, nor was it serving the other party in the equation well. When I looked to personal relationships, I could see the same theme. When I was offering to be someone’s listening board when they were down, or was offering to be the person to come to their rescue if something should fall apart, I was telling the people in my life that it was okay to always run to me if these things happened. If I started seeing it as a cycle and no longer wanted to act in that capacity for a person, I wouldn’t tell them, and they would continue coming to me. This would eventually sabotage any relationship we had because I became resentful and would eventually walk away. I actually did the other party a disservice by not giving them the opportunity to know that I no longer wanted to be the one who picked up the pieces for them.
Now that I understand the importance of boundaries, I have implemented them in my life. What I have seen is a better, more fulfilling career, and deeper personal relationships. Everyone has boundaries, and boundaries should be respected. And respecting your own boundaries actually starts with you. Once you respect that you have boundaries, everyone else will fall in line. It all starts with you.
Originally published at http://mastermindpersonalcoaching.com on January 20, 2021.