Welcome to Freelance Friday! Each Friday, I’ll share something Freelance-y that I learned during the week that will help other freelancers or entertain cubicle-queens. Thanks for reading!
The concept of emotional boundaries is my favorite thing in the world. Learning about them and implementing them has changed my marriage, my life, and my relationships.
In some cases, it’s ended the relationship. In others, it’s allowed them to open up and flourish in a way I never thought they could.
That said, I’ve avoided writing about it on the blog because it’s such a huge topic. I could write for days. So I never start writing.
This is just to say that I reserve the right for this post not to be comprehensive. I’m going to talk a little, and then ask you to talk. I hope you will.
Someone’s Wrong: You or Your Boss
Looking back, I can see now that whenever I was unhappy with my job it was a clear and simple problem of boundaries.
Either I wanted more from work than it was willing or able to give, or work wanted more than I was able or willing to give.
The result was a sudden decline in enthusiasm and an eventual parting of ways. And despite the heartache, I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to transition out of each opportunity gracefully.
Teaching falls into the first example.
I left college raring to go. I put everything I had into lesson plans and crafting “learning experiences” and unbelievably amazing presentations. (I don’t mean to brag… I just really, really showed up at 5am and stayed til 6pm to make the most awesome English experience possible for my students).
You can see where this is going.
The students were students. They misbehaved, didn’t care, and certainly didn’t enjoy it. The parents were sometimes worse than the students. And then some kid threw a rock at my head during lunch, and then a different one brought a knife to school and got kicked out.
It felt personal at the time, but I now realize that no amount of effort gives you control over someone else’s behavior. (Ahem, boundaries.)
You can’t demand a reaction from someone, you can only do what you are willing to do and put up with what you are willing to put up with.
I learned I wouldn’t (couldn’t) put up with that, so I followed my talents to a new job.
My later jobs fell into the second example.
It’s one thing to want to give more of yourself with that endearing, new hire “can-do attitude.” When you feel like a relationship is mutual, you’re willing to do ancilliary things that aren’t in your job description. You negotiate a salary and accept a position and then sometimes choose to give more freely of yourself than you agreed in the first place.
But when those extra innings and over-40 hours of the week become the requirements? The very minimum? When you sign up for one thing and the company demands something else, but then doesn’t want to invest in the relationship or extend its trust to you? That’s what wears you down and saps at your enthusiasm to be good at what you do.
The Solution to Unhappiness at Work
The solution is to take up your reigns of power. Saying, “I have no choice but to work here” makes you an awful coworker, a lackluster employee, and (eventually) a miserable human being. And worse than all of that, it eventually leads you to believe that you really are powerless, that you’re stuck whereever you are, and that life is a series of to do boxes and calendar days whipping past.
This understanding lead me to the four pillars and primary interests of my life that I write about and think about most of the time:
- A search for financial security. Not necessarily building unimaginable wealth (though that does seem appealing on some days), but rather paying down debt and lowering our monthly expenses and our idea of what “needs” are until we can be as free as possible from needing large sums of money. It’s biblical that we’ll always need some amount of money and we’ll always have a need for work, but how much you need and the kind of work you do is in your power, over time.
- A love of honest accomplishment in my work and a refusal to cut corners when the opportunity presents itself. (Because, really, what’s the point if you’re doing that?). I have a huge list of fun things I’d want to do if I were independently wealthy. So, A, I figured, “Why not just do them now?” which lead to JHubb’s first album being released this October and my career transition eBook. But it also means (to me) that I will never be done working and accomplishing things. The need for valuable, meaningful work (in some way, even if it’s just a hobby) is innate. It’s not going anywhere, no matter how much money you’ve got piled up or how lazy you think you could stand to be for a week or two.
- Courage to make good choices. Because even if you can’t see what’s coming, if you work hard and do your best the solution will always work out (even if it’s painful to you at the time). This works in relationships (if you can’t talk about your relationship, you don’t have a relationship), in work (why devote your life to someone else’s ambitions?) and in finances (okay, we’re still working on this one…).
I find when I approach new situations and terrifying things with these pillars as support, the decisions become easier to make and the conversations become less scary to have.
The more you embrace your own responsibility for subjecting yourself to the things that trouble you, the less burdensome those things become.
You literally free yourself. And then you can turn around and help other people get free, too.