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February 10, 2020
Word of the Week: Boundaries
I probably get 2-3 requests per week from people who want to “pick my brain.” About my career path, about the coaching industry, about my grad program at Columbia, about previous companies I’ve worked for, about finding a therapist, about freelance writing…you name it!
The business industry has a weird unspoken rule that you are “mean” or “not a team player” if you don’t respond to these sorts of requests (which usually come from wonderful people like old coworkers, friends of friends, and classmates). We tell people they need to take these calls, no matter if they have the energy or not, because 1) you never know if you might need this person to repay the favor, 2) it’s a way to pay-it-forward from when someone did a similar thing for you, and 3) this person might be a good networking contact for you in the future. There are all sorts of narratives we’ve internalized from society to convince ourselves to take these calls even when we don’t want to.
For years, I would agree to every single request that came my way. I felt a huge responsibility to be a support for others who were navigating similar career struggles because I remembered so clearly what it was like to be in their shoes. After a while, though, I found myself getting resentful.
Here’s how emotionally draining this was for me: I would waste my energy being annoyed about the request when it first came in, waste more energy on the call itself, waste even more energy being mad at myself for taking the call in the first place, and then waste even more energy feeling bad about the fact I was mad at myself for taking the call and wondering what horrible person would get so annoyed at a totally innocent networking request! It was a vicious cycle.
Needless to say, I had to have a serious heart-to-heart with myself about where all of this resentment was coming from. It took a while to realize that as much as I wanted to obey the social obligation to take these types of calls for free, I just couldn’t. Especially now that my entire livelihood revolves around how much energy I have, I couldn’t afford (literally) to be giving it all away for free.
So now, whenever I get one of these requests, I kindly offer one-off paid business consulting services (available to any of you as well!) and a relevant blog post + Monday Vibes to get them started. It’s zero stress and I’m 1000x happier since creating this boundary. I don’t feel bad anymore because I know this solution is what’s best for the other person as well.
Resentment is one of those emotions no one wants to talk about. But why? There’s so much wisdom underneath the things that piss us off!
Ask Yourself: Is there something in your life that you keep doing even though it pisses you off? How can you set a boundary for yourself to help lessen the resentment?
Weekly Mantra: Setting a boundary benefits everyone involved.