A reflection on the holidays: The importance of boundaries and self-care
We're heading into a new year, and I always love the feeling of turning a new page. My birthday is around the corner and the holidays are in the rear view.
The holiday season is not my favorite time of year. Don't get me wrong, I love the lights, glitter, and shiny baubles, the parties, revelry, and special drinks and foods, but the holidays bring out the absolute worst in some people, several of whom I'm obligated to associate with, and this year taught me a couple of valuable lessons (if you want to skip the lessons and see how this relates to business, scroll down to the last few paragraphs):
Takers are going to take, so vote with your time
The holidays are all about giving, and I love that aspect of the season. Reciprocity is cool, but when I give, I give from the heart with zero expectation of returns. The thing about takers is that you can give 100% of your time, money, spirit, and emotional labor, and it will never be enough.
There are a few unavoidable takers in my life, and their behavior, even though expected, stressed me waaaay out starting about six weeks before Christmas. It's the fattest time of the year and I lost weight, which is the surest sign I'm under immense stress. Even though I managed it pretty well, the takers took up space and time they didn't need but had to have, and they mentally and emotionally taxed my husband and me.
The best way I've found to work with takers while still caring for myself and my family is by minimizing the time spent in person. Takers will suck the air of of a room to puff themselves up with self-importance, and ours did it from a long distance, so they used our emotional energy right up before we even got in the car. The consequence: the multi-day trip was cut down to a matter of hours.
There are always some ruffled feathers when takers aren't being acquiesced to, but putting on the show of in-person camaraderie is paramount, and once we leave, we're out of sight, out of mind.
The smallest sign of gratitude is healing balm to a wounded soul
After well over a month of managing the manipulation and bullying that comes with with takers, coming to my parents' house from the front lines and having my brother-in-law say "We really appreciate you being here" saved my Christmas. No joke. This is a man who traveled from Washington state with my sister and five children, and HE appreciated MY effort. I have wrapped that blanket of words around myself and have not left the cocoon to this day. If you see someone suffering, gift them some kind words. It costs nothing, and can seriously put that person on a better path.
How does this relate to business and entrepreneurship?
Managing difficult family/friend situations can actually help in business. It's a wretched way to learn, admittedly, but there's still value there.
While I've never had a client as high-maintenance as the takers, I've learned to compromise more effectively, deliver a "no" more tactfully, and manage my time in ways that satisfies everyone and doesn't work me to death.
While I can't cut the takers out entirely, I can create boundaries that they can't permeate, no matter how hard or often they cry over the phone. Whoever it is or whatever their role is in your life, takers need to be managed carefully but effectively. I'm still learning to navigate my takers, but every time I gently* say "no" or set limits, there's a new set of rules to play by, and I'm part of making them.
If you're a taker, that's okay. Admitting it is the first step to correcting toxic behaviors. I say this from experience and as someone still working on mine. There are plenty of books, online resources, and branches of therapy that can help you find balance in your life. An online search will open up doors you may not have realized were there.
Cheers to a healthy, positive, and productive 2019.
*Gently is hard for me. I'm working on my toxic behaviors, too, and part of that is not being too blunt and forthcoming when gentility and subtlety work better.