Those who know me well know that I am fairly easy going. I have had my share of turmoil in my life, and I am at the point where I just like things to go smoothly. If I get pushed a little bit, I tend not to be reactionary, but rather think things through and consider whether it warrants fighting back or letting it slide. Most of the time I let things go. After all, is it really worth a conflict?
I like being this way. I like the reputation of being even-tempered and cooperative. In my younger years, I couldn’t always make that claim. While I wasn’t what you would call confrontational, I definitely did have my own opinions and march to my own drummer, even if it meant not going along with the program. But throughout the years, it seems that I have mellowed out and really don’t sweat the small stuff (and some of the larger stuff too!) I carefully weigh issues that I disagree with and decide whether they are worth arguing or not. Usually I pass.
The problem with having this attitude is that sometimes it gets to be a habit and one day you find that you are a bit more compliant then you want to be. In dealing with a particular party, you may have walked away from these small issues several times and all of a sudden you realize that they are growing into larger issues and you begin to feel taken advantage of. There comes a point where you need to draw a line and reestablish your boundaries or risk the position of not being respected. But after so many weeks (months, years) of being submissive, it is difficult to stand up for yourself without appearing to be harsh and unreasonable. After all, you are the one that set the pace in the first place. It can be very frustrating and difficult.
Those of you who read regularly saw this happen to me in the last week or so. It seemed that several small issues came to light and one after another were chipping away at me. At first I didn’t even notice. But as time went on and the things kept piling up, small as they were they were taking their toll on me. Soon I began to feel unappreciated and taken advantage of and even though each incident in itself was minor, they all added up to quite a large bite to swallow. As a result, I began to feel deflated and frustrated and a bit angry and out of sorts. It showed in my work and my attitude and I wasn’t my usual chipper self.
The funny thing was that I didn’t even realize it until I took a step back. That couple of hours that I spent at the beach was worth far more to me than it would have appeared on the surface. It gave me time away from things and step back and evaluate my situation honestly. It also gave me the opportunity to weigh my options without interruption or distractions.
In doing so, I came to some conclusions.
-I am worth more than I was giving myself credit.
-I am reasonable in what I expect from most situations.
In looking at my business and how it performed in the past, I saw a lot of struggling and difficult times. I looked at the end product of what I produce and I can honestly say that I am proud of what I have to offer. I do my best work, I don’t cut corners, I am there when my customers need me and I am fair. These are all good components that should make a business successful. Why, then has it been such a struggle?
In evaluating things, I realized that I haven’t had enough confidence in myself to really stand up for myself and expect the respect that is due me. In the past, I was grateful for being published (I still am) and for wholesale companies accepting my products and so forth, to the point of practically bending over backwards to make these things work.
I see it every day in the ‘newbies’ that are being published for the first time. They are excited and thrilled and flattered and most of them would jump through just about any hoop that the publishers would hold for them in order to see it happen. That may be fine for someone who is doing this as a side line or hobby, but in order to make a living at a job such as this, it would be exhausting and unreasonable to have to do it all the time. Problem is that when we are just starting, we are all starry-eyed and probably give up a bit more than we are comfortable doing so but we are so intoxicated by the smell of success it doesn’t matter. As a result we set a prescient that is difficult to change further down the line and find ourselves in a trap that we, ourselves created. At first we don’t realize it, but as time goes on and the initial awe of our own success wears off, the fog lifts and we find ourselves in a position that isn’t quite what we pictured and these small incidents begin to eat away at us.
So what to do now?
In sitting on the beach and contemplating my situation, I realized that if I were to allow things to continue the way they were heading, I would not be able to sustain my business. Having a partner is quite helpful at times such as these because it forces me to look out not only for my own good (something that I am not so good at) but also to look out for the good of others (something that I am better at.) My decisions no longer affect only myself, but someone else too. That alone causes me to think a little bit harder and consider the consequences a little deeper. It isn’t that I haven’t done so before, but I consider myself quite stoic and was willing to put myself on the line ‘for the good of the business.’ Was I willing to put my partner on the line too?
In order for the business to be successful, it needs to make a profit. If not, it will fail. That is plain and simple. With two of us depending on the business for a livelihood, there is no glossing over whether it is profitable or not. Either it is or it isn’t. I can no longer make decisions based on ‘hope’ that things will turn around and work eventually. If the figures aren’t there, I can’t keep going.
Knowing this I feel is a great gift. It takes the stars out of my artist’s eyes and forces me to be a business woman – something that I have never aspired to be. It makes me realize that the difference between standing up for myself and not could mean the total success or failure of my business. This is no longer something that I can gloss over with ‘pink cloud ideals’. It is growing up and facing reality.
So why am I going on about this all?
Yesterday a situation was presented to me regarding something I was requested to do by someone that I worked with. I will not go into any details because that would not be right, but I will say that it was something I didn’t want to do and felt was unnecessary. The person was a bit persistent in their request however, and I felt as if they were holding yet another hoop for me to jump through. Not complying with their wishes meant the risk of losing the business relationship with them, which is a very important one to me. However, I was tired of compromising my own principles and allowing my own actions to be dictated by fear.
I thought for a bit about it, and I knew that if I did what was asked, I would not have any self-respect. I would show them that they could push me around and perhaps they would be happy, but I would be miserable. I knew that if I allowed this, they would just push a little farther next time. In the end it would tear me apart.
It took everything within me to do what I did. I very politely and professionally told them “No.”
I sent the message to them with a trembling hand. Was I committing business suicide? After all, I need this company to keep my business going. But I felt it was time that I had the respect for myself that I give to others and enough was enough.
After several hours with no response, I was certain that I burned a bridge. I was already formulating ‘plan B’ in my mind to figure out how my business could survive without them. But late in the day, I received an email response from them. Everything was fine and plans were discussed as if the matter was never approached in the first place. It was a major emotional victory for me and has empowered me greatly.
I don’t know what they are thinking now, but I do know that I set a new boundary for myself that has commanded at least a bit of respect. Whether I have repercussions from my decision in the future or not remains to be seen, but for now the only repercussion I feel is that I have set some new limits and feel good about them. Those feelings are immeasurable.
Sometimes we need to say ‘no’ in order to allow ourselves certain freedoms. Being cooperative is fine, but not at the cost of your respect and integrity. Boundaries are very important for your own well-being and also that of your business.
I wish you all a wonderful day!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"