My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #392: Setting Boundaries

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 07-06-2011 01:15 PM 4109 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 391: Finishing Some Things and Starting Others Part 392 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 393: Preparing Patterns »

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 ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

12 comments so far

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2806 days

#1 posted 07-06-2011 02:03 PM

Good for you. You have every reason to be proud of yourself.
My Grandmother used to tell us that if you don’t value your own self enough to stand up for yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to stand up for you?


View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2579 days

#2 posted 07-06-2011 02:03 PM

Sheila good for you . Glad you are taking time for you , even without a business people need that break from the daily grind . It is refreshing , to go to the beach for you , some it may be camping (love it) , fishing , or a walk in the park , woods. I believe it is needed;
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy is a proverb. It means that without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.
take care

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#3 posted 07-06-2011 02:09 PM

when it all boils down, you end up with “being true to your intentions” and to the gifts/talents that you have been given.

I’ve been working with a client, helping her make decisions that are based on her own path rather than being dragged down someone else’s path because of feelings of obligation and helpfulness.

It is “OK” to say yes – when it comes from within, when it is being true to what your goals are. When you let others guide your decisions, rather than using your inner knowing, then you are not honouring your journey, your purpose in life.

Their path, their decisions, their actions; your path, your decisions, your actions. Working together, we can create great things; one-sided and we lose valuable “stuff”. When we think of the tapestry of life, with each journey being a different thread, a different colour. It is a glorious thing. If we all walked to that same drummer, followed the same expectations, the tapestry would be a very bland, single-coloured, cloth.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2883 days

#4 posted 07-06-2011 02:20 PM

Thank you all.

Debbie – you sound so much like a good friend of mine who is a very good counselor. it is through her that I have learned to do exactly what you are saying. If we are not feeling right about things, there is usually a good reason behind those feelings. Being true to yourself and your intentions is a very important part of being happy. I am all for compromising and respecting others too. Finding the right mix is a valuable thing to everyone. I love your views on this.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View ShopTinker's profile


884 posts in 2732 days

#5 posted 07-06-2011 02:28 PM

Good for you. Let that inner voice guide you. It’s to easy to say “Yes” even when we really don’t want too. It can be very difficult, but empowering, to say “NO”.

-- Dan - Valparaiso, Indiana, "A smart man changes his mind, a fool never does."

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4124 days

#6 posted 07-06-2011 02:29 PM

our society has, sadly, focused on a “me” perspective – my rights, my choices, etc… but it’s more than that. It is about “my part of the big picture” – my contributions, my talents and purpose and how they contribute to the greater good.
“I” have to be true to myself in order to make the best contribution; “I” need to let “you” do the same; and together, we need to help each other be the best we can be.


-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3000 days

#7 posted 07-06-2011 04:03 PM

Firstly good for you. Some people don’t understand any part of the concept ‘no’ and have to be made aware of it, firmly. So well done.

Secondly they have probably stopped thinking “She’ll do anything you ask her”, which is good and as it should be. They will probably be less inclined to express their ‘wants’ as ‘needs’ in future but I would keep a watch out on this they could err back into bad habits. I also believe you should worry less about making demands of them. Business is supposed to be a two way thing where both parties benefit. Otherwise its slavery or you’re being ripped off..

Good first step on the self-respect ladder though.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3267 days

#8 posted 07-06-2011 04:22 PM

all of the comments here are good and it shows you have support from your fellow wood workers, but it also shows that your decision was right, and you knew it was inside…i think if allowed a business like the ones you deal with will tend to take more then be a giver…theyt might feel that they hold an upper card, and think if it wasnt for us, this business wouldnt make it, so they take and take…and you end up with a very unhealthy business the spirit of cooperation and fairness, it needs to be a equal…give and take…with both parties feeling good about there part in the proud that you took this step and i think if your dealing with a company that truly appreciates you and what you give to them, they should respect your answer and continue to deal with you fairly , if they start to show a lack of support or respect, its because they think there the cats meow and have little respect for the people like you who give them the work that they publish, which would show there true colors of who they are as a company….i am SO very sorry though that pink cloud thinking might be dissolving…LOL…...maybe once in awhile we can jump onto the pink cloud just for awhile…and have a coke or some cookies…...grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2883 days

#9 posted 07-06-2011 04:27 PM

I am quite surprised at how good one single little word (“no”) feels. It isn’t that I want to be contrary or difficult, but as many of you pointed out, I need to follow my own path and principles.

Martyn – that is exactly what I was thinking. I don’t like feeling like I am a pushover and feeling like a doormat quickly takes away my ambition and desire to do anything. My problem is that I usually allow others to push and push and then it is a fine line between tolerance and intolerance and I ‘blow’. (Usually to myself more than outwardly, but it isn’t fun nonetheless!)

Saying ‘no’ time to time when you need to helps depressurize things and keep everything on a good level. It is difficult the first time if you haven’t done so in a while, but as you said, it will make them think harder before they push again in the future.

And Grizzman – You don’t need to worry about me abandoning the pink cloud! Being happy and feeling good about myself is all part of the ‘pink cloud experience’ where I love to reside. It is hard to feel ‘pink’ when you are ‘blue’ (GASP! DID I REALLY WRITE THAT! HOW CORNY AM I???? LOL)

The pink cloud LIVES! :D


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Transition's profile


340 posts in 2507 days

#10 posted 07-06-2011 05:37 PM

In Sales, and all other relationships for that matter, it is important to set the proper expectations. The “I win – You win” scenario is the only one that leads to long term success. Looks like you reset expectations, which is wonderful. I’ve worked with professional salesmen who don’t get what you figured out.

I Win – You Win: I get fair compensation and you get a good product. I believe that people appreciate this scenario, even if it means that they can’t afford your product at the time.

I Lose – You Win: If I lose (charge less than is fair or give time/product away) and you win, then you will come to expect this. As I can’t successfully continue in this manner eventually I will be forced into the “I Win-You Lose” scenario. I’ve worked with salesmen who have given away product, or time (usually that belonging to someone else), and the company suffers.

I Win – You Lose: If I win (charge more than is fair or sell an inferior product) and you lose, then you will feel slighted and stop buying from me, or worse, you will share your experience with others. This leads to a “I Lose – You Lose” scenario.

I Lose – You Lose: Where most of America is today. Think of the U.S. auto market in the ‘80s – we got an inferior product, and they eventually failed. I think craftsmen and artisans are in a unique position to reset expectations, educate our fellow Americans, and produce quality products for a fair price.

Except for the commentary on the state of our union, this is basically a paraphrasing of text in “The New Strategic Selling” by Miller/Heiman. I’ve never wanted to be a salesman, but I love the rush when I negotiate a sale in the “Win-Win” category.

-- Andrew, Orange County, CA -

View stevebuk's profile


57 posts in 2648 days

#11 posted 07-06-2011 07:42 PM

i think everyone in this world ‘has a price’ i think you just showed them yours, well done..

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2883 days

#12 posted 07-07-2011 11:46 AM

Hi, Andrew:
One thing that I always liked about my editor at the magazine is his win/win attitude. It seems that he is always setting things up so that all parties come out feeling good about things. I am sure that is why I feel such a loyalty to the magazine and have been working with them so long.

I agree with you that for any business to succeed, this needs to be the policy. If not, it is only going to be a matter of time before things crumble and fall apart.

It feels good when everyone wins. And that, I believe is a great motivator for everyone. :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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