2016 is, without a doubt, the year I started questioning my worth in earnest. For most of my life I’ve been willing to accept the value given to me by whoever I happened to be dealing with. As a consequence I have a history of only removing myself from situations when they became so damaging that I had no other choice. Crawling away exhausted, burned out, emotionally flayed, unable to function, crying all the time, unable to sleep… it’s happened repeatedly.
This year it finally dawned on me that one way to avoid this would be to get out sooner. Saying ‘no’ more often, and spotting situations that aren’t clever will help me. The jobs no one else is prepared to do? Maybe I shouldn’t be striding in heroically. Maybe there are very good reasons no one else is willing to do those things. I’ve started thinking that it would be a good idea to hold a sense of worth, and standards for treatment, that aren’t shaped by how other people want me to be.
These are the things I have learned to be wary of.
- People who repeatedly push for more than I am happy to give, people who can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
- People who are all about their own importance and ego trip and treat me as a means to promoting themselves.
- People who don’t give clear instructions and then get cross because I didn’t do what they wanted, and people who expect me to magically know what they want.
- People who think that ‘service’ means they are entitled to whatever pieces of me they want, with no obligation or duty of care on their part.
These are the qualities I look for.
- Willingness to listen and negotiate.
- Willingness to accept that not everything is going to be done exactly as was wanted at just the right moment, especially when you’re dealing with volunteers.
- A default position of kindness, respect, and fairness.
- More interest in the project than personal advancement, but no willingness to sacrifice anyone for the sake of the project.
There are times, causes and situations that call for heroic gestures and personal sacrifices. However, there are also a lot of people whose method for getting things done is to push others into heroic efforts and self-sacrifice. It seems to be widespread in conventional workplaces. I don’t want to participate in anything that cultures people to ruin themselves for some small cause that did not need their blood and misery in the slightest. I have to start with me, and with holding better boundaries. I’ve been complicit in unhealthy cultures too many times, convincing myself that letting someone run me into the ground was acceptable, and worth it. I’m no longer prepared to uphold that view. I won’t name names, but it is fair to say there are some things I won’t be involved with again.