While so much of my work involves my giving other people advice, I’m writing today to ask all of you for some for myself.
While the answers and working it out are obviously going to be complex, the question itself is pretty simple. How do any of you both accept and express your limits to others, especially people you don’t know?
I’m not talking about sexually, but in the rest of life. Over the last year, and certainly the last few months, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that I’m not very good at this. I’m actually great at it sexually or when it comes to my close personal relationships. But when it comes to work-stuff, and to people who I don’t know very well (including people who may feel they know me, but who I don’t feel I know)? I kind of suck at it. Okay, so I really suck at it.
I am aware that one of the big hurdles is that I have done and do so much that I know that can give the impression I’m either superhuman, or just always capable of doing a million things at once. I also know that a lot of people don’t realize — how could they, really — how many people at a given time will usually be asking/wanting things of me at any given time. To boot, when it’s about work, I find it really hard to figure out who to be professional yet still state limits that usually have something to do with having too much work on my plate, but also have to do with my health and the limitations it can impose, which is very personal. Same goes for the financial limitations I have, also personal. I mean, “I’m sick, broke and stretched to my limit,” is just not a very professional answer, even though that’s often the truth of things.
For example, right now, the hard truth is that unless I’m being compensated very well for anything work-wise, I really, really should say no. Same goes for my needing to do anything work-wise which requires a lot of time and energy for any kind of setup or prep, other than things in which I can just bring my existing skills and resources to the table. Between now and a few weeks after the upcoming move, I just need to not take ANYTHING extra on at all, because if I do, I just don’t know how it will get done in the midst of everything else. Ideally, I’d be able to go a month before even answering any email, because the backlog is so great, and I feel so overwhelmed by how many folks want or need something from me.
Lastly, I’ve little doubt that consciously and unconsciously, my own dislike of some of my many limits probably comes across in some of these exchanges, which I’m sure doesn’t help. Any tone from me that sounds apologetic about my limits…well, I guess I feel like it only seems to make things worse. Too often lately, I find myself just not responding to a lot of people sometimes, too, because a) even taking the time to respond to everyone takes up a lot of time and energy I don’t have, b) it makes me feel crappy to have to constantly explain that I can’t do everything, and c) a lot of people seem to take it really personally, a response I’m also really bad at dealing with, and tend to easily feel guilty about.
So, are you awesome at this? What works for you in doing this? If you sucked at it in the past, what was your process like in getting better at it? If you could just gab at me about it, I’d be so grateful. Thanks!