Recently, I was talking with a client who had packed up and rented out her home, transferred her job, and moved to another city in order to take care of her 90 year old stepmother. Although her dad had passed away years ago, and this woman did not raise her, there was no one else to help and my client felt she should step in. One month after she moved, my client lost her job due to “economic cutbacks.” Although she had a place to live, her stepmother could not afford to pay her, so her personal bills were piling up and her self-confidence was going down. “How can this happen?” She asked, “I am trying to do something helpful and get pooped on in the process.”
Another client was working 50-60 hours a week trying to build up a community non-profit. He used $20,000+ from his personal savings to reward employees and volunteers, purchase office equipment and furniture, pay for advertising and Chamber of Commerce and other business networking dues. He was highly respected by his staff and volunteers, but treated poorly by the Board and Executive Director. Income was up, participation was up, the organization was increasingly organized, but when he tried to suggest changes in the overall structure to bring the company up-to-date, he was fired without warning and with no compensation. “It came out of nowhere” he replied, “I wasn’t angry or adversarial, I was just trying to do my job and help. Now, I wonder why I even tried.”
A friend called me last week needing the name of a good business lawyer. She was working on a project with a client for four months and when everything was close to complete the client emailed her stating he no longer wanted to work with her and that he wanted half of the money back he had paid her. She was caught completely off guard – they had just met last week and everything seemed fine. The project was almost done, but he decided he did not like or want any of the products. A month later he filed a complaint against her with the Better Business Bureau, and threatened to take her to court, demanding the remainder of his refund. “I lost money, too” she told me, “I did additional work to try and make things right even after he told me he didn’t want to work together. I sent him some of the refund as a way of compromising. And now he is suing me for a refund when I did all the work? What did I do to deserve this?”
“Bad” things happen to good people all the time. We try to do the right thing. We work hard. We help others. And still, life is “unfair.” Or is it? So many times I have experienced events that I thought were “bad”, and that I didn’t deserve. I was distraught and overwhelmed when they happened, and would sometimes wonder “WHY?” What did I do wrong? My self-confidence would fail, and my fears inflated.
However, now, as I look back on those times, I can see clearly how those “bad” experiences were necessary to get me to the place I am now. I cannot find one “negative” experience that didn’t turn into something positive. When these things happen, they are VERY hard to accept as potentially helpful events in life. But, they ARE all an opportunity for growth. They are a chance to see things differently, to learn something new, or quite possible learn how to set better boundaries in the beginning.
It isn’t necessarily that you were doing anything wrong – obviously you are doing everything “right” according to your book of rights. Unfortunately, some peoples’ book of rights is different than yours. If they can lay their head on their pillow at night and feel content with how they are conducting themselves, then so be it. Be true to yourself. Stick to your own book of rights and know that there will be a lesson at the end of this.
Sometimes the lesson can be that we were removed from further harm surrounding certain toxic people. Lessons and learnings are the only things that shape and mold who we are, and you can count on the fact that there will be growth right around the corner.
When situations like this happen, one suggestion I give to clients is to write, “What is my take-away from this “wrong” I experienced?” Then, write whatever comes to mind. You might be surprised by all you are learning. Some things that come out may be angry, or even funny, but the point is you ARE learning something helpful. And, if you learn something helpful, something that will help you advance in life personally or professionally, or something that can help someone else – isn’t that a good thing?