“Burnout is not reserved for the rich or the famous or the profoundly successful. It’s happening to so many of us, people across all kinds of careers and lifestyles.
If you’re tired, you’re tired, no matter what. If the life you’ve crafted for yourself is too heavy, it’s too heavy, no matter if the people on either side of you are carrying more or less. You don’t have to have a public life or a particularly busy life in order to be terribly, dangerously depleted.
You just have to buy into the idea that your feelings and body and spirit aren’t worth listening to, and believe the myth that busyness or achievement or both will take away the pain.”
I’ve always had a great work ethic. I am a hard worker, like my mother before me. I might not be the smartest or the most talented, but I will outwork you. Count on it. I will push myself to exhaustion and beyond and take sinful pride in it. I’ll demur offers of help and I’ll tell myself that “if not for me” this thing- whatEVER it is- will not get done.
I know so many women who fit into that same mold.
They DO everything. They HANDLE everything. They don’t need any help- Nope.
“I’ve got this!”
I have had so many conversations with women in which they detail their travails at work or in their volunteering. How tired they are, how much they have on their plates- how the whole place would, quite simply, fall apart without them. I say this without an ounce of judgment because I have been as guilty of it as anyone.
It probably comes off to a lot of people as self-confidence or martyrdom, but the older I get the less I buy into that.
It’s all hustle, and hustle is the farthest thing from self-worth. Hustle is, “If I don’t make myself the linchpin of this whole operation, there won’t be room for me at the table.” Hustle is, “If I’m not indispensable, then I don’t have worth.”
The need to be necessary is back-breaking and soul-depleting. And it’s a vicious circle. People stroke your ego and tell you how X, Y, and Z would quite simply not happen were it not for your efforts.
That, sweet friends, is not the hallmark of a successful endeavor OR a healthy dynamic.
So why do we do it if it isn’t good for us and it isn’t good for whatever the project is?
I think it’s because we’ve conflated being busy with being worthy.
When I was at Wild Goose, I heard Rene Auguste say, “If your self-worth is determined by what you produce, you are enslaved- whether you are rich or poor.”
When she said it, I had that little frisson you get when you hear something that is a fundamental truth.
I’ve always been one of the first to shoot my hand in the air when volunteers are needed, whether I have the time and energy for the commitment or not. I’ve always taken on more than anyone could reasonably be expected to handle. And I was prideful about it- I thought it was a sign of unselfishness. That it made me a giver. Now I’m not so sure.
You see, my every yes is also a no. That’s what priorities ARE. They represent of a hierarchy of what we value. My yes to a should commitment is a no to a want/peace/love/rest/joy commitment. We have finite hours in finite days on this beautiful blue planet of ours. We cannot do everything, and the more ‘shoulds’ we entertain, the less joy we will feel.
If I say YES to taking on another THING, another obligation that doesn’t feed anything other than my delusion that the world will tilt off its axis if I’m not there to balance it all, then I am saying NO to conversations with my kids, walks with my dog. I’m saying NO to sunsets with my Favorite. I’m saying NO to fresh air and sleep, to cooking and reading and painting.
And the things we say YES to will suffer too, because they’ll be done with a weary and resentful heart.
My need to HANG ON with a Vulcan death grip to every little thing to make sure it gets done is nothing short of bananas, and it’s unhealthy for me and for the people I love.
My friend Rachel writes beautifully about this topic all the time on her blog and in her book Hands Free Life.
My friend Kate, a glorious, funny, smart, talented writer wrote about this very thing on her blog I Hold Your Heart just this morning. There’s something in the air, I guess.
Rachel opened the door with her honesty about her realization that in her hurry to get things done she was missing out on her own life. I read Shauna’s brilliant book, Present over Perfect and found myself highlighting and dog-earing pages as my eyes stung with tears. The reflexologist asked me if control *might* be an issue for me. Now Kate’s post about putting her well being not just back on her priority list, but unabashedly at the TOP of it. Sometimes the Universe conspires to help us get out of our own way.
I was talking just last night about how my default setting is to not take care of myself until something is emergent. I don’t cop to tired, I power through until I’m exhausted. I don’t get colds, I get pneumonia. I say I don’t have the time or money to take care of myself, but that is simply untrue. It’s just not a priority. And I act like that’s unselfish.
I am a single mom and sole supporter of two kids. What I can’t afford is to NOT take care of myself.
What is even HAPPENING, y’all?
I’ll tell you what’s happening- we’re burning out left and right, and chalking it up to efficiency or love. You GUYS. That is just not how you love your people, by wearing yourself out voluntarily.
“You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s life ahead of yours and think that counts as love.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that stopped me in my tracks. It said something to the effect of, “What you do is SO LOUD I cannot hear what you say.”
Because that’s the other piece of this, friends. The other piece of this is that our kids are watching. Our GIRLS are watching. We are teaching them how to move through the world by what we do, so we can tell them they have inherent worth but we are not modeling that for them. Is this constant striving, proving, hustling what we want for them? Do we want to see them, a couple of decades down the line, depleted and stretched too thin because that’s what we taught them?
I know a woman who says this thing all the time, “I have enough, I do enough, I am enough.”
I don’t think I ever think I am doing enough. And I worry about the few things I’m not doing. I mean, if I don’t do them will they get done? Will they get done properly?
The truth is, they might not. And life will go on, either way. So maybe it’s time to stop and let go. Not of everything, obviously. There are life things that are non-negotiable, but so much of my busyness is voluntary.
Maybe it’s time to focus on saying YES to the things I say I value most dearly even if it means saying NO to the quick-fix validation of busyness and accomplishment. Don’t do it because I said you should. My sister has a friend who says, “Don’t should all over yourself.” Do it because life is short and precious, and there are people right in front of you to love, and they will not always be there. There will never be another sunrise like the one tomorrow morning, the shells on the beach today will not necessarily be there tomorrow. Nothing is guaranteed.
Finite hours, friends. Finite days.
I am writing a book and in order to get said book published it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform. At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.
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