At one point or another in your career, you’ve likely felt the urgency to chase the next promotion, go after that bigger title or get the corner office. All in the name of status, to prove you’re worthy of the big bucks and let’s face it – even if it led to burnout.
Likely doing whatever it takes to get there.
Late nights in the office mean later commute times home.
Sacrificing personal time to work on projects that would lead to being recognized.
Playing politics in hopes to outshine your peers or colleagues.
Impressing leadership by how much you can do and letting the do part be more important than what you know.
The feeling of needing to prove yourself in the early stages of your career is common regardless of how old (or young) you are. You want to make your mark. Set the tone of what others can expect from you and demonstrate you can do just about anything, but when does it stop?
At some point, your years of experience, your wealth of knowledge and your innate wisdom speak for themselves. You don’t have to keep up with those around you who look and work differently than you do to prove yourself.
Unless you want a fast track to burnout and to shadow what you bring to the table. And even then, is the stress and sheer exhaustion worth trying to prove how hard you can work?
The WHO recognized workplace burnout in May of 2019 as an occupational phenomenon categorizing it under the international classification of diseases. It looks at burnout in ways we can all relate to and recognize.
Burnout doesn’t just come from overworking and not resting. It comes from ignoring the signs our minds, bodies and hearts give us almost daily to slow down, take pause and flat out stop. At least for a minute or so.
Other signs include:
- Taking on too much (professionally or personally)
- Feeling depleted and a loss of energy towards your job or career
- Being cynical or negative towards your job or career
- Forgetfulness and an inability to focus regularly
- Anger or depression
- Loss of appetite and poor sleep
Any one of these might be familiar to you. And if they are, this would be a time to take a step back and re-assess.
A few questions to ask yourself that might help you notice whether you’re committing to work out of genuine interest or out of the need to prove yourself:
- What’s motivating me to say yes to this? Am I really interested in doing this piece of work?
- Do I need to take this on or is there someone else that can do this?
- What am I bringing to this project/task?
- What’s the benefit of committing to this additional project/task?
- What will I lose if anything if I say no?
Recently, a client of mine was saying it was a busy time for her at work as she recently hired several new team members. With a new project she was working on and onboarding new direct reports, her boundaries were a little wobbly and she was saying she really needed to prioritize some self-care.
As we continued to dig, I said to her, “We’ve worked together long enough where you know how to identify and enforce your boundaries. What makes this time seem more difficult to enforce your boundaries?”
After a long pause, she said, “Everyone around me is so much younger than me. For as long as I’ve worked here, I’ve kept my age to myself (which I don’t even know why), I look around and success looks a certain way. I have these expectations of myself that things need to get done a certain way. It’s almost like it’s got to be just perfect, but I know it’s unrealistic.”
She had been holding these unrealistic expectations of herself and a standard that even she knew she couldn’t meet (and she wasn’t). More importantly, she was established in her career, yet she felt this unspoken pressure to work the way others were working around her which was causing her to burn out.
Most of her team was younger than her as were many of her co-workers.
Her motto has been, “Work to live, vs. live to work,” yet her actions were telling a different story and so was the example she was setting for her team.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how valuable your own experience is, especially when you’ve reached a certain stage of your career. Getting caught up in a state of having to prove yourself and creating unrealistic standards that go against your values can quickly become a way of being that’s not true to who you are today.
Perhaps not realizing it’s also an easy ticket to burnout, let alone discounting the experience you bring to the table. It’s less about knowing what to do, i.e. set strong boundaries and more about remembering who you are, what you bring to the table and understanding what underlying belief you’re holding is running the show. This is big!
If you recognize yourself in this client story I shared, I invite you to get honest with yourself and see if you’re chasing recognition trying to keep up with those around you and how that could be impacting your well-being.
Is sacrificing your health and well-being worth the corporate chase?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What do you most appreciate about the experience you have to offer? Go beyond the technical, hard skills and think of some of the intangible qualities you value about yourself, or what others would say about you. Go ahead – brag a little and let me know.
With so much love,
A workforce that doesn’t feel safe to express who they are, let alone the emotions that make us human, is a workforce that is suppressed and works in a fear-based culture.
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