Jul 03, 2020 | Most Popular, Your Business
Dear Workaholic, There is Another Way. Love, You
What I’m about to share with you is something that over the years has both filled me with shame and something that I have absolutely transformed my relationship with.
In the past, this personality trait has provided me with a sense of self-worth, something I’ve been deeply embarrassed of, and more recently, something that I have a lot of self-compassion for.
Some of you have likely heard me share it before…
But I believe given the times we are in, it bears repeating (now perhaps more than ever).
So here it is: I am a (recovering) workaholic.
You may laugh reading that because, who isn’t, right? If you’re subscribed to my newsletter, there’s a good chance some, if not all, of this blog will resonate for you as well.
You live to work. If not for your job, then at least for your side hustle or your passion project that you hope to turn into your career. You likely love your work or at least love the oodles of external validation for a job well done.
But it is likely often at the expense of your personal happiness and well-being. Or maybe you don’t yet really know what that even means for you outside of work.
You haven’t quite figured out how to master your time and get more done while spending less time on it, so that you can truly breathe and give yourself some much needed space and mental energy to discover what it even is that brings you joy and satisfaction outside of work.
This was me too, for many many years. I worked around the clock because I loved what I did. I always served in leadership roles (hello high school class secretary for 4 years and both student body president and treasurer of my college, anyone?). I also worked in international development and in the public sector, so my efforts were always for the common good, thus directly tied to positive reinforcement, external validation and not surprisingly, my sense of self-worth.
This was modeled for me for much of my life. I grew up in a Bed & Breakfast… We were always on call, ready with a smile and helping hand. I really didn’t know anything different.
But here’s the thing, I have had to work through a lot of internal shame around this default way of being as I faced my own unhappiness and discontentment.
Because let’s face it, I was addicted to my work. And, I was addicted to doing it perfectly (often at the expense of my physical health, my emotional well-being, and my relationships).
And while there are many things to be addicted to these days… Instagram, our phones, food, YouTube videos, alcohol, shopping, sex, drugs, stealing, working out, the news, the list goes on…
…some, simply are just more socially acceptable than others.
I believe that our work is one of those areas.
When we work hard all the time (often to our personal detriment), some of our efforts are directed to meet our own need for external validation and approval, our need to please others, or as a distraction from facing whatever it is we can’t be with in our own lives.
And, because our addictive habits to work hard are often reinforced and rewarded (whereas if we were alcoholics our loved ones and colleagues would likely NOT respond in the same fashion)…
We hold on to the same addictive, unsustainable, joy-sucking, unhealthy ways of being and living.
And we chock it up, when we’re feeling down, that at least we’re doing good in the world. That at least we’re working hard.
Are you sorry for yourself yet? I know I was, for many years. Until, I realized this truth.
I was being a martyr.
I was working around the clock and I was sacrificing my own needs for the common good and for the needs of those I was hired to support.
But let’s not get it twisted, I was certainly gaining something out of this dynamic. I got to help others, absolutely, but a big part of my workaholic tendencies were at the subconscious level. A big part of my efforts fueled my need to please others so that I could be liked. A big part of my efforts to martyr myself served my own needs to feel good about myself through my self-sacrificing habits.
I imagine there may be a part of you doing the same thing. And the truth of the matter is this:
You ONLY have this one life to live.
You only have this one body to nurture.
You only have this one divine chance to experience delight, pleasure and wonder.
You only have this one comfort zone to break yourself free from.
To live your life fully.
To be a joy seeker and a dream crusher.
To take the best care of your human and spiritual body that you can.
To love yourself and the people in your life fully and to the best of your ability.
To live with no regrets.
And so, when I tell you that you do not need to suffer and be a martyr, in order to be content with yourself and your life. And in order to make a lasting impact.
I really do mean it.
Because I have been there, I have endured that unsustainable way of living, and I have come out on the other side of it.
And as hard as it may feel to believe for you, I am even more present to my impact and my capacity to contribute now than I ever have been.
For when we allow ourselves to know ourselves, and I do mean to truly know ourselves and what brings us inner joy…
…We are more free to contribute to others, to take greater risks in the direction of our intended impact, and to model for others what it means to live fully and wildly.
- Put down your addictions.
- Face the part of them that is within your own realm to control and change.
- Stop allowing your excuses to be your truth.
- You are only fooling yourself.
- I promise you are the antidote to your suffering.
The next time you notice yourself experiencing similar patterns of low energy, overworking and feeling under-appreciated, here are 4 practices to try instead and begin breaking this pattern:
Begin creating clear boundaries around when you are available to and when you are unavailable to help others. Since most of us are now home rather than in an office, you may find this easier to begin implementing now (that your colleagues can’t just waltz into your office whenever they need you)!
Set an email auto responder, letting your colleagues or clients know when they can expect to hear back from you. In my email signature, I let folks know right off the bat when my office hours are and when they can expect to hear back from me. At the end of the work day, close your office laptop and door, and avoid reviewing office email or texts until your next workday start time.
Delay Responding Immediately
If you’re anything like me, you love saying yes to other people and find dissent very challenging! One of the most supportive practices for me has been delaying my response time. This allows me to get connected with my own intuition and what serves me directly versus serves the needs of other people.
The next time someone makes a direct request of you, thank them for thinking of you and let them know you’ll get back to them in a couple of days (or however many days you need).
Creating an ideal schedule for myself has been the single most life changing practice for me in aligning my time with my highest commitments. Download my ideal schedule template here. You can also find the most current iteration of my own ideal schedule here as well as an example.
Once you know how you would ideally like your schedule to look, practice integrating a new item into your actual schedule week by week. Perhaps this week, begin integrating a blocked-off time in your day to eat breakfast, and then next week, schedule in 30 minutes each evening to read before bed.
Take Yourself Out On a Weekly Date
When I began writing my book Belonging last spring, the working title of my book was “I Just Want to Date Myself.” I had realized that work was one of the biggest tactics I knew to avoid spending quality time with myself. And when I found myself both working in a job I immensely disliked and being broken up with, my tactics began to lose their appeal real quickly. Taking myself out on a weekly date is one of the best ways I know to begin discovering what brings you joy and meaning outside of your work. You can find an excerpt from that chapter here.
May you know this, your lovability is not up for debate. Your work is not a reflection of your inherent worthiness as a human being. You are divine. You are loved. You are worthy.
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Catherine is a Master Certified Coach and bestselling author of Belonging: Overcome Your Inner Critic and Reclaim Your Joy.
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