Shared by HGYC Member Kristin Donnelly
I know we don’t know each other, but I have a few guesses about your life.
You love deeply. Whether it’s your partner, your children, your friends, your business, your calling - you love with all you are.
You care passionately. Whether it’s about the world around you, or your own health and wellbeing - you are known as a passionate person.
You pursue excellence. Whether it’s in your professional or personal life, you know that perfection is a myth and choose progress towards excellence instead of the shiny trappings of performative perfection.
Or, at least you want to be.
Because the other thing I can guess is that you’re exhausted.
Actually, I know you’re exhausted. You have grand dreams, huge passions, deep love, and a plan to put it all in place. You know what you’re supposed to be, and you want to go be it, but everything in you is tired.
You’re tired of managing your schedule and the schedules and expectations of others. You’re tired of working towards a goal only to be told that it’s still not enough. You’re tired of being tired!
I know, friend. I know, and I also know it’s not your fault.
America measures the worth of human beings by their productive output in a deep and profound way, and it traces all the way back to the Puritans.
Puritanical theology told them the point of their life was to work very, very hard now and that they’d reap all their rewards in the afterlife. Rest, pleasure - those were weaknesses on this side of the veil, because time on earth is fleeting and we have to get as much done as possible before we go to our eternal rest. Hard work, therefore, also equaled piety, and piety meant you were a good person. We shortened that over time to make hard workers and good people the same thing. Add in their intense individualism (only their faith and their works affected their reward), and you can see some of their hangovers even today.
So at the beginning of America, when she was but a seed of an idea, the culture put into motion by the cultural stakeholders was that you were a good person if you worked hard, and you were supposed to do it alone. Since then, American culture developed and the civic religion alongside it. As there was never a state religion, nothing came along to break this good person equals a hard worker systemic belief that the Puritans set up, and it was instead folded into our notions of nationalism and remains largely unchallenged in the subconscious mindset of American culture.
It doesn’t have to stay that way.
We can choose a different way.
The bad news is that counter-acting this can’t be done through the traditional means that “self-care” usually means. No amount of bubble baths, goat yoga sessions, or spa days will help you unlearn that your worth is tied to your output. They may help you feel rested or joyful or happy or a thousand other positive things, but they can’t rewrite your brain on their own.
The good news is that it’s a mindset shift, and a discipline, and a mental posture and our brain is more powerful than anything the world can throw at us. The way to unlearn exhaustion is to do it. To quote the Avett Brothers - decide what to be and go be it, friends. If you want to be grounded, centered, and rested? Then be it. Figure out what rest looks like for you and do it.
Here’s a few quick tips for unlearning exhaustion:
- Surround yourself with people who believe you have inherent dignity and worth as a human, and do not measure how much they love you based on what you can do for them.
- Decide what ‘rest’ looks like for you. For me, it’s video games and travel. For my business partner, it’s yoga and cross-stitch. Decide what it looks like to you, build it into your schedule, and guard it FIERCELY.
- Start everyday with something that centers you in your day. I use meditation (my mantra is “breathe in abundance, breathe out service”), I know others that start with journaling, or a long walk, or a short walk, or something. But start your day by prioritizing you as a human being and not you as a human doing.
- Research burnout so you make sure you never get there. Two books I recommend? The Bouncebackability Factor by Caitlin Donovan and Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski
- Accept and operationalize the truth that ‘no’ is a full sentence.
Remember that this is a process, and that learning and unlearning are not linear things. There are loads of women here in Hey Girl, You Can who are doing this work and we’d all love to support you - I know I would.
Be well, dear one. You are a beautiful, passionate, caring, wise, fun, delightful woman who is not her “to-do” list. I promise.
Kristen Donnelly, PhD is one of The Good Doctors of Abbey Research, and believes that curiosity changes the world. She's a TEDx speaker, empathy enthusiast, and believer in women. You can find out more about her at her website https://www.abbey-research.com/
*Photo Credit https://tinyurl.com/2p9x8kac
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