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  • Eve Coker, PhD, LCMHC

Working hard to burnout: Laziness or being human?

Updated: Apr 15

In our society, we are taught that we need to be productive in order to be worth something. We believe that we have to work hard in order to be considered a contributing member.

This belief leads to some very complicated outcomes. Here's just a few:


1. Many people set high, unreachable goals for themselves regarding what they should accomplish, and then they feel like failures for not being as successful as they think they should be. This is especially true in contemporary U.S., where it was easier to achieve success in the late 20th century, and those expectations are now placed on adults in the early 21st century - but life is much more challenging now.


2. Some people are able to follow a passion and feel rewarded through pursuing it. Others are just trying to make money to feed their families and interests. However, in today's busy world where people are expected to be "on the go" and available to their corporations at all hours, they lose sense of themselves - they forget who they are and how they want to be because they are so consumed with achieving a goal.


3. There are also those who don't know how to achieve lofty goals. Perhaps they have not had the support systems, education, or resources in place to be able to achieve them, or even to know how to achieve them. They often work for low hourly rates or lower salaries and therefore comprise the lower socio-economic class, but they may still know how to get nice things at bargain prices - which causes others to look at them and think they are mooching the government for money, another de-humanizing factor.


These are just a few of the scenarios which lead to burn-out, where we forget who we are and why we are doing what we do. We become exhausted and unmotivated, and unfortunately we read this exhaustion and lack of motivation as laziness when in fact it's our mind and our bodies telling us that we can't perform like machines for too long.


Everyone's got a different threshold, too. The person who grew up well-adjusted with plenty of resources at their disposal will definitely have more resilience than the person who grew up in an unstable family environment with factors concerning poverty conditions and a lack of safety. When we don't consider that, it's easy to think some people are "better" than others. The truth is that we all have different battles to fight, and some are invisible but tougher than others.


When we push ourselves to work hard, we're often thinking of the next thing: The next goal to achieve, the big thing we're supposed to do, the end result that we need to have in order to have "made it." But truthfully, there will always be goals after that which will be the goal signaling our success; in other words, we'll never feel successful or worthy if we feel like chasing and achieving the next big thing signals our worth. We'll always be chasing something instead of forgetting to LIVE.


In this, it's important to remember to focus on each day and the process of each goal rather than to be thinking of the next big thing. There's wisdom in sitting back and letting things unfold rather than worrying about achieving things too big for our present ability; it opens our minds to opportunities we might otherwise not see. It allows us to regulate our thoughts and emotions so that we can handle things better. It lets us enjoy the life we have now, rather than worry about staving off the shame of not being "good enough" for made-up social expectations.


In this, we can meditate on being good enough for ourselves and our higher power (if applicable). We can be worthy for the people who love us and accept us, and we can know that the people with internalized anger and a lack of self-responsibility or compassion will never find anyone good enough (especially themselves!).


So, be human - you can both work hard and enjoy life as you need to. You are allowed to rest and allowed to have personal time and space. You are allowed to be there for your family. You are allowed to like yourself.


The current work world doesn't always make that easy, but more people are waking up to the idea that we're more than just machines - so with hope, things will change! If not, we can learn how to change them for ourselves.



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