Throughout most of my adult life, I have experienced many periods of taking on way too much - trying to honor my commitments and see things through until the end - as well as periods of bouncing back from overcommitment and borderline burnout with months and months of trying not to take on anything at all, so that I can give myself a chance to rest and recover. It sometimes feels like there is no middle ground. It’s ALL or NOTHING. And this way of thinking and behaving in the world has led to a lot of fear when it comes to taking on new projects, working with new clients, or generally committing myself to anything that might be a “big production”. My past experience tells me that I go all in, I light all the candles at once, and that there is no way to have balance while in periods of high productivity.
I know that the consequence of this behavior is exhaustion, depletion, and feeling a general sense of not wanting to do anything. If you catch me in one of these periods, following a time of mega productivity and effort, you’ll often hear me saying, “I don’t want to work anymore.” And feeling a general sense of energy lack and tiredness.
It’s a cycle I’ve created for myself – honed for myself, really. Years and years of knowing that I “can do it all”, but only for short periods, and that the repercussions are exhaustion. I don’t enjoy it. And it makes it difficult to take on new projects, for whenever I do, I fear that I will once again enter the cycle of working until burnout, and then spend weeks or months recovering my energy enough to do it all again.
So, whenever I feel my energy levels starting to rise again and sense the excitement for new projects or partnerships to begin, I also feel a sense of trepidation. There’s an inherent fear of “getting back on the hamster wheel” when I know so well where that wheel will bring me.
The good part about all of this is that over the years I have developed the tools to truly understand myself better. I can see the behaviors and patterns playing out over time. I can recognize when something is (or isn’t) serving me. And while I may still need to play out a few situations multiple times, just to truly understand it at a deeper level, I always take the time to learn from what has come before.
Whereas when I was a full-time employee and hadn’t really “done the work” myself, it was hard to discern good the cycle of work hard – burn out – recover – start again. But now that I have been working through my own demons for quite some time, I can see it coming on and put some guardrails in place to protect myself and my energy from repeating the behaviors that have brought me down before.
Even as a coach who helps her clients to do this better, I don’t always get it right myself. And I am a firm believer that we will continue to face similar challenges in our lives, over and over again, until we really learn what we need to. So when I see the patterns arise, or recognize the desire for certain choices to be made, I can now understand what is behind them. WHY I make the choices I do. And I can choose to say “yes” or “no” consciously, knowing that there is either something more to learn or something greater to gain from specific circumstances. I am more informed, more self-aware, and more capable of reflecting on my choices than I was before.
I now see that by saying “yes” to certain opportunities, I might be replaying an old fear or behavior set, one that lead to increased people pleasing or was perhaps born of low self-confidence. I can look at myself in the mirror and acknowledge where I am in my journey and decide what choices work best for me today, for where I am now. And while I may still choose to take on projects that don’t fully serve me, or make mistakes along the way, I know that with each and every decision I make, I am growing.
Growing into a more honest and complete version of myself.
And I continue to learn.
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