Hustle, People-Pleasing, and Overwhelm

Here’s why you’re killing yourself at work, and how to stop.

Photo by Nubelson Fernandes on Unsplash

I became a full-blown workaholic at the age of 18.

I had started working in fast food jobs at the age of 15 (I had to fake my application to say I was 15 ½, which was the minimum age to start working in California). I worked in a few different fast-food chains before starting a corporate job in the real estate industry at 18. 

And I’ve been in that same industry ever since, 37 years.

But my job/life balance looks drastically different today than it did back then.

It’s not that I loved working. It was more like every day gave me a new chance for me to prove my worth to my managers, bosses, and co-workers.

I would go into work early, stay late, work weekends, and even bring files home. Sometimes I wouldn’t log my time because “that’s just what it took” to prove my worth. Unfortunately it also meant sacrificing time with my newly born daughter when I was a single mom, and, later on, my other kids and my family.

I’m not proud of that. 

I’m only thankful that I had the opportunity later in life to re-build, or build, that relationship with my children as we all got older. 

Once, when I had been working my ass off in corporate for about 8 years, I had a meeting with our office manager to go over my yearly performance. I had established myself as a hard worker at that point, so I was expecting a good review.

We were sitting in his office, him seated behind a big mahogany desk in an over-stuffed chair, and me sitting on the other side of the desk in (of course) a chair that was smaller and lower to the ground. 

He knew who I was and I knew who he was, but we had never really had a conversation before.

During our meeting I remember him looking at me without speaking for what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time. He finally said he appreciated that they could put me as an assistant with anyone because I seemed to get along with everybody, even the hard-noses that no one else wanted to work with. Then he tilted his head one side and asked “Are you a middle child?”. 

That was around the time The Birth Order book came out, and apparently this guy that I had never really spoken to before had me all figured out.

I remember feeling very uncomfortable and resentful at his question. I had never considered my birth order up to that point, or what it even meant, and I certainly wasn’t expecting that question as part of my review.

Unfortunately though, his theory was right, I was a middle child. And, although I never read the Birth Order book, I definitely grew up with an urge to make sure everyone else around me “felt okay”. I learned early on that was the best way to keep the peace and avoid unpleasant (and sometimes angry) confrontation. 

It was my way of making myself feel safe.

I have no idea how my boss had figured out so much about me, since I didn’t even understand it about myself at the time. 

But my review was favorable, and they rewarded me by making me the assistant of one of the mangers that was such a jerk no one else wanted to work with him. But I played my people-pleasing game and made it work out. 

I continued to be a workaholic and feed off of the attention and the accolades until I eventually burned out from it. 

And now, in spite of all the blood, sweat and tears I gave my job over roughly 30 years, I’ve learned that it could never give back to me what I desired most. It could never give me the love, attention, and value that I wasn’t able to give myself. 

Anyone who has ever worked in a corporate job knows the more work you do, the more work they give you to do. It’s like trying to dig a hole in the sand at the beach, the more you dig, the more it fills itself back in.

And when you burn out, it’s not your job’s job to save you. The Powers That Be will simply move on to the next hustler, and then you end up back where you’ve always been.

Responsible for your own feeling of self-worth and value.

And that, my friends, is a good thing,

You’re the only one that responsibility SHOULD belong to. You’re the only one who can control how you feel, and it’s because of the thoughts you’re thinking. It comes down to your beliefs.

You don’t need a job to feel worthy.

You need to believe you’re already worthy.

You don’t need a job to feel valuable.

You need to believe you’re already valuable.

And no job, no person, can give you that value, but they also can’t take it away. It belongs to you and only.

And once you anchor yourself  into that belief you will be able to establish boundaries to protect it. 

You will stop hustling to prove yourself. You will stop allowing others to dictate how you feel by what they say and how they act. You get to own your boundaries, your own self-worth, all of it.

THAT’S the work you should be focusing on. 

It will change your life.

Discover What’s Possible.

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