Burnout has become a sort of 21st-century epidemic for women.
The force and hustle lifestyle is second nature. Creating another way for ourselves to exist in the world when the culture around us screams "PERFORM BETTER. JUST COMPETE. MORE! MORE! MORE!" is quite the challenge.
Burnout doesn't come from our desire for achievement. It doesn't come from working too many hours. It doesn't come from not having the "right" work-life balance.
Burnout is a result of a deep inner sense of depravity, scarcity, and fear.
Achievement deprived of satisfaction.
Work that is barren of passion.
A life without a rich, grounded identity.
A life where bodily nourishment and care is scarce at best.
A woman can have it all - the happy family, the perfect marriage, the well-oiled machine of a career - and still experience this inner depravity. This is the part of her that says, "Are you really enough? You think you can actually do this? Why do you deserve that? Are you really worthy?"
Inner depravity is nagging. Haunting. Depressing.
We've become so externally oriented and achievement-focused that the nuances of life - they joy of just being here, now and playing into the future - has been lost.
A woman caught in the force, the push, the grind, the hustle... is trying really hard to receive something she fiercely needs.
She hasn't yet become fully seen, fully heard, or fully known... to herself.
So, how does this inner depravity begin?
In my world growing up, girls were just as good as boys. It honestly never occurred to me that I wouldn't or couldn't do something because of my gender. I was smart, talented, and determined. My parents never put "being a girl" between me and my dreams.
At first glance, my childhood looks like the perfect incubator for easy success. I could go off to college, get my degree, and start my life without much trouble. Certainly, the presence of unconditional love and total lack of trauma, abuse, and neglect I experienced put me a few steps ahead, I can't deny that. However, succeeding early on in childhood and adolescence was so easy for me that I never really learned resilience.
Women in my generation have been raised with access to more opportunities than previous generations... but as we grow from adolescence into womanhood, we find there is a massive gap in understanding what to *do *with all of those opportunities and how to make a life out of them.
Some of us discover how the game of life is played and some of us stumble along, trying desperately to figure out the secret to success as women who juggle careers, family, and just being a human with their own needs.
As I graduated high school, married young, and started my family relatively quickly - I found myself falling into the latter camp... fumbling as I felt that I had accidentally become an adult. My life lost its intentionality, it's verve, and its tenacity as I found myself drowning in children, sleep deprivation, and creative starvation.
The truth is, success is an inner game that starts young... and usually our own unique flavor of inner depravity is a part of the journey that we sooner or later must face. No one is exempt from challenges of success; the question is how we will stack our deck in our own favor to work with them.
Even for me, the girl with totally supportive parents who loved me regardless of what I achieved, I developed an obsession with succeeding to prove my worth.
It was the only thing in life that I had complete control over. The only thing I could be perfect at.
All I had to do was understand what the teacher/coach/adult wanted, provide that result, and then I'd be guaranteed to receive affirmation, attention, and validation.
Years later looking back, I can see that I was achieving to receive a certain kind of love. I wanted praise, public recognition, status, and a badge of honor. I wanted to be recognized on the outside for everything I knew I was on the inside.
Somewhere along the way this desire to receive love became twisted.
My ability to achieve and produce desired results in my school work and in competitive environments became the only way that I knew how to get the kind of love I wanted.
It wasn't my parents who made giving their love conditional.
They showed up at every school event, every concert, every awards ceremony, every field trip. They told me they loved me every day and hugged me often. They supported me even when I picked up hobbies that didn't line up with their own personal aspirations - my mom was the softball player, basketball record-setter, and wood-craftsman... nothing like the "girly girl" her own daughter was becoming. They were model parents who put everything they had into their two daughters.
They wanted everything for us that they never had.
As a child, the responsibility of fulfilling my parents neglected dreams hovered silently in the background. It certainly wasn't intentional on my parents’ part - their intentions were so good - but to me it felt daunting. I could do whatever I pleased in life... but I had to do it well, lest I let my parents down and fail to truly be seen and loved in the way I wanted.
I was valedictorian. I won the beauty queen pageant. I was a cheerleader, an artist, and a perfect daughter. I knew how to win. I knew how to get what I wanted.
In contrast to the things I "won" that were nearly always scored and awarded by adults, I was never crowned homecoming queen or nominated for class president by my peers. I couldn't seem to nail the art of impressing my classmates and usually the things I was good at and did well led to cattiness or quiet social shunning.
My mom would always say, "They're just jealous of you."
She was right, but I hated hearing that. Adults who weren't intimidated by me were so affirming... and I yearned for the same from my peers.
Beyond the titles and achievements, I was a confident, responsible, creative, clear-headed and motivated girl. But... I didn't want anyone to be jealous of me. I wasn't competing so that my peers would lose miserably, I was competing because winning was the only way I knew to be seen for who I was.