What has led you to burnout? It could be stress at work; stress in your personal life or with certain external institutions; an unmanageable work load combined with impossible expectations at school or university; abuse; bullying, and so on …
Many of these causes (except for the last two) came about because you may have placed the expectations of others above your own. What others wanted was more important than what you wanted. Yes, I get it, you have to do this, have to get the report ready for the boss before you go home, you must deal with this now, and not tomorrow … Been there done that, and after a while this one person you keep on neglecting (i.e. YOU) will eventually break down, no longer able to bend over backwards for others.
The last two causes I mentioned, abuse and bullying, are committed by others, often by loved ones, but also by colleagues, and students at school. Unlike stress which indirectly comes from you placing others before yourself, bullying and abuse will cause you to feel less than others.
Bullying and abuse attack your psyche, making the victim feel insignificant and hurt, consequently tearing down their self-love.
You Need Self Love to Heal
This is why I write so much about self-love. In my previous two articles I discussed how a lack of self-love can affect our relationships with others and ultimately with ourselves, the latter being our most important relationship.
When you go through burnout, you may feel numb, empty, cynical, or having no will to go on. Besides the activities I already suggested in Burnout, Symptoms and Solutions, it is also essential to repair your relationship with yourself, in other words, find your self-love.
Your Happiness is Your Human Right
Did you know that the United Nations adopted a resolution, proclaiming that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal“? The International Day of Happiness, established by the UN General Assembly on 20 March 2012 is celebrated throughout the world.
And yet, our happiness still feels hampered by so many aspects. However, true happiness comes from within and in theory it should not be affected by external factors.
This is not some New Age fad. If you think about it, placing the burden of your happiness (or lack of) on your spouse’s mood, your boss’s rant, easy traffic, good weather, or a missed T.V. show is not a good idea. You have no control over external factors, but you do have control over yourself.
Stop Being Hard on Yourself
We are our self’s worst critics. We over-analyze errors from the past and cringe at the memories, wishing we had not done this or that or we had done it differently. What’s the point? It already happened and you can’t change it. Do I have regrets? Yes, I do, as we all do; and I have beaten myself up about it too, but I also learned to forgive myself.
Self forgiveness is not an easy lesson to learn, but once you have truly forgiven yourself, a heavy burden will fall off you.
Perfection is another trait that is highly valued in the western world; it is even seen as a positive characteristic. True, it can be a good thing when it is not taken to the extreme. When you are a perfectionist and you cannot rest until your task or project, or article or whatever you work on is 100% perfect, you need to give yourself a break.
Let’s tackle both self forgiveness and perfectionism in the following two paragraphs.
It sounds so simple, yet it is not.
In her book May Cause Miracles, by Gabrielle Bernstein, Gabby mentions a question someone once asked her. “Do you love who you have become?” She replied: “I don’t believe I’ve become anyone, I’ve just released all that was blocking me from who I really am.”
There is so much in ourselves that blocks us from being who we truly are. Unblocking our true selves is done through self-love and self forgiveness.
How can you forgive yourself? It takes practice. First of all, you must stop judging yourself. Start loving yourself. Gabby Bernstein gives some excellent advice in her book May Cause Miracles, she dedicates a whole chapter to this.
Tips to Forgive Yourself
When you are mulling over a past mistake, the trick is to acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and move on.
Not easy, but if you follow the following steps, in time you can reach the state of self forgiveness.
- With every remembered mistake, a flood of emotions is triggered. Instead of allowing these feelings to wash all over you, accept and acknowledge them as part of the process.
- Think of each mistake as a learning experience. You now know what you should not do or what does not work for you. Now you can focus your attention on what works.
- If it is too hard to let go of a particular mistake, then put it on hold. It does not mean that you are ignoring it, you are just storing it for a better opportunity to process it. In the meantime, work on another error from the past.
- Journaling is a great help. It offers you the chance to have a serious talk with your inner critic. You can do this on a daily basis, analyzing what blocks you and what stops you from forgiving yourself. At the same time you can also give yourself pats on the back by focusing on your qualities. This task requires consistency, so it is best to set up a schedule for this.
- Tell on your inner critic. Whenever that harsh voice pipes up, write it down. Seeing it on paper can sometimes make us realize how hard we can be on ourselves.
- Turn the negative into positive. Following up on nr. 4 and 5, have a conversation with your inner critic. Reply to the criticisms you just took notes off. For each negative comment, turn it into a positive by using common sense and self compassion.
- Be kind and compassionate with yourself. We always speak of showing kindness and compassion to others, but what about us? It is especially important to apply these values on ourselves.
- If your mistake ended up hurting someone and you want to make amends, then please do so. If this is important to you, then by all means, make amends with that person, either by apologizing or by taking action to fix that mistake. The words “I’m sorry” are hard to say for many, but once they are out and the other one has forgiven you, you will feel only peace.
Perfectionists, Please Sit Back
Have some compassion on yourself. You can’t take a break until you finish writing that article or complete your boss’s assignment? Says who? If you want to eat, then have a bite to eat. You want that coffee? Then go get that cup. What’s the use of working with a growling stomach or an unanswered craving for some freshly brewed coffee?
Perfectionists are known to give themselves a hard time, over nearly anything … thus creating more stress than they already have, and pushing that self loving spirit further and further away. A desire to excell all the time only leads to harsh self-criticism and is caused by a lack of self-love.
How does it feel when someone you love is always giving you a hard time? So, why then is it OK to do it to yourself?
Perfectionism is known to cause some serious health issues such as eating disorders, and irritable bowel disease, and it makes it difficult to recover from fibromyalgia, heart disease, and traumatic brain injury. Anxiety and depression can also be a negative consequence of perfectionism.
It is OK to let go sometimes.
1. Let’s take this article as an example. It took me several hours to write it, adding the time I used for research, I would say that the work for this blog post is approximately four or five hours. It’s a rough estimate 😉 Did I do this all at once? No. Am I past my deadline? Yes … That does not happen all the time, but yesterday I wrote an unplanned article on another website, which ended up pushing the deadline for this one back by a day.
I am not going to beat myself up about it. I am still taking breaks in between. A tea break, a little walk around my property perhaps. Those pauses actually increase my productivity and will be more help in creating a good article instead of pushing myself relentlessly.
2. Yes, but Christine, you don’t have a boss, this is your website. I understand that argument. Nonetheless, I happen to have a boss in my day time job, and I always meet my deadlines for him, but at the same time I am not bending over backwards to meet crazy expectations or causing myself unnecessary stress.
That doesn’t mean I’m lazy. On the contrary, it means that I am taking care of myself and of my mental health which in turn will ensure that I remain a productive employee.
When my boss has several projects for me, I always ask him what the deadline for each is, and then I organize them according to my weekly schedule, making sure to stay out of the stress trap. Perfectionism leads to needless stress. Best to stay away from that.
Whenever people try to rush me when I do not have time or I am busy, I always tell them to slow down, they can’t expect me to drop everything because they have an urgent need to verify certain numbers. I usually give them a time to get back to me. Why do I do that? If you have read my “about me” section, you know that I have been through burnout, and I never want to go through that again. So, I’m looking after myself now.
I can tell that you’re probably thinking “uh oh, she sounds like the worst employee, I would not hire her”, lol. Not to worry, it’s quite the opposite; in fact, my boss is very happy with my work and he has just extended my contract for another year, so there you go 😉 It’s all about finding the right balance.
Looking after yourself, finding the right balance in your life (and work), avoiding stress to keep your strong mental health are all actions of self-love. Not constantly pushing yourself, forgiving yourself, letting go of a tough past are all acts of self-love. It is true that sometimes our past may catch up with us. That is, of course, a more difficult bridge to cross, and it suddenly inspired me to write a new article (coming up soon), which I hope will be helpful as well.
I hope that this article provided some support or answers. It is based on research and my own experiences.
Right now I am working on a book to help heal from burnout, and I plan to have it ready this year. I have not set a deadline yet, but I will announce that soon enough. Let me know in the comments if you have any doubts or questions or if you have any experience or advice you would like to share.
Thank you for reading!