I had to choose. This decision has been made by me many times before but never had I felt so unable to make any decision. How did I get to this low point where I had nothing left for anybody and no vacation, meditation, or time off could take away the weight that I carried. Reflecting back, I had taken on many roles the year before this but most of which I loved. After doing my best to carry on these many roles, often with little sleep, I fell under the weight of criticism from others. Maybe it was that I had carried so much that I was shocked that someone would criticize me. Maybe I deserved the criticism because I was knowingly carrying too many work and family obligations. I’m uncertain which it is but what I do know is that I would be spending the next 3 years figuring out just what happened during that time in my life. One conclusion without a doubt, is that I tried to live up to everyones expectations of me and it wasn’t working at all.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

The road to success is always under construction.

We often read about strengths and weaknesses and I too was no stranger to the teaching “find your strengths and focus your energies on those activities” but when life carried on so successfully I began to set aside such advice and think that I could somehow be superhuman and carry on a “bit” extra. But, what I didn’t realize is the longer I went on like that, the more it would wear on my body and the longer it would take to recover.

That’s what I learned the hard way. I had a choice: to live for myself or live towards others expectations of me. The problem is that being a people pleaser myself, I couldn’t even tell you what I enjoyed anymore. I had left most hobbies behind and convinced myself that I enjoyed things that I really didn’t. Sometimes I think midlife crisis’ can feel like an adolescent again. “Who am I?” seemed to float around my thoughts like it never got answered at 16.

I decided to revisit the personality tests again and look deeply at what were my strengths and weaknesses to decide what roles that I could take on without wearing myself thin. My favorite is the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test found here: Meyers Briggs Personality Test or 16 Personalities Test.

After reviewing these tests again, I came to realize that I was doing many job roles that did not fit my personality. This was the cause of my burnout. I didn’t love myself and take care of myself which led to adrenal fatigue, depression, and anxiety. I would slowly make my way back into a functional member of society but only if I kept a better balance.

What does that balance look like for you? The following decisions have to be made if you are going to live in your strengths and enjoy following your passions in life.

  1. Live in your strengths 90% of the time. Choose roles that are in line with your what you are passionate about and makes you happy. All of us were created in a specific way to fulfill specific roles in our lives that benefit others. If you are not staying within your gifts and passion, you are living a life that’s unbalanced which leaves you feeling drained.
  2. The only way to live this life is to communicate to loving supportive people who will walk alongside you allowing you to say no when needed. I had to learn to say “no.” As we moved to a home in rural Cambodia, we got involved in community. Immediately, the locals wanted help with different problems. I made an agreement with myself that I would not say yes to anyone but would tell them that we can talk more later. This gave me time to think whether the role asked of me would fit into my strengths or not. It also gave me the opportunity to say no in a way that was gentle and thought through. In one circumstance, I had a new friend ask me repeatedly to help organize community events. Knowing that organizing events stressed me out, I explained to her that I could not help with these events but also let her know what I enjoy most and how it could benefit her and the community. We’ve had a strong friendship ever since and I get to teach her and other ladies in a health class which I enjoy very much.
  3. You must find a work environment that your strengths can shine in and that you do a work that you are passionate about. Good communication about what strengths and skills you can use to contribute to reaching the company’s goals should be appreciated by any good boss.

Living up to others expectations of us leads to burnout and little satisfaction in life.

A special note to fellow bloggers and authors: what do you enjoy writing about and have experience with? Experience is the best school. Anyone can read a book but writing comes from learning, applying it to life, and then writing. Skipping the applying step makes ones writing fake and superficial. Good readers can see past that. I’ve made the mistake before going for that killer headline to get more readers but long term success requires patience and endurance continuing to put on paper your experience and expertise in your own unique way.

Choosing your unique passion and strengths in life will be fulfilling but will not be appreciated by everyone. There are people who wish to use you, many people are working to achieve their own goals which may not be inline with yours, and you will have to choose. It’s easy: yes, not now, or no. But keep your goal in sight!

To fulfill your passions in life, you must be willing to say no.

What am I, Ann Hall, passionate about? Meeting health needs and getting clean water to rural poor people.

Originally published at medium.com