I absolutely love my work. Folks ask me if I’m exhausted at the end of the day, having been in deep coaching conversations for 8-9 hours. I secretly believe that most people think I’m lying when I say I’m far from exhausted. In truth, I’m even more energized after countless sessions. Don’t get me wrong – I schedule plenty of time to rest my brain and body, and being very familiar with the symptoms of overwork and burnout (both in myself and my high achieving clients), I incorporate all the life balance and integration systems I teach my clients into my own life.
But burnout is more often the result of an emotional challenge rather than a physical or mental one. In my work with clients, two main culprits present most often when we find ourselves experiencing burnout. The first is the thought and ensuing belief that our work is not meaningful, and the other is that we are not appreciated. Let’s focus on just one in this exploration. Let’s talk about being appreciated.
Parents work often around the clock, and all the spa days, football games, mantras, and meditations in the world can’t take the place of the show of appreciation they rightfully deserve. Obviously, young children are developmentally unable to express their appreciation, but what about partners, older kids, and those who are witness to the epic effort parents put forth?
We experience burnout when the recognition and appreciation of our work is scant to none. As a Life Coach, I help my clients fill their toolbox with more effective communication skills, and all the “how to’s” – I help people become seasoned pros at difficult conversations.The conversation with our partner, older children, co-workers, boss, and anyone else whose acknowledgement and appreciation matters, is one of the most important and life-changing conversations we can master.
The reason this particular conversation feels so hard, is because we believe we are asking for something that should be given to us naturally by others, without our request. We have an “expectation” from the other person, and we are deeply disappointed when they don’t naturally respond to that expectation by acknowledging and appreciating our work. Let those disappointments pile up for long enough, and soon, we have created a mountain of resentment. Data shows that resentment is the single most destructive emotion in relationships. Most relationships end because of resentment, rather than all the other reasons we convince ourselves of.
Expectations always lead to disappointments. Over time, disappointments lead to resentment. If you feel a sense of burnout, emotional exhaustion, and a general feeling of no longer giving a damn, you need to slow down and identify the expectation(s) that has been our invisible partner since the start of your journey with marriage, parenthood, work, and any other area where you’re in a relationship with others. I call expectations the invisible “frenemy” because often, we don’t even realize it’s there, and I assure you, the people we have expectations from, unless they are mind readers, definitely do not see our frenemy.
In case you’re emboldened to go ask your partner or your boss for acknowledgement, I encourage you not to – not yet. This is one of the most delicate and nuanced conversations we can have with another human being. It requires a measure of self-reflection and work before we take it into the world. If we don’t do the internal hygiene of understanding our own expectations, learning the system of converting those expectations into requests – not demands- and the authentic acceptance that other adults have a right to their actions, the conversation will likely not end well.
If you recognize yourself in this scenario and believe you’re emotionally burnt out due to lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for your efforts, there’s a way through and it involves learning a new perspective, doing the internal work, and then having a vastly different kind of conversation than you imagined. It’s not easy, but it’s doable and life-changing.