This episode is kind of thought-provoking …
I have come across the topic of “performance” several times in the past few weeks and I would like to share my thoughts with you.
I was always very committed, already when I was in school. I didn’t necessarily study a lot, but I almost always did my homework. Because it was my job and on top of that I felt really uncomfortable when I didn’t do it. I was afraid to stand out in a negative way and to get into trouble. Looking back, that was actually my main motivation during school: not to get into trouble. I was good at math and I really enjoyed French; everything else I thought was kinda boring. I was really more interested in other topics, such as rebuilding the school newspaper or setting up projects together with the other members of the student council, such as building a tutoring exchange.
Despite this lack of interest, I was really good at school. Performed. Met expectations. Looking back, I don’t even know whose expectations I fulfilled.
I was kinda strict with my performance. At the beginning of my teenage years I had a pretty cool clique and I remember one moment, one afternoon: Several of my friends were sitting in my rather small bedroom and I was sitting with my back to them at my desk where I stoically finished my homework before I would focus on them.
That actually reflects quite well how my life went on after I finished my A-levels and what my priorities were: Performing always came first.
I did my apprenticeship and my diploma at the same time and I had barely time for anything else. Later, as an employee in the field of management consultancy, it was clear that work came first. Period. I remember one Friday evening lying in bed and crying. I had just returned from a business trip and really wanted to see my boyfriend and my friends and do tons of nice things. But I was so exhausted that I somehow just wanted to be alone – and sleep.
A consultancy is of course a totally suitable place for someone like me back then, used to performing and wanting to be the best.
At some point I was no longer able to set limits. I wasn’t used to it and I also didn’t have the guts to do it. I didn’t set any limits for certain colleagues and especially not for myself.
It was only during my burnout and my long trip to Australia that I learned to pay more attention to myself. I slowly started to live life more. I started actually seeing the cities I visited and not just being at the clients offices or in my hotel room. I even started consciously doing something nice every day. And hard to believe: work didn’t count. I also got to learn more about self-love and taking care of myself. That didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t always pretty.
One day I was faced with the task: What do I like about myself? I was self-confident and, even more, used to behave in a self-confident way, from working in the consultancy. And immediately a lot came to my mind: How great I can perform.
The second part of the task was much more tricky: What do I like about myself other than my performance?
… Not a lot came to my mind back then …
And hence my slightly melancholic question at the beginning of this episode: What am I actually worth without my performance?
Have you ever wondered about that?
During the past few weeks I had this topic several times with my clients.
With one of my clients I discovered that she doesn’t appreciate the actual components of her work, but almost despises them. However when she meets acquaintances and tells them her job title, they are impressed.
Is that a reason to do a job that I don’t like?
Ultimately, we as humans are always looking for love, approval and appreciation. And the less we get it from ourselves, the more badly we need it from the outside.
I was also talking to another client about what he can do to avoid getting another burnout. [The number of hours he worked per month still makes me feel kind of nauseous]. We figured out that as long as he defines himself through his performance, he can easily burn out in about any other job.
Working, performing, functioning is definitely a way of distracting yourself and also numbing yourself.
I speak from my own experience. When I didn’t feel good, I just worked and then I felt successful. It didn’t have to be the professional type of work, I was also ready to roll up my sleeves for private projects very quickly.
- What I’ve learned since I started my own business:
to relax and meditate
to take care of myself and just to be there for me
to be allowed to be ill
to pay attention to what I am putting my focus on
That work isn’t everything.
On the one hand, as a self-employed person it is actually not necessarily easier not to define myself through work. I actually do things that I love. There are sayings like “If you work in something you love, you don’t work a single day”.
On the other hand, maybe because of my burnout, I got to learn it the hard way: how important it is to take care of myself. In fact, now I almost always manage not to work two days per week and to take enough vacation. I am also much more responsible for myself: If I overwhelm myself physically or otherwise, and have to stop working for a longer period of time, I don’t get to earn any money.
I hope I inspired you to reflect a little in a pleasant way.
I’d like to leave you with this today:
Spend some time with yourself and think about what you like about yourself.
I wish you lots of fun and appreciation doing this!
Be happy and be light
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