Katie doesn’t have any experience with this topic—that’s why she’s opening up to all of you in hopes of learning more!
Several years ago I had one of the most important conversations of my life. Literally.
This conversation was prompted by a good friend (someone I also consider a mentor) during a work break. She asked to run a thought by me so we stepped out for a bit. She was concerned because she was able to give her colleagues, employers, and friends 100% of her energy and attention during the day. But when she got home in the evenings, she was too exhausted to give that same energy and attention to her husband. I remember she specifically said, "that's not fair to him!" This was an individual who I think very highly of because, like she said, she gives 100% of her energy and attention to the people she is around. She is fun, loving, engaging, HILARIOUS, professional, talented, and the list goes on. This conversation was such a pivotal moment because not only was my friend experiencing an important moment of growth and realization, but also because I was watching a mentor of mine open up honestly about a struggle that I would end up having a few years later (more on that in a bit). Up until this point of my life, I, like many others, had fallen victim to the mentality of believing that certain people "just had their lives together." In my perspective, they were either lucky, intelligent, or strategic and their lives were just ... better. So admittedly, when she brought this up. I was a little shocked. I always viewed her as one of those individuals who always had her life "figured out." I couldn't believe that she was having struggles. (Here is my PSA to remind us to check on our happy friends, too.)
Here's where I am going with all of this:
- Why do we say YES to everyone else but aren't able reserve enough energy to say YES at home to the people who really matter? There's a serious mental block going on that I need to constantly check.
Don't worry, I'm not going into much depth about this. This could be the main topic of a series of blog posts, or even novels. I just want to highlight my takeaways.
As I mentioned earlier, I came to the same struggles a few years later in my own personal life as my friend did. My passion in life became my career. I love that I love my work. Sure, I have lazy days here and there but I genuinely do look forward to going to work. I love the people that I work with. All of my coworkers are brilliant, talented, and I look up to each of them for various reasons. Because I love my work, the people I work with, AND being an extrovert who draws energy from others, I exhaust that energy during the day. When I get home from work, it takes everything in me to hold a conversation with my family or take my dogs on a 10 minute walk. I thought back to that conversation with my friend. I did not want my family thinking I couldn't make space and time for them - they actually still were the most important thing in my life. My husband had already mentioned that it seemed like I was living my own life and he only felt like a small part of it. That hit me, hard. My priorities had changed since starting my career. I still loved my career and everything about it, but I also had fallen deeply in love with a person who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I had to decide what was worth my attention, energy, and love. I realized that I needed to start pacing myself and recognizing who and what I was pouring my energy into. I never noticed that I was pouring my energy into LOTS of things that were not reciprocating that same amount of energy back to me. I am not offended by that at all. I actually think I appreciate it because through that non-reciprocation, I learned the value of having boundaries (a little foreshadowing here ... next article coming out Monday, Feb. 15, 2020).
I have made a few changes in my life that have helped me reserve space for what matters. The word "no" has entered my vocabulary more and that's been freeing. Just because I have time available, doesn't mean I'm actually available. I'll let you read that sentence again :) I've also worked on more communication with my family. If I'm not mentally able to be present during conversation, I'm communicating that to them. But I have to hold myself accountable to bring the conversation back up when I am ready. It's not a fool proof plan and of course I drop the ball sometimes, but I am trying. Aren't we all just trying? I think if we can always honestly say that we are trying, then we are doing a pretty good job. But that's another article for another day. I'll end on this note - cheers to being more aware of who and what get my 100% ... 100% of the time!
Katie Wilber (author) from Virginia on February 11, 2021:
Thanks so much for sharing, Sarah! I absolutely agree with you. I have noticed I am having more conversations with my students about mental health. I also really like when you mentioned 50% is sometimes enough for one job and I need to be more ok with that, too. I appreciate your thoughts here!
Sarah on February 08, 2021:
Hi Katie, nice to check in with you and read about this moment of growth. I agree 100%. The current work force is not sustainable. Mental health has been on the minds of more people since Covid but the requested lifestyle still doesn't promote thriving.
In my experience, it's about learning to say no to projects and trust that the right opportunities will arrive in the future. It's also thinking about who and what you want to spend your energy and time on. Who deserves your talent and how much of it. Sometimes, 50% of your talent is enough for one job and I'm learning to be okay with that.
I guess what I'm thinking about is personal boundaries in response to personal needs. If we're too tired, we're not our best selves nor will we be able to grow to the best of our abilities.