Before my burnout I thought I was indispensable at work.
Three illusions that burnout makes you poorer
1. You are indispensable
Before my burnout, I thought I was indispensable at work. Values such as a sense of responsibility, idealism, collegiality, and professionalism were of paramount importance to me. Which made me an acclaimed employee. Great was my surprise when, after dropping out due to a burnout, I turned out to be so easily replaceable. That the department just kept going, as if I’d never been there as if I’d never mattered. This started a true grieving process, let’s say an identity crisis. Certainly when later on also a dismissal for medical reasons followed.
Strangely enough, when I had been able to give all this a place, a feeling of LIBERATION followed. I realized that trying so hard had not so much to do with the love for my work, but mainly with the need for recognition. With this approval of others fading away, I began to live for the approval of myself. I no longer based my choices on what others might or might not think but started to give my life new direction from inner freedom.
2. You’re in control
From five-year plan after five-year plan to day by day. That’s pretty much the evolution I’ve gone through since my burnout. After this personal (health) crisis had shattered my entire future planning. ‘‘ Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, ” John Lennon once said. A quote I’ve been thinking about a lot. Life cannot be controlled. That was made painfully clear to me.
Since then I attach much more value to the now, to the present moment. I still plan and set myself goals, albeit in the shorter term, but I care more about being on the road than getting to the destination. Since life is one big adventure, you stay on the road. As Andrew Hand writes, ‘ You are on a journey your entire life. A series of journeys that lead to more journeys, on and on until your life reaches its end.’
When things don’t go as planned, I no longer try to fight against reality. I let go much more easily and have learned to adjust flexibly. You can’t control what happens to you, but you always have a choice about how you deal with it. If you realize that resistance costs much more energy than acceptance, then the choice is easily made for me.
3. Security can be found externally
I had a degree in a bottleneck profession, a steady job, and a steady income. In terms of external security, that seemed to count – until, due to burnout, both the permanent job and the job prospects in that sector fell away and I suddenly had to make do with a lot less income. All my external certainties had disappeared in one, two, three and before me lay one big unknown void. I was in the phase of not knowing and had no idea what my next step would be.
‘The unknown provides the necessary space in which new dimensions of our being can be born.’ – Estelle Frankel
In the midst of all this outward uncertainty, however, something very special happened to me. An unmistakable sense of confidence and inner security bubbled up. I felt that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment in my life. The next step would become obvious in due time; I had nothing to fear because there was a higher plan behind my life. I can assure you, such a feeling was TOTALLY strange to me and at times I felt like crazy. Still, I decided to listen… and I haven’t regretted it for a moment.
I also now know that nothing outside of yourself can give you a sense of security if you don’t feel safe within yourself. Life works from the inside out. As soon as I catch myself looking for security in income, my relationship, or material possessions, I remind myself of this. Then I immediately know what to do: turn inward.