December 10, 2020

How an Overworked Overachiever finally found the Pause Button.

“I appreciate that you always look within and are so ready to take responsibility—but we have flaws in our process. This has nothing to do with you. You should not take responsibility when it’s to your detriment.” 

My manager had no idea how impactful her comment was.

It was a casual conversation between us, but it was a pivotal turning point in my life.

For days, I had been agonizing over a cross-functional project that has several moving parts and tight timelines, all dependent on our broader working group and the ability to deliver. Earlier in the week, there was a hiccup that pushed our launch out, and though we are a team, I took responsibility for something out of my control—but I didn’t see it that way.

I was beating myself up, thinking that I should have caught it and I should have done something differently—but that was not the case, and it happened because of a flaw in our process.

I found myself rather-shell shocked from the conversation. Many of my life’s scenarios paraded through my mind as I sat dumbstruck.

“Why do you work so hard? You do too much, when you don’t have to,” said a college professor.

“You’re a perfectionist. Sometimes 70 percent really is enough,” said a previous manager.

“You’re too hard on yourself,” said many.

Forward I would forge, working diligently, overachieving personally and professionally. That wasn’t always the case, but the pain and disappointment I experienced in many of my varying relationships led me to a place where I could find true companionship and love: work. 

Whether it was formal schooling or my unexpected career, I’d found a home. It was where I sought comfort, satisfaction, and joy. Working hard yielded results, a sense of achievement. I was valued, needed, and rewarded for my loyalty. It was something I excelled at—it was my life.

Until the day when I transitioned from start-ups to hardcore corporate America.  It was there I learned how harsh business could be: Power hungry individuals driven by ego. Underhanded colleagues who would do anything to get ahead. Politics galore. It was then that I lost my way. I started to doubt my value and my worth. I was in the midst of a game for which no one shared the rules. My hard work, competence, and loyalty no longer meant a thing.

My lover had betrayed me—again.

Balance has always eluded me, and it may continue to. This girl dives headfirst into any endeavor—planned, prepared, and ready to conquer the world. But maybe that is too much. Maybe I do work too hard and strive for perfection, though excellence is more my goal. And maybe I am too hard on myself—still. I feel like I fall short day after day.

Maybe I should stop taking responsibility for everything and everyone. A novel idea!

I admit to being over the top when it comes to trying to own my feelings and emotions. If someone else is an ass, rather than verbally regurgitate on the spot, I contemplate how I should move forward. I refuse to give them the power and typically intellectualize my feelings, thus acknowledging and denying them at the same time, or sweeping them under the rug.

I’m fine. This is okay. I understand where they are coming from. Maybe I’m asking for too much.”

Until it’s not and I explode—taking action on the reactions that I’d buried long ago, leaving others shocked and baffled by the lunatic who went off on them, a “psycho girl,” but not.

Today, I was released from captivity—I have been holding myself hostage without my knowledge.

Today, I was given the opportunity to look more closely at why I manage my emotions so critically, subjecting them to such scrutiny and restraint—I might be trying to exude an aura of competence and control, when in reality, I’m an anxious, sad wreck.

Today, I exhaled—and realized that I still have work to do in figuring out why I feel this need to nail myself to a cross in this life. It’s time to know when enough is enough, when giving 150 percent is more than enough.

Because I’m no longer going to be responsible to my own detriment. And neither should you.

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