This is for those of you who, like me, strive for excellence in all things and are the masters of burnout. In an attempt to be perfect (news flash- not to burst your bubble- you will never be), you spread thin your talents and abilities.
To the girl (or boy) trying to do it all: If you are like me, you want to be good at everything you do. Which, frankly, I sincerely hope that you all do strive to be good at everything you do. I hope you do dive into everything wholeheartedly, passionately, and full of life. And, bonus, it’s okay to enjoy being good at what you do. Where we can get thrown off is that word “everything”. Your everything might be different than someone else’s everything. Your load might look different, your skill set, your passions. Don’t compare your everything to someone else’s everything- they’re going to be different and there is no shame if you cannot carry as much. The minute you start diving into more than you can handle, the zeal and passion will dwindle. I just had to start saying no to things, because I realized I was carrying more than I am able to- me. My own personal load that I am meant to carry, despite the fact others around me were thriving with the same amount, if not more. But, no matter what you are capable of carrying, if you load yourself up beyond your personal capacity- everything will suffer and bear the burden. (We will get more to that in a few.) With this effort for excellence can often also come the fear of anything less than perfection, not feeling good enough from the pressure you put on yourself. This is the ugly side of desiring excellence. Because of that, you always have in the back of your mind you could be doing something better, and are likely letting somebody down. Does this ring a bell with you yet? This is SO me. I always think I am in trouble- no matter what. If someone says they want to talk, I immediately have anxiety and start racking my mind for all the things I have maybe done wrong or could have said to them that was rude, or could have been taken wrong. The most innocent of questions will haunt me long after they are asked, and I will begin to over analyze them. I will try to figure out what that person was implying to me by asking me that. I will then usually overexpose myself and barf out all the things I have done wrong in the last week as an attempt to apologize for the unknown reason we are meeting or why that question was asked. Paul always says he is so happy he married, because there is no way on earth I could ever lie to him. I just can’t. Nine times out ten, these conversations I freak out over are positive. In fact, it’s almost never been that I am in trouble. It is to tell me “hey, we just want to tell you how great you are doing at ‘x’.” Or, legit, once it was to tell me I was getting a raise, and I had convinced myself the only reason they could possibly want to talk to me would be to fire me. It’s a real issue, actually, and I am praying for the confidence of God in all things, because what this comes down to is a lack of it. And, as somebody who claims the name of Jesus, I should have all the confidence in the world with what I do- and guilt-free- because he went before me.
If you are saying yes, yes yes to any of this, then I get you. We have this beautiful marriage between hard work and passion. Zeal for life and persistence. We literally just don’t take no for an answer, not because we are naive or selfish, but because our vision surpasses being realistic or safe. There really is so much good to this characteristic. But, there is also a side to this marriage that means striving for perfection to a fault, paranoia that people are disappointed in you, and always assuming the worst. You work yourself to burnout, take a couple days to recover, and then follow routine until you burn out again next month. You fail to nurture friendships, because you are running your own race with blinders on. You run over people, not on purpose, but because you have your eye on the end goal, the big vision, and forget about the present. And, the big one, you fail to nurture yourself, take care of you, feed yourself, or sleep well.
If you are the girl trying to do it all, you are likely reading this and saying yes this is me and I am so tired. Listen to me: One of the best bits of advice I have ever been given in life is pick your 3. Pick your 3 relationships to pour into the most, your core people who bring out the best you, pick your 3 passions to pursue, pick your 3 goals for the next year and don’t lose site of those 3, and those alone. Three. You can handle 3. Anything beyond that lingers burnout, and he is waiting at the fence line to snag you and beat you down. To the girl trying to do it all, you may be involved in 8 different things that, in theory, you are awesome at. But when doing those 8 things at once, you are mediocre at all of them simply because of time and resources. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean you have to do something with it in your current season of life. You have depleted yourself to be unable to pour wholeheartedly into anything, because you’ve tried to spread enough butter for one piece of toast onto five. It just doesn’t work, it doesn’t taste as good, and it’s not practical.
I encourage you, if you are reading this and saying yes to any of these scenarios and situations, pick 3. Quit something. Quitting something to open a way for other things to fully take root and flourish isn’t shameful. In fact, it will be blessed. I can assure you of that, because I just experienced it. The Lord honors your faithfulness for excellence and he loves your passions and desires, if he is glorified in them. God is not glorified in burnout. Burnout is God’s grace to reveal you are trying to be your own God. You are trying to do more than you have been created to do on your own. When burnout happens, you are frustrated at yourself because you are physically incapable of doing well at a, b, and c- the things you know you’re good at. And you find that your work ethic and standard for excellence you are soooo proud of are nothing at all to be proud of, because they’re both terrible and dragging from sheer exhaust. It’s like driving a Porsche whose oil hasn’t been changed out in a year and the engine is now sputtering. It’s useless when it isn’t taken care of.
I get the shame and guilt that comes with quitting something. You can feel like the biggest failure, because it’s admitting, “I just can’t keep up.” I am unable. I am weaker than this craziness called life I have created for myself. But, y’all, on the other side of this conversation is the most beautiful freedom. You will flourish and realize how good it is to run a race you are equipped for, not crawling through. Crawling through the race is this crazy norm we have all fallen into. Being a wife? Who needs to be good at that when you are running a race while balancing 8 broken plates in your hands. Running a race broken and taped together, not okay. If you are crawling and reaching for the finish line, something’s gotta give.
Paul and I have experienced some big changes in our schedule in just the last two weeks, and we have found ourselves at our dinner table together at 6:30 PM more times than we have in the last year. Not kidding. We have not eaten dinner at 10 PM once in the last two weeks, which is a massive change. We haven’t had this ever in our marriage, not once. I have looked across the table at Paul multiple times and said, “This is what marriage feels like?” Don’t get to the point we did, y’all. Don’t run yourself dry. Say no to things outside your 3. It’s okay to quit things, it’s okay to pursue specific passions over others. And with that, new opportunities that fit in perfectly just might take root.
If you are crawling your race right now, know that you aren’t alone. I just got up from crawling and I am here to grab your hand, shake off all “the extra” from you, and run alongside you. I can say I am so stoked for life. I don’t get exhausted just thinking about my obligations and schedule for the next month. I literally used to just cry when Paul and I would sit down to sync our schedules for the week. But, when we started saying no to things, we found hope and excitement peeking out again over the horizon. Our church, our community, and doing well at our jobs is what we focus on. In that, we found time for each other (gasp), for family, and for our core people.
I am rooting for you! You can pick your 3, I promise. 😉 Love y’all.