It’s been a few weeks now that I’ve actually not worked thru the weekends. I think the nice weather has been enticing me to just lie, sit, walk or stand in the sun light. The days of Summer are long and great. And although the longer days could allow me to work longer hours, they only seem to entice me to take shorter days. In my darkest work-a-holic days I was putting in 100 hour weeks and lied to my co-workers about how many hours I was actually working, because I was too embarrassed to be working so long. I was working as long as physically possible, until my head would fall into the keyboard and it was clear that I was typing gibberish and then I’d push myself to wake up as early as possible, hype myself up with strong coffee and do it again and again and again all in response to fear of being yelled at for not meeting everyone’s high expectations.
But now I’ve faced the fact that everyone’s expectations are actually unrealistic. As part of my training in the Barbara Brennan school I see a therapist regularly. Therapy typically helps you accept the fact that your perception of reality is largely how we choose to perceive them. And so something that is scary or terrible often only gets that way because we choose to judge it that way. However, everytime I describe my long work hour situation to my therapist, he actually points the problem with corporate work life rather than me. He’s dealt with many other clients that are getting overworked and doing so willingly for fear of losing their employment in a time where its generally hard to find employment. According to therapy the expectations made of me at my work place are very unreasonable. My predicament of working long hours is understandable when just a year ago I was so close to being layed off only to be rescued by a crazy workaholic job. However, here’s the kicker, in the end it is my choice to work the long hours, even if it’s doing so under implicit cohersion by my supervisors. I could choose to risk losing my job in an attempt to get needed rest and preserve my health.
I remember a couple weeks ago attending a company sponsored safety meeting and the topic was health. And I failed miserably on questions related to exercise, recreation and sleep. You see my company takes safety seriously enough to fire you if you’re unsafe. And yet my company has high expectations that require me to work unhealthy hours to meet them. But if I work unhealthy hours I’m implicitly being unsafe. As I looked at my peers, including some of my newer supervisors taking leisure time or having time to exercise, I recognize that although external events of a work place with unreasonable expectations is very real, the choice to react in fear and give up my personal boundaries, of health and safety is my own. And that choice is actually an unreasonable choice to make in an attempt to satisfy an unreasonable demand. The reasonable choice is to not satisfy and allow for the disappointment of those unreasonable demands. The healthy choice involves disappointing others, while still having empathy for that disappointment.
I’m more now taking a deep breath and gathering the courage to work less hours and potentially disappoint people. I gather the courage to face people who will get angry and vent on me for failing them in some ways or taking the blame for their predicament, because I wasn’t on the ball in pushing the pace of my projects. And so what’s at risk is really just me experiencing lots of disappointment and starting to feel like a failure, and incompetent worker. There’s also a slight fear that someone else may be assigned to take over some of my responsibilities if I’m perceived incapable of doing my work. But part of me recognizes that someone taking over my work would actually be a healthy response.
So for me in the face of unreasonable demands, I am starting to make frighteningly scary yet reasonable choices. I know I will feel the disappointment of others and that’s what makes it frighteningly scary. So the personal work for me is to not to tie my personal worth to my work performance. I must start to embrace and know and feel my true worth regardless of how disappointed others become with me. In fact my true worth has nothing to do with what I achieve or accomplish, it is actually simply tied to my mere presence as a unique beautiful human being.