Burnout to Leadership

Ep#37 Feeling Discouraged

June 24, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 37
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#37 Feeling Discouraged
Show Notes Transcript
  • Why we feel discouraged.
  • Falling in the pit of inadequacy and imposter syndrome in burnout.
  • How to encourage yourself back from overwhelm.
  • Acknowledging where you are already contributing.

Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership Podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, and this is Dex Randall here, Burnout to Leadership podcast. What we're gonna talk about today is feeling a little bit discouraged, because if you have been experiencing chronic stress, anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, overwhelm, and that whole package that builds up into burnout, or in fact, if you're experiencing burnout itself, you're pretty much ready to give up and feeling discouraged is a huge component, right, you've gone along feeling an increasing amount of stress and anxiety, worrying more and more about how you're showing up, whether you're getting on okay at work and discouragement is, it's kind of something that increases over time if you're there, when your mind is bothering you, your inner critic is talking to you a lot about how you're performing, what's happening for you, how you can get enough work done, how you can show up in the way that will create the kind of performance that you wish you were getting, then discouragement, will, it's kind of like an undercut, it's gonna undercut your performance more and more as you go on. So I think it's really worth just talking about that of itself because really, one of the things that's happening when we're in this chronic stress and anxiety overwhelm about getting our work done, and we're overworking to compensate, trying to keep everybody happy at once and being a little bit perfectionist about our performance because we're so worried that we're not performing at the level that we should be. What we're actually doing is we are worrying about being criticised or judged by other people, and I think first off, it's worth thinking about this, when we worry about being criticised and judge, is that what's actually happening? Or is it mostly our inner critic that's judging and criticising us kind of non stop all day long. That monologue going on in your head can easily become quite relentless if you're worried about your performance, your job security, your income, how you're getting on with people at work, how you're getting on with your projects and your deliverables, your results. Your inner critic is probably on fire, and also, when you hear it going on all day, the disaster movie that is presenting you with can be a bit extreme. And for me, when I was in burnout, my inner critic was pretty sure I'll be living in a bus stop by the end of the experience 'cause I wouldn't be able to do anything or produce anything. And when our inner critic comes to that place, what's really happening is we're practicing self criticism like our lives depend on it, because actually our brain tells us our life does depend on it, so we're practicing self criticism every day we're becoming very, very expert at self criticism and a part of that is, when we're in stress and anxiety, when we are in that cycle, it provokes our amygdala, it tells our amygdala, there's something wrong, and it needs to manage the risk, it needs to defend, it needs to do something to get us out of the pool, but unfortunately, if we have anxious style thinking, it creates an anxiety feeling in us, and that triggers the amygdala. What immediately happens is it tells the brain to look out for more risk. Well, when you tell your inner critic to look out for more risk, it goes, "Righto, I've got a whole bunch of other things you should be worrying about here, I'm gonna escalate the drama for you," let me really tell you how things are going down the plughole. So between that and developing by practice, the consummate skill of self criticism, between that and our amygdala going off and saying, "Yeah, there really is a problem. You really need to worry about all these other things." So all of that creates this inner maelstrom, this kind of vortex of worry and panic and anxiety inside of us. So when we worry so much about being criticised and judged by other people, what we really mean is I'm drowning in self criticism and it is all correct. It's all actually valid and right, so almost certainly everybody else has been joining in or will join in or is talking behind my back or the axe is gonna fall on my head any minute now, because my inner landscape is telling me the disaster is imminent or it's already happened, so as soon as people outside of me join in on the same level as my inner critic, I am in a really big poo. So here's the thing, it's mostly our inner critic, usually, generally speaking, we're very high achieving, very committed, hard working, intelligent problem solving people, and we've built a career on that. The people who can do stuff, the fixers. So the risk is, what if I can't fix everything now that feels a bit like a life or death situation, I may lose my job, I may lose my status, so I may lose the respect of others at work, so it's quite a compelling argument in your head that others are probably criticising and judging us, but really it's 99% us, it's mostly happening inside our head, often other people's perception of us is that we are very highly functional, always have been, probably always will be. So that's one thing to think about, are other people really judging and criticising me, and if they are, it's probably because I'm living in this world of fear, and I'm kind of withdrawing and being a bit defensive and prickly and not getting stuff done, and so I'm causing them, I'm giving them an opportunity to criticise and judge me by kind of shutting down. The other side of it is, if other people do criticise and judge you, if they share an opinion that sounds a little bit judgemental, not quite on for you, and really when people criticise us, what they're doing is they're trying to feel a certain way, they're judging us well, they're criticising us because we don't fit with their belief system about what's right, and if we don't operate in the world the way they think everybody should operate in this world, they feel a bit challenged by that, it's a bit kind of dangerous for them. So when they criticise or judge us, what they're really saying is, this is the way a human being should behave in the world according to me, according to how I've learned it from the people around me, the culture, the family around me, this is what good humans do, and you're not doing it. So I feel a bit threatened by that, my ego feels a bit threatened by that, because my ego thinks that the way I operate, the way I've learned to operate is the only way humans can be, so if you're not operating that way and you think your way is right then, oh no, don't tell me my way could be wrong, that's really unstabilising for me. So when somebody does criticise or judge us, they're just in search of a feeling, and maybe that feeling that they want is comfort or security or endorsement or assurance that they're still okay, so quite often, even if people do criticise or judge us, it's not fundamentally that important to who we are because we can only operate out of our own value system and our own belief system. Generally speaking, we're very, very high achieving, skilled expert people, we kind of know what our own standards are, and we know that if we meet them, that's actually okay. So there's quite a lot bundled up in there about criticism, self criticism and the criticism of others, which lead to fundamentally, if we keep having these thoughts criticising ourselves and thinking other people are criticising us, we will become discouraged over time and we'll become very biased towards only noticing these areas of judgment and self judgment. We will stop looking at our assets, because really we're all in this kind of blind, hopeless quest for happiness, success, these gleaming perfect lives. Because really when we think about, if I'm being seen to pursue success, look successful, look happy, look like I've got the perfect life, I will be safe, I won't be judged by people then, and I won't risk rejection by people then if I've got this gleaming successful life. So that's kind of part of the... I mean in America is obviously the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental core belief of many people. But this pursuit of happiness as we see other people with their airbrushed lives on social media has become stronger and stronger and stronger in the last 10 or 20 years, now we think we should all be perfect, it's not realistic, they're not living a perfect life and nor am I and nor are you, but life doesn't have to be perfect for us to be perfect as humans, we're perfectly imperfect. So I think that contributes as well to this feeling of discouragement, we see this painted on vision of other people's lives of success that isn't even real. Once we scratch the surface, as you know, and you see the reality of people, they are living these flawed and accidental and incumbent lives just like we are. The other thing I think is also worth noticing is if we're self criticising, and we see ourselves as behaving in a sub standard way or we're behaving poorly, or we did or said something we don't approve of. We don't approve of it. Not other people. Really, I see poor behavior in our own personal value system, our own judgement as coming from fear and lack. Normally, when we behave in a way that we don't think is up to scratch, it's because we were feeling a little bit fearful, a little bit insecure, a little bit hemmed in, a little bit powerless, or we weren't getting what we wanted and it's coming from a sense of desperation, it's coming from some kind of negative emotion where we don't think things are working out okay for us, and it's from there that our behavior comes when we don't think of it as a good behavior, because good behavior comes from security, resilience, generosity, and a lot of positive emotion where we feel are fundamentally okay inside ourselves, we have the capacity to be generous and contribute to other people, so if we don't have it, we can't really blame ourselves for feeling fear and lack. If we're in a job, for example, where we're filling overworked and overwhelmed, disrespected undervalued, that we're not pulling our weight, then we will necessarily be in anxiety and anxiety is a flavour of fear. So if we think of the two driving emotions of humans, we've got love and we've got fear, some flavour of love will produce our best actions, thoughts, words, and a flavour of fear will produce or our perhaps least delightful actions, thoughts, words, deeds, emissions even. So think about that too, that if we are feeling fear, if we're feeling overworked, overwhelmed, exhausted, then almost certainly we're going to be doing some things that we ourselves don't approve of, and that's okay, that's how humans are in fear. We've gotta get back to safety, that's the primary importance, so we are scrabbling, we're hustling to get back to safety, but I think also when we're doing that, when we're in that mindset of we're not doing very well at work, let's say, work can be another flavour of burnout, it might be at home, it might be in care giving, it can be anywhere, but if we're in some sort of flavour of this chronic anxiety and burnout, we won't see ourselves as contributing. We're gonna kind of have a... We will have an innate desire to contribute. But that will be thwarted by our actual experience of life day to day, when we're kind of run down and hustling for success, but our need to contribute is so fundamental as humans that we have this innate search for meaning and contribution in our lives. That's what gives us purpose. So if we don't have an experience of that, we're also going to be quite dispirited and discouraged, we think we're not giving then that internal need to contribute isn't being met. And the other thing that can work to discourage us is when we are not acknowledged or supported, so perhaps in our community, perhaps at work, we're not being acknowledged the good we do, the contribution we make is not being acknowledged verbally or in writing or in any way, even in body language, it's not there, or we're being disrespected, maybe humiliated, shamed in public, maybe we're being responded to at work, for example, in a way that makes us feel inferior or stupid, maybe there is something we feel is attacking our reputational status, and that can be incredibly discouraging and demoralising. Whether it's real or not real, whether it's imagined or whether it's really happening, it kind of doesn't matter, and particularly shame and disrespect. If somebody is publicly shaming us, we take that on the chin really hard, and if somebody is publicly disrespecting us, 'cause what that implies is rejection. It also implies that we are below them, if somebody is disrespecting us, we perceive ourselves as being below them, and generally speaking, below our own standards for ourselves, but shame and disrespect can be really, really big triggers that can also demoralise. When we see ourselves as not performing, what is often a reflection of is we're very... Typically, the people who come to me are type A personality, very, very, highly experienced, highly trained, rigorously trained, and over the years, they've set and maintained enormously high standards for their own performance, and sometimes over the years, we forget to notice how well we are performing because we take our own performance for granted, we stop noticing our own achievements and just notice, "Hey, I lost that top 1%, that top 2% or even more," that's the story we start telling ourselves, because we've taken all of our... The core of our contribution for granted. It's so routine for us, we have this unconscious competence that we stopped noticing a long time ago. So that can also be very demoralising, and when we want to feel successful, what we really need to do is talk to ourselves about how successful we are, we need to start noticing again, all that unconscious competence that we possess, the unconscious contribution that we make, our skills, our experience, our expertise our rapport with people, our support of the people around us, not just us, but when we've got into a negative spiral, when we've let the inner critic get out of hand, we'll start feeling a bit weak and a bit fibble and a bit vulnerable and we don't want people to see that, so we hide it, we can't allow ourselves to be in any kind of experience of weakness or loss of power, or loss of status, so we try to maintain the facade that we are the person who can fix every problem and that alone comes with a great cost, it get inside ourselves when we're feeling exhausted and kind of moaned down, we don't think we are fixing every problem and we still gotta do this kind of comb over. I always think about it as pretending we still can fix every problem. It's not human to be able to fix every problem by the way, nobody can. So what we've done is we've denied our own humanity on our own inherent fallibility, because in many ways, fallibility is not a problem. If you're a brain surgeon, you don't wanna be fallible in that moment, the human fallibility exists. It exists for everybody. So the other thing that happens is, over the years, what may have happened is that our role, our work role, our professional role, our parenting role, our community role, has changed and changed and changed, and all of that is outside our control. So the shifting systems at work, maybe there's more overhead, more admin and maybe there's increased demands, requirement to be more profitable to use our time in a different way, to work in a different way with other people, often we start perceiving ourselves as offering less value than we used to, in which case, we perceive that we are under performing and that's generally speaking, even so not true, and undermining that as well is the loss of human connection that we've maybe all of us as a society experienced in the last 10, 20, 30 years over the age of the internet, really. We haven't had the same duration or depth of human connection in the way that we may have had before the internet, and maybe that comes up in religion or spirituality, maybe it comes up in the town or the place that you live, you don't have connections you used to, maybe we're not as connected to our major or extended family, or even just look at the divorce rate where families themselves are splitting up, and also we're much more mobile, than we used to be geographically, we can move all over the world, at a blink of an eye lid, and also a lot of us are working, particularly in this last couple of years of COVID, much more remotely and I don't care what anyone says to me, humans are not designed to work on Zoom exclusively, it's a connection, but it's not a visceral connection, and when two humans are in a room together, there will be a chemical hormonal response to one another, their nervous systems will attune to each other, there is a visceral component to human connection, so protracted work on Zoom kind of removes that layer of connection, and we'll feel like as animals. So really, there's a whole bunch of other, I think perfect storm of difficulties that come up for us at work in the modern way of living, in the modern way of communicating, in the modern way of ever shifting work standards, the rate of change of technology being enormous. In the beginning, centuries ago, most of us knew the rules we had to follow to be accepted, but now those are in a constant state of flux, so we're all living on a little bit of a knife edge of wondering how to go about life in order to be accepted. And if we become discouraged, what we're saying is, I can't meet the demands of my life, I have not enough external reflection of my success, my okay ness of approval, and we tell ourselves a little bit, we can't win at this game. And if we don't have a very close relationship or close long term relationship with the people we work with, our colleagues, our boss, our company or organization, we feel a bit of instability because of that, it's not so long ago that people would have had a career for life, my dad only had one job until he was about 65, and then he went on to job number two, when he hit pension age, and we don't have the stability anymore. And we start to tell ourselves that we're not as effective, maybe as we could be as we need to be, we can't keep up, or we're not as connected with people, and maybe this is our colleagues, maybe it's our clients or our customers, maybe you might just need some patience, we're not as connected as we need to be to give value. And the back of that, our family life has been affected in a similar way that we can't be present enough, demands in our lives are so high, maybe we feel we can't be present enough to our own family, we just don't have enough time. So all of this, the perfect stone comes together for us, often in a way with our inner critic being disappointed with us, and burnout, I think, is an experience of self disappointment, we're not being what we think we need to be in the world, and it can result in us feeling so insecure that we start blaming the system, and whilst that may be valid in many ways, it doesn't really help us progress. What that does is saying, "Well, the system is to blame, I can't do anything," and then we kind of have a bit of flame out on the things that we can do, we stop focusing on the things that we can do and maybe we're less effective and we procrastinate a little bit more. The more we think we can't succeed in this world, the less effective, we actually are gonna be. We prove that the system is to blame by kind of abdicating responsibility, so all of this to say that really discouragement is such a common phenomenon in our world, I think burnout is now becoming almost a pandemic. It was in the lead up to COVID and during COVID it got a lot, lot worse for so many people with an additional load of problems and separation, but I think that we can turn this all around because if all of this hinges on self disappointment, if it hinges on discouragement, if it hinges on not taking control for the things that we can change in our lives, if it hinges on exhaustion and demoralisation then we can take back our power on that. And the reason I work with coaching, and the reason I work with coaching on burnout is I can see spectacular changes in people once they turn down their inner critic and start taking a different perspective on who they are in the world, what value they're really offering and what success they're really creating, instead of looking at all of that with this jaundiced view of failure, which our inner critic is so fond of adopting all day, every day, if we start reversing the polarity and start looking for success, it's still there. We are being effective, we are contributing, we are supporting other people, and those fundamental goodness within us, and those fundamental willingness to connect in us, all of the magic ingredients to being a successful and wonderful human being, with marvellous contribution in the world are still there. We just disassemble them and all the parts that are lying on the table, so what coaching does is it brings all of that back together in a way that helps people create a tangible success every day in whatever they're doing and to appreciate their that success and to connect more fully with people in that success. So I think if you are experiencing discouragement and overwhelm and frustration and exhaustion, all of that hinges around, "Okay, what if I turn my inner critic into my inner champion, how would life look then?" And that's what coaching does. And I'm such a stoned because of it, because I see massive turnarounds when I'm working with my clients, so if you're feeling discouraged, know that it's temporary. That it can could be fixed, it can could be fixed with coaching, I can actually support you to come back to a place of enjoyment instead of dread, and it isn't as hard as you think, because most of what your inner critic is telling you is a lie, it's not really happening on around the world, the fundamental goodness of you can be brought back to the surface, and this joy of connection with other people, of working together with other people can return and reduce all of that negativity. So if that's happening for you, this is the work that I do with my clients, so I'd be very happy to speak with you how to recover from burnout quickly, sustainably, and get back to your best performance and enjoyment, both inside work and outside work in your relationships. So thank you very much for listening today. It's been great to talk with you. Please don't remain in discouragement, it really is optional. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program, you can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com, just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.