Burnout Recovery

Ep111 The Sword of Invincibility

February 08, 2024 Dex Randall Season 2 Episode 111
Burnout Recovery
Ep111 The Sword of Invincibility
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

I would (pre-burnout) have loved to be invincible. Sadly, I was shaking at the knees with raw vulnerability instead. Invincible would have been SO convenient and face-saving.

Many of us disposed to burnout secretly give invincibility a try, even knowing it's a dud. Its apparent protective quality is so seductive.

Unfortunately, it's just part of the path to burnout, as eventually a thing will happen that causes us to fall apart anyway.

If you secretly still aspire to invincibility, allow me to offer a better way.
Your strength and efficacy WILL return after burnout, but in a new, easier and even more successful form. 

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[00:00:00] Hi everyone, my name's 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.

[00:00:22] Hello my friends. This is Dex here with you again today and what we're gonna talk about today and explore is invincibility that holy grail of safety when nothing can go wrong, right? And I'm gonna propose to you a little bit here as we tell the story that I'm gonna take the contrarian view, which is the reasons invincibility may not be serving you.

[00:00:48] And I might also suggest how its opposite, which we'll call "Vincibility", shall we? Might serve you a bit better. Because invincibility sounds super, doesn't it? If you just read what's on the packet. But is it really, what hidden cost are you paying? Let's have a little look. So I think my starting point with invincibility is it's not human. It's

[00:01:13] a system of thinking that's intolerant of human error. A little bit awkward. And I think if we're adopting this quest for invincibility, what that really means is we drop a bit of our empathy and a bit of our compassion for ourselves and of course for other people. And that is almost certain to be experienced very painfully by us.

[00:01:37] We are not gonna enjoy that.

[00:01:38] The rod on our own back because of this quest for invincibility, it's going to, on the one hand, make invincibility look even more seductive. We want to even more because failing to get there is hurting us. And so really this invincibility is just a desire to never be at fault and never be judged poorly.

[00:02:00] And I think the whole mirage of invincibility requires of us that we are in control of everything and this need to be in control. Again, it's all very well, but it's illusory. There's no such thing as always being in control. It's really a fear-based stance, needing to control everything so it turns out in our favor, is coming from our own fear and anxiety.

[00:02:28] Not concern for failure and what that will mean and the reject consequent rejection we'll get for that. So I think really invincibility, the need for control is full of helplessness and it stimulates this egocentricity. "I've got to depend on myself to get everything right", and so we become more self-centered and also we are very likely

[00:02:54] to start filling our head with these comforting thoughts that in fact we walk on water, that we are invincible, that we can do everything. Be cause otherwise what we're really looking for in invincibility is universal approval. And that's because we lack adequate internal or self approval. So that quest amps up 

[00:03:17] the difficulty of the task as well. Because universal approval is obviously contingent on other people. It's not something that we can manufacture, but if we are trying to get universal approval, what we're really saying is, oh, other people need to feel, and think well about me all of the time.

[00:03:37] Therefore, I'm going to manipulate them until they do think that. So anytime we are challenged, we get a setback or somebody queries us, we're gonna try and manipulate other people's opinion to bring it round to our way of thinking and to meet our needs of invincibility. So when we do that, quite often the style of person who will go for invincibility is likely to be pretty good with words, pretty engaging, probably quite charming or charismatic.

[00:04:05] Definitely rather persuasive. At the same time, quite likely to be disingenuous and a bit overbearing, larger than life maybe, a force of nature. So if we are on this massaging of other people's opinions in our favor quest, we're gonna become control enthusiasts. That's the kind way of putting it.

[00:04:29] And we're gonna, as a result, we're almost certain as well, to steamroll other people and their needs. Because invincibility is quite hierarchical. We want to be at the top of the tree to be invincible, so nobody can beat us, nobody can have a go at us. So that makes us very competitive, often very combative and also very low on trust of other people.

[00:04:53] It's really an expression of powerlessness and inevitably it's going to result in a style of approach to work and to success and to achievement of hyper autonomous self-sufficiency, hyper autonomous. By definition, we need to be self-sufficient. So that alone internally gives us a feeling of over-responsibility for everything and hyper autonomous self-sufficiency I see as a precondition of burnout.

[00:05:30] That's how we get into burnout and why we get in. It becomes the mechanic of how we get into burnout. Because this hyper autonomous self-sufficiency or invincibility is, it's brittle, it's got inherent vulnerability. It's hollow, it's not fully equipped. It can't be because we're still human.

[00:05:51] And if the invincibility is punctured any time, our ego goes into shock, essentially, and it collapses. When we lose that invincibility, we collapse a bit on the inside and it throws up panic and shock reaction in us. So to avoid all of that happening, to retain this mask of invincibility, and sometimes as well, quite a high proportion of actual invincibility.

[00:06:19] What it forces us to do is conceal all of our flaws, our shortcomings, our sickness or our feebleness, or weakness and our emotions, and any hint of vulnerability. So in order to keep that facade, we have become unwilling to be fully seen by other people or even to fully see and own ourself. So we disintegrate we compartmentalize ourself.

[00:06:49] We blow a few bits out the window, and then we sit there cursing the chinks in our armor and trying to hide them. So really in that process, what we're saying about ourselves to ourselves is we are not good enough. We need to manage our goodness. So we are undervaluing our authentic or true self and what really matters to us.

[00:07:14] And then we don't know who we are. We're so cut up in pieces. These pieces are good. Those pieces are not so good. I'm gonna throw them away or hide them so we don't know who we are. And then we don't even know after a while what we like or how we feel. And think about if you have had a burnout like experience.

[00:07:31] If this sounds like how you felt then, you've forgotten what you enjoy. You don't know how you feel, or what you think about things. We've compartmentalized so much of it away. And then we've got, as a result of this inadequate self-acceptance, then we don't really love ourselves or support ourselves in the way that would help us to flourish.

[00:07:56] And we don't really trust ourself. We had to pull off this magnificent perfection. So then, if we see the chinks in our armor, if we see and reject the weaknesses inside ourselves. It actually escalates our self-rejection and our self-criticism because self-criticism is really, you must correct this, otherwise something bad will happen.

[00:08:20] So if we can see all the weaknesses that we have, we'll be self criticizing in order to correct, in inverted commas, those weaknesses. And of course, when we're seeing all our vulnerable points, all our weak points. Then we feel a lot of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and self-hatred about the things that we see that we are rejecting.

[00:08:44] And then we disconnect from the real truth of our own experience ourself, our emotions, we reject anything we don't like, and then we're forced to basically shut ourselves down to large tracts of ourself. Which are not wrong, right? Our authentic self is not actually wrong, but we are perceiving it as wrong, shutting it down.

[00:09:04] And I think self-rejection is probably the core, most painful part of burnout. Because it causes us to be very mean and hard on ourselves in a way that isn't productive. And it's just excruciating to suffer through the ramped up self-criticism every day. And if you are in burnout, I don't need to tell you that because that will be your day-to-day experience.

[00:09:32] When you wake up in the morning, when you check your phone, last thing at night, what are you saying to yourself about what you've done in the day or what you need to do in the day? I think that really, that whole piece there where we abandoned the parts of ourselves, I think. That's where our soul actually leaves the building.

[00:09:55] And when that happens, we tend to isolate socially as well. We've got shame, we're in damage control, we're keeping up appearances. And it seems like isolating seems like a slightly self-protective thing to do, especially when we've got so little energy left. So we isolate and we make ourselves

[00:10:15] emotionally unavailable for genuine connection with other people. And that's when we sacrifice also our social interplay, our zest for life, our fun, our humor, mitigating conversations that we used to have to make everything feel better for us. All of that's gone out the window as well. When we isolate and we isolate because we've been mean to ourselves, not really because other people have done that, not because there's anything wrong with other people.

[00:10:42] So really what we've done then is we've fled this connective tissue of social engagement, empathy, and reciprocity where other people can support us and we can support them. And we've done that in favor of reinforcing the ramparts of our castle, our fortress. So we are at the combover stage of things where 

[00:11:04] we just don't want anyone to see anything because things in our head sound like they're gonna get worse. If people perceive any more flaws in us, that we're already suffering enough, but a lot of our suffering is internally generated. The self-criticism, if it's going on all day, every day, is a larger part of the words that we are receiving, the thoughts that we are hearing.

[00:11:24] So generally speaking, the people outside of us neither view us as harshly as we ourselves, view us, and they're not as mean to us as we are to ourselves. But when, of course, when we shut down, when we isolate, when we're being mean to ourselves, it really doesn't encourage us or allow us to seek or ask for help.

[00:11:46] So we get trapped into our pain, our internal pain, and become a little bit of a closed loop inside. And by the same token that we don't seek and ask for help become more reluctant to offer help. Even though we are intrinsically motivated to help and support people, we've become a bit less forthcoming with that Because we too much self-basting in shame by that time.

[00:12:11] And if we do offer that help, it's trying to claw back a bit of position. So it's really offering help without an open generosity of spirit, without kind of an egalitarian view. Trying to airdrop help in on people to make ourselves feel better, I think is the blunt way of putting it. Or maybe that was just me, I don't know.

[00:12:37] Could be. But I think invincibility really puts our performance and our wealth and our status and position at the helm of our decision making. So it's making decisions from a very cockeyed perspective, and it doesn't allow us to cultivate flexibility, resilience, open-minded in dealing with whatever we confront each day, whatever problems and challenges there are, and it doesn't allow us to also employ external help where it's offered, but rather I think invincibility becomes very rigid, very brittle.

[00:13:16] Rule bound and over demanding of ourselves primarily, but also by extension over demanding of other people. Because we don't want them to let us down even more than we don't want to let ourselves down. So I think invincibility to me, contains this kind of inner thread of holier than thou- ness, which further distances us from the people that we could be

[00:13:42] engaging for support and collaboration. So by the time we get to that place, what we're doing is we are rejecting teamwork. We're not really respecting other people's talents Because internally we're not fully respecting our own, we're not respecting their skills, their potential for contribution.

[00:14:03] It's not an equal playing field anymore. The other thing that we abandon when we've tightened up to that extent is curiosity. And curiosity takes us or would take us out of the rigid bounds of our thinking about invincibility and what needs to happen to sustain that invincibility. We've painted ourselves into a corner, and I think it's a shame the time when we lose our social connection,

[00:14:30] the possibility of teamwork and working collaboratively with other people because it seems too threatening and too dangerous to do so, is a shame because a team will always outperform an individual and a diverse team even more because they'll have such a huge range of options of ideas to solve problems and perspectives.

[00:14:50] So what we've done is we've isolated our performance from the power of social and emotional connection with others. And sometimes we feel inside a little bit more impoverished because we've done that, but still we're probably not gonna change direction by the time we get there. We're probably gonna be too tired and there's probably going to be shame and self-criticism going on at a level that doesn't really admit other people.

[00:15:21] So invincibility incubates perfectionism, intolerance, vanity, superiority, elitism, and probably arrogance I would say. I commented on this last week and really as a consequence of all of that, there is a sense of loneliness and separation from others that we ourselves have created. And then it also strengthens status attachment becomes even more important.

[00:15:53] And when we are very concerned about our status, preserving and improving our status, it really brings up a lot of fear and anxiety in us, in case we lose that status. So this is fear and anxiety about loss, about judgment, particularly and about any external circumstances that could diminish that status.

[00:16:16] So if we're in a job, one of the things that we're going to be concerned about is can we trust the people around us? Are we gonna lose our job? Are we gonna be demoted? We'll be suspicious of other people doing well. That whole cycle of fear and anxiety will descend upon us about our workplace.

[00:16:35] Even to offset that, invincibility would then require even more than usual that we learn everything we can possibly learn. We develop as much competency and expertise in a huge, broad spectrum of skills as we can, because it really rests on being the tireless fixer of every problem.

[00:16:57] So it often involves us becoming overeducated or overqualified, to compensate for the risk of loss, and that all by itself that promotes overwork, overwhelm, over-efforting. So it's a little bit of a double-edged sword. This becoming overqualified even though it seems protective. And I think that's true of a lot of the aspects of invincibility.

[00:17:24] Our fearful brain would tell us to do all of these things to keep ourselves safe. But what they're actually doing is eroding all of the goodness in us. That's my experience of it. And I wonder what yours is in your life and in your workplace. So all of the things that we've done to set ourselves up for being invincible

[00:17:49] don't prevent disaster or change happening. They just don't. But what they actually do is they leave us a little bit under prepared and under resourced to deal with disaster or change when it does happen. So we, we are rendered much less adaptable to circumstances. Quite often something adverse happens, our brain will freak out.

[00:18:11] We'll be very fearful and the event itself, whatever's happened that makes us feel this fear, it basically leaves us high and dry. We haven't got anything left in the bank. We don't know what to do with ourselves and we are frozen in fear. Also, obviously the flip side of that is we can't ask for help or delegate, nevermind fail.

[00:18:34] That will be unacceptable. So we've painted ourselves into a bit of corner and that tends to cause a really big ego crash. Because our ego by this time is hugely invested in us being able to fix everything, win at everything, succeed at everything, to be that invincible player. So if we do lose that control or we sense that we are losing that control, the ego goes into a big crash.

[00:19:00] And I think that the fallout of that, and maybe you've experienced this yourself, maybe you've had episodes or moments in your life, either inside work or out . Could even just be you got really sick one time, or you had an accident, or there was some family issue, might not have been inside work itself, where you've just toppled off your perch for a minute.

[00:19:21] And it has consequences. It has mental and emotional consequences that you'll feel quite acutely. It can also have consequences in your physical health, in your job security your social area. It basically can precipitate burnout. This is quite often some emergency of loss of control

[00:19:42] is often what precipitates people into burnout. And it really does separate us from our fellows in exactly the moment where we need them. But already we've put them offside and they're not there anyway for us. So we set ourself up for a fall and when the fall happened, we didn't have the faculties anymore to be able to deal with that.

[00:20:05] And it does come as a really big shock for most of us. So invincibility reads good on the packet and you probably still want it, even as you're hearing all of that, this is how you've got by in life until now. To be at the top of the heap, to be invincible, you probably do still want it, maybe a little bit tenuous.

[00:20:28] Can you actually pay the cost of pursuing invincibility? Obviously we can never actually have it because life continues to happen to us. Can you pay the cost of pursuing invincibility? If you can, of course, clearly, I'm whistling in the wind here, but if you relate to invincibility and you do comprehend the impact that I've outlined, some of the consequences of our behaviors and attitudes, if we pursue invincibility I.

[00:21:00] What we might describe as the natural result of a lifelong quest for invincibility is burnout. It could more properly be called a spiritual crisis, that prompts a wonderful reinvention, but that isn't how we're going to experience it. We're going to experience it as a crash and burnout. So if you do get all of that, but you are not buying into the vision of invincibility being perhaps not all that flash, then good luck.

[00:21:28] You are either not a candidate for burnout, or you are, but you're not sufficiently brought to your knees by burnout yet, or you are in burnout and you're in strenuous denial. I think for most of us when burnout happens, most of us have been this hyper autonomous, self-sufficient person. Most of us have been chasing the power of invincibility because we feel so vulnerable and helpless on the inside, and so full of fear and anxiety.

[00:22:00] So when we have taken that road, it really takes a crippling, unrecoverable breakdown for most of us "Invincibles" to seek and accept the help we need to recover. Luckily, that help is available and it will lead you to an easeful and more potent success in the future. So there's every hope of a much larger recovery than you could even dream is possible right now.

[00:22:31] You can have probably the kind of success that you want right now, but you may be threshing about too hard right now to get that and to allow it in. And really, when I'm describing all of these things, a lot of that comes from my own personal experience, my own personal need back in the day to be invincible and the kind of crumbling of my

[00:22:56] interior and exterior as I fought to hold onto that and failed. And I think the failure is useful. I think it, it did propel me into a better phase of my life, a much more easeful and enjoyable phase of my life. But I negotiated my own burnout recovery with the help and guidance of many people.

[00:23:17] And as a result of that, I've learned a lot about burnout recovery. I've learned what the pillars of burnout recovery are, and I've now developed a system that guarantees burnout recovery. It's just a step-by-step process. And if you do identify with invincibility, if you're concerned about burnout, I will always be here if you need me.

[00:23:41] All you need to do is to be willing to recover. And just to let you know what the prospects are, if you do choose that. If you started coaching with me next week, you would start feeling better within the first three weeks, and your mood and energy and productivity and performance will continuously improve from there on in until you're completely out of burnout.

[00:24:08] It's not a long grind in the recovery phase. I like to make it as fun and as quickly restoring as I possibly can, and that's how I've designed my program, the way that I have to give quick recovery and sustainable recovery that improves and improves over time. So that's what's in prospect for you.

[00:24:26] If you can identify with the experience of burnout and you are ready to recover. So thank you so much for your time today listening to this podcast. Appreciate you being here. If you are in burnout and you want help now the ball's in your court! Book in to talk to me, free, no strings chat, and let's make a personal plan for you to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance, leadership success, and most of all, enjoyment inside work and out.

[00:24:58] If you'd like to book an appointment to talk with me, you can do that at Dexrandall.com. And if you enjoyed this episode, please help me reach more people in burnout by rating and reviewing the podcast. I really do very much appreciate your help with this. And if you know somebody else who's heading towards or in burnout, please send them the link to the podcast because every episode is packed with practical tips for burnout recovery, and I recommend that new people listen to the first five episodes to get started. 

The quest for invincibility
The impact of invincibility on behavior and relationships
Concealing vulnerabilities and self-rejection
Isolation and self-imposed disconnection
Fear, anxiety, and overcompensation
The aftermath of invincibility: ego crash and burnout
The path to recovery and the offer of guidance