The paradigm of achievement and the dark side of self-improvement in the burnout society
It’s a sunny Sunday morning, and I’ve been reading a book that may not be the best choice for a relaxing read, „The Burnout Society.”
This book resonates with many of my observations about the current condition of our world, the obsessive productivity and self-development.
The constant need to be the best version of yourself is a mantra I especially despise.
First of all, I don’t believe anything that could be called ‚the best version of yourself exists.
There is no one ideal, living outside of us, that we need to get to. We are in a constant process of becoming and changing.
Naturally, I would rather see us moving towards a healthier, happier, and more balanced version of ourselves, rather than obsessively productive, overachieving, and still miserably unhappy. But it’s essential to see the potential dangers as well.
Hence Back to Senses, metaphorically and literally speaking.
I think it’s time to acknowledge the paradox of our times. As rigid structures of our society are being removed, along with many barriers, the idea of an outside enemy (the society, our boss, some outer structures) tells us what to do; we often internalize it. And we become both the cruel master and the slave of achievement. No one is looking over our shoulder, so it’s on us to hold the whip.
If we don’t achieve more in life, there’s no one to save us.
We can no longer blame our genes and upbringing solely; now that we know how to change our fixed mindset to a growth mindset, we know that many of our shortcomings should not define us because we now know how malleable our brains are (neuroplasticity). It’s a lonely ride.
THE CURSE OF UNLOCKING OUR POTENTIAL
And in so many ways, it is beautiful and liberating, but it’s also scary as heck. Because, if despite all that wisdom and growth formulas, we remain stuck in life and feeling inadequate – the problem is in us.
There are no other scapegoats that may prevent us from reaching our full potential and prevent us from an almost imminent burnout, anxiety, and often depression.
Many of us feel exposed and unhappy.
You don’t even know how to love yourself; how lame.
- If we don’t grow, achieve, progress, it’s because we don’t want to or don’t work hard enough.
- There’s a lot of pressure, and keeping up with the, often internalized, ‚demand’ often leads to burnout.
- There’s time anxiety – no matter how hard we work, it’s just not enough
- There’s an inner race we cannot win and no one to blame.
Heck, the recipes for success are everywhere, ready to be implemented. So if we don’t use them – that’s on us.
IF WE ARE SO POSITIVE, WHY ARE WE SO UNHAPPY?
Positivism, mentioned in the Burnout Society, makes people believe that they can achieve any goal, whether they have a real capacity to do so, and results in an army of depressed, frustrated, overwhelmed, and very tired people.
No wonder some of them just throw in the towel, give up trying. Big, significant change is hard.
But others, when they’re in a place like that, might start looking for shortcuts and pseudoscience- a panacea for their inadequacy.
I see some bright and shiny photos of some ‚empowered’ people in my social media feed, who are trying to sell others their ‚success story.’
Hell, I think they may even begin to believe in the story they’re trying to sell others! But I also happen to know them and know that most of it is simply not true or is at least hugely exaggerated.
Fake it till you make it, I guess.
But many who don’t know what the reality looks like will buy into it. They will buy into the vision of a wonderful, empowered, abundant lifestyle. And they will want to get some of that, too; they’ll go ahead and buy their ticket to the promised land, for $30, $300, or $30000.
And if later, they are still unhappy with the results – it’s on them. They didn’t do it right; they didn’t ‚get it’. Others did – you’re a loser.
Sadly, many of the self-appointed self-improvement gurus remind me of popular pyramid schemes.
GIVING UP IN THE BURNOUT SOCIETY IS NOT AN OPTION
That said, I don’t advocate giving up, nor am I a believer in the permanent hustle.
For many of us, giving up the race is not really an option. And that’s precisely why we need to focus on the quality of our self-improvement, respecting ourselves, and showing ourselves some self-compassion (not to be misinterpreted as self-indulgence).
Self-compassion is a concept- and a practice- worth exploring and implementing to counterbalance the self-development craze.
As the achievement culture might stay around for a while, we may look into ways to regenerate and ways to restore some balance.
- frequent short breaks
- longer quality breaks
- protect your assets, that is YOU
- If you feel like hustling more, think about it your credit card debt- you will have to pay for it, eventually, with a high-interest rate
- Look for joy- practice gratitude, social connection
START SMALL, STAY FOCUSED, GROW STRONGER AND GO FROM THERE