The Difficult Truth about Burnt-Out High Achievers
Valentine's Day makes this the week of love and care for our fellow humans, so I thought it fitting to share this message in hopes that we will all keep the love going beyond the week alone, and extend it out to our friends, family, and colleagues who might be feeling the burn of extreme overwork.
In my hundreds of conversations with outstanding high achievers, I've discovered this difficult truth about them...
When they feel lost, burnt out, unfulfilled, undervalued, and worried about their future... they pour more of themselves into their work in hopes of being recognized for the value they bring to their organization.
Despite their efforts, they gain little traction in their upward growth, and their work-life balance incrementally degrades.
Over time, their family and friends see this person breaking down into an unhealthy remnant of who they once were, while the suffering high achiever does not see this change in themselves.
Family and friends may mention their observations, but rarely does that suffering high achiever recognize their own growing dissatisfaction with work - and life overall - until their body forces them to stop, they have a harrowing breakdown, their health suffers, or some other integral piece of their life crumbles.
Even then, they often suffer in silence. Feeling utterly trapped, they often do not know what to do, what questions to ask, or even fathom how to begin getting the support they need to make a significant change to their admittedly abysmal situation.
Why? Because high achievers are used to being the "go-to" person for the people around them. They are used to being the givers of support, instead of the receivers.
Asking for help is incredibly difficult for high achievers, because they are not accustomed to doing it. Seeking guidance, support, or help for themselves is not often in their repertoire. Further, they may experience some degree of shame for not knowing what to do when they are so proficient at helping others.
Do you know a high achieving "go-to person" who is metamorphosing into a different version of themselves? One whose light is dimming? One whose health is suffering and who has lost touch of who they are outside of their work? Someone who needs support but, for many of the reasons discussed here, isn't asking for it?
If so, do not wait for that person to ask for help.
Offer it to them. Ask questions. Listen without judgement. Provide support and a shoulder to lean on.
Doing so shows them you care and helps them start making sense of what is happening to them so they can make a positive change.
The care you show by offering support for someone else is a part of demonstrating love for another human being, and I think we can all agree that the world could use a lot more of that.
Be the change.
Grisel Scarantino, MA, ODPC is a Career Success Coach, helping seasoned professionals grow their career success, satisfaction, and work-life fulfillment. She’s a coach, consultant, speaker, author, home chef, enjoyer of life, Bigfoot enthusiast, and lover of funny dog videos. If you want to fall back in love with your career path, grow your success, and better enjoy the life that you're working so hard to support, click here to schedule your free consultation.
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