read this when you are feeling burnt out

Earlier this year, I forgot my power.
It’s understandable, I mean … 2020.

It was one of those things I didn’t notice at first, a slow leak that quietly caused my power to seep away until I was completely flat.

My eyes lost their shine.
I was less present with the Suns.
I stopped breaking out into song and dance at the gym.
When someone I loved hugged me, they could feel the vibration of tension running down my back.

Everything felt overwhelming. Too much to do. Not enough time. Not enough energy to maintain the boundaries. I started to feel dead inside. To cope, I resorted to my old coping mechanism. Over-functioning.

Over-functioning is an effective way to calm myself, and everyone around me. But, it also prevents me {and them!} from becoming a more resilient and responsible human.

Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone you love is to step back and let them function for themselves {I’m saying this to me, as much as I’m saying it to you}. 

A wise professor once told me, never do for others what they can do for themselves. Now, I don’t agree with this for all people in all situations, but it is a good mantra for a recovering over-functioner to remember.

Over-functioning can show up in different ways for different people.

For some people it looks like making sure your partner is getting enough sleep. For other people it’s using phrases like “no worries” to calm other people down. At times, it’s giving advice to a distressed friend who hasn’t asked for advice. Parents may over-function for their child when they do something for their child they can do themselves {so it’s done quicker, more easily, or with less mess}. We over-function for our co-workers when we take on their responsibilities because we are more capable or experienced.

Any fellow over-functioners out there? *raising hand*
You are so not alone.

It’s helpful to be aware of your over-functioning “tells”.

Here are mine:

  • saying ‘yes’ when I want to say ‘no’
  • over planning the Suns lives so they don’t get bored
  • buying someone a self-help book I’ve recommended
  • setting aside my needs because their needs are more urgent
  • mind-reading the wishes of someone I love without asking them
  • moving quickly, crossing off tasks and slipping into hustle culture
  • researching information for someone who can look it up for themselves
  • not sharing important beliefs to try and avoid making others upset or anxious
  • always being the one to make the plans and the decisions for the people I love
  • automatically paying for something to calm someone down and reduce their stress
  • doing something for someone they can do, but I do it because I have a greater capacity.
  • being the one everyone turns to for support and not turning to anyone for support when I need it

Over functioning is sneaky because it can seem harmless {or even kind}.

The truthtruth?
It’s a big problem.

When one person over-functions, the other inevitably under-functions.

An under-functioner, tends to hold back or zone out. They wait for others to manage things for them, they often have problems meeting deadlines, making progress or being productive. They can be seen as not taking on their fair share of the responsibilities. Struggling to keep their word and fulfill their obligations can also be in the realm of under-functioners.

Let’s get back to over-functioners.

Many of my clients battle the fear they are not doing enough and not being enough. This is wild because almost all the time the opposite is true, they are doing a lot. In fact, they are usually doing too much.

If you are driven {and exhausted and depleted and sad and burnt out} to keep up with what you think you should be doing in your life and work … you might be an over-functioner.

If you are feeling lousy and ‘less than’ when you compare yourself to other people … you might be an over-functioner.

If you act as if everything in life is a top, urgent priority, but the truth is only a few things are … you might be an over-functioner.

If your friends and family are used to you doing too much and now it’s hard to break that cycle … you might be an over-functioner.

If you hesitate asking for help because it might be a sign of weakness or imperfection {or you know you could do it better or more easily} and you’d rather struggle alone and try to do it all yourself … you might be an over-functioner.

When you stop and take time to think about how your living your life and realize you’re living according to everyone else’s expectations, demands, and definitions of success … you might be an over-functioner.

If any of this sounds like you, lean into these words.

You can’t do the work for them.
You can’t heal wounds on their behalf.

I know you may want to protect them, free them, step in and save them. I know you have the best intentions. I know your love is big and fierce.

But, their pain is their pain. Their lessons are their lessons.

Love them through it? Please do.

Be by their side as they go? Absolutely.

But, trying to carry them through it all burdens you and weakens them.

We gain strength when we do hard things. 
We gain wisdom when we face painful truths. 
We expand when we walk into conditions of growth.

Even if you can predict the crash and burn, resist putting out the flames. Much can be lost in the fire, but even more can be found in the ashes.

Easier said than done, I know.

Over-functioning is a coping mechanism that comes from a fearful belief that if you don’t do everything, something terrible will happen. What that terrible thing is varies from person to person. Your fear-based belief may tell you:

  • people will be unhappy or hurt
  • you’ll miss out on something important
  • your children’s well-being will be jeopardized {hello! This one is mine}
  • you’ll be judged and rejected
  • you’ll be seen as not good enough
  • you’ll be a failure

Every fearful belief we have, we learned. 
 We can also unlearn them.

It’s important to get support from someone you trust and respect, to see what fearful beliefs may be holding you hostage to your over-functioning pattern and keeping you chained to the need to do all things, for all people {and to do it perfectly, even!}.

If you are an over-functioner, be gentle with yourself. You developed this coping mechanism for a reason.

And, it might be time to shine a light on those {completely understandable} fears.

The more locked away your fears are, the more they unconsciously drive you to behave in self-abandoning, inauthentic, and self-sabotaging ways.

Jung said, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”. 

Look at your deepest fears. 
How are they driving you? 
How are they holding you back?

We can take our power back. 
 We can change these patterns. 
We can choose courage over comfort.

Remember, the end of over-functioning is not the end of love, it is the beginning.

THE THINGS

THING ONE

If this article speaks to you and you want to share it with others, you’re welcome to forward this email {thank you!}. If an awesome human forwarded this email to you and you’d like to receive more, you can sign up right over here. 

THING TWO

A while ago, I wrote a love letter for a dear client who was contemplating suicide. He’s on the other side of the hard time and deep into living a life he loves. He gave me permission to share the words I wrote for him in hopes they might help someone else. It’s been edited slightly to remove personal details. If you know someone who needs to hear these words, you’re welcome to share them with or without credit. They are living right over here.

THING THREE

This song carried me through the season of losing my power. The little voice inside of us, says the biggest things, we just have to remember to listen.