3 Personality Traits that are the most likely to suffer from Burnout
In 2018 I was a few weeks away from taking part in an international rowing competition - rowing from the Celtic Sea into the City of Cork in Ireland.
I hadn't done any training because I had just started a business alongside my full time job and I had a lot going on in my personal life and wasn't feeling my best.
I am opening and closing a drafted email with the subject “Cork Rowing”.
And I’m trying to muster up the strength to cancel.
And I’m questioning what the hell possessed me to agree to this in the first place.
One side of my brain was arguing “you can’t cancel - you’re dependable, that’s your thing!”
“What will people think? They’ll think you’re such a flake and you will have let everyone down”
“You’ve told everyone about this race, it’s going to be so embarrassing if you cancel!”
“You shouldn’t have said yes if you knew you didn’t want to do this!”
There was also a quieter part of me that was rationalizing it.
“You have to choose you, they have plenty of extra people on the team”
“Another person has cancelled and they were totally fine with it”
“If you can’t do it, you can’t do it”
So after all this - they ended up cancelling the race anyway.
But what is so interesting is that I built up the negative assumptions about what people would think of me and the voices telling me that I would be upset or let someone down were much louder than my intuition that was trying to look out for me.
The reason I share this is because in this blog I’m talking about personality traits that are most likely to burnout.
And in this example I was people pleasing.
And in doing so my worries about letting others down were actually more of a priority than letting myself down.
Before we get into this I want to preface this conversation with something.
So I feel kinda gross about saying X personality means you will burnout and the reason I feel this is because I think that that puts a lot of blame onto you.
And actually it’s not your fault.
Bosses are shitty, work is unfair and hard.
And sometimes your circumstances genuinely suck.
So while there's a lot of things that aren't within your control, in this post I want to focus on the things you CAN control.
Which leads me onto my next point - so I also really don't like using the word ‘personality’ for this because I think it implies that it’s unchangeable and then it also becomes more of an identity rather than just something that you do sometimes.
So now that covered the ground work, which personality traits, or 'behaviours' can lead to burnout?
So if you’ve ever said yes to things that you meant to say no to because you don’t want to let anyone down then this might be you.
If your need to be helpful and to also be liked takes priority over your own well being this is also another sure fire sign of people pleasing.
Please do not blame yourself, I don’t want to instill any shame.
It’s absolutely not your fault. If you people please - at some point in your life, this behaviour served you well and helped you either to deal with someone in your life that you didn’t want to upset, or maybe if you’ve always been praised for being so helpful and so kind to others.
Which doesn’t sound like a bad thing right? It’s GREAT to be helpful, but if at any point you are abandoning yourself to please other people - that’s where the burnout can begin to erode you from the inside.
I know for a fact that people that have this behaviour can make brilliant teachers, therapists, sales people because it really is a unique skill to be this attuned to other peoples needs.
As long as you don’t become a casualty in helping others.
Have you ever felt like you have been the best? You have to be perfect?
I’ve felt this and seen this amongst a LOT of creative professionals, the constant comparison to others through work and accolades and the most evil of all...
likes on instagram.
In my own life I find that even know - I’ve decided to rebrand and open up my product based business again and I still find myself comparing my products to larger more established brands with bigger budgets and buying power.
There is beauty in imperfection and actually you need to remind yourself that done is better than perfect.
Perfectionism is something that really sneaks up on you because you don’t always realize that your procrastination is born from a desire of perfection.
In fact, I’ve wanted to create a podcast for 2 years? The anxiety of not knowing how to edit or worrying that it would be a total flop made me focus on ‘safer’ forms of productivity that weren’t as fulfilling and this kind of working pattern can often lead to burnout because the work that you’re doing isn’t meeting your needs.
You don’t need to be perfect to be worthy, you are enough just as you are.
So in the first post we covered the origins of burnout and how it was used to describe people in mental health & nursing professions.
Currently, a large demographic of people that burnout are still from helping professions, medical staff, nurses etc
If you work in these roles, the presumption is that you care about people, right?
Which sounds pretty innocuous enough, but when you feel like you absorb the feelings of others, you may well be a highly empathic person.
So let me describe an imaginary scenario for you - you work a 9-5 job. It’s Friday. You are at your computer in a great mood.
You’ve got a good handle on your work and are going to get everything done in time.
You’re looking forward to your fun plans at the weekend and you're just feeling pretty content.
Your colleague arrives late.
Their expression is detached with a mildly furrowed brow.
Their body language is guarded and tense.
They quietly says hello and then slumps into their chair.
You don’t exchange niceties.
How did that make you feel?
If you felt uncomfortable then chances are you are an empath - you can sense people’s moods and detect minute changes in body language in order to read people. You can feel other people’s hurt, anger and indifference.
And it is...exhausting.
I am writing this in early September and currently the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan leaving so many people fleeing for safety, a new law in Texas has imposed a ban of abortions after 6 weeks of pregnancy including victims of sexual violence and in the UK there are food & product shortages, arguments over vaccinations all made that much worse with pervasive racism and discrimination.
At least that part is consistent I guess?
Feeling so deeply for people that you’ve never met is upsetting.
It makes us feel powerless and despair that there is so much suffering that is out of our control.
For the news specifically, we really set boundaries to protect our own mental health and find joy in small self care activities that help us feel connected.
For me it’s walking my dog and smiling and saying hi to strangers or seeing friends to commiserate together on the state of the world.
There is also a type of mindful exercise you can do that I find helps:
Imagine you are in a bubble and it is filled with light and it protects you from harm, now imagine that everyone you meet is radiating a kind of coloured halo around them - for this purpose let's pretend it’s an ‘aura’. So as you walk around in your little bubble, no one else’s aura is able to reach you, and any that comes close to your bubble hits the surface and is deflected off it.
So did you identify with any of those 3 traits? Maybe you're not sure yet and need to do your research or maybe you saw yourself in some of those examples.
If you did, you have such amazing gifts to share with the world.
But - it’s also important to remind yourself that as much as you want to be all things to all men
You are the most important person that you have to look after.
The key to really understanding where it’s hindering you is to strengthen your emotional resilience muscles and promote self awareness to make some of these behaviours a little less automatic and to question thoughts with objectivity.
I’m going to do a deep dive in future posts into each behaviour and focus on strategies that you can implement that I have learnt that I really hope will help you to recover from the burnout that you feel.
But until then I hope you know that you are special, that you are worthy and deserving of rest and that you absolutely have got this.
Because you are a badass.
If you liked this and if you know any people pleasers, empaths and perfectionists - share this with them!
Until next time,