Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
They are several pop songs focused on it right now, and it seems to be on everyone’s minds at all times: Work. Recently, I’ve made a conscious choice to curb my workaholic ways. I was working seven days per week, either seeing clients, writing reports, completing billing, etc. When someone would ask how my weekend was, I would say, “Well, I caught up on work, so that was good.” Meanwhile, hearing about others’ fun weekend adventures and viewing endless joyful photos on social media, I began to feel unhappy with my workload – a mess I got myself into. Nonetheless, I noticed a certain element of sick pride creep into my descriptions of my work-filled weekend. I seemed to be getting some disgusting pleasure at telling others that I work, implicitly implying they were squandering away their time on mindless nonsense, while I pursued a notable activity.
One of the best things about being my own boss and running my own business is that I, for the most part, have the luxury of crafting my schedule. I love having a few free hours during the typical Monday through Friday workweek to go to my own appointments, engage in self-care, and get caught up on various other errands or tasks. But, when others see me out and about in my Lululemons going to Pilates, they will comment about how I must have the day off. Instantly I feel like they are calling me lazy and I feel defensive: “Oh no, I don’t have the day off! Only a few hours! I’ll be working until 10 PM, I’ll have you know, while you’ll lazily be watching TV!” I think to myself. I began to question that defensiveness. Why is work so special? What am I trying to prove? That I’m just so important because I take on too much work?
I started to analyze this once subconscious value. Somewhere along the line I began to believe that the more I worked, the more valuable and worthy I became. I must be important in some way to have all these demands on my time. When I stepped away from the issue to gain perspective, I realized I was doing little to no self-care and I was burning out. And it was my own fault. Many people I know work endless hours and love to tell everyone about it. Until now, I never questioned this value system. After all, how do you feel when someone calls you “Type A?” If you are like me, you probably were indoctrinated to believe that being “Type A” (essentially neurotic with work) was a compliment. When I looked around, and saw all my “Type A” friends and colleagues haggard and unhealthy, I really began to question everything I once believed. Is it really a compliment to be called Type A? Now I don’t really believe so. From my current perspective, I feel that many who love to be considered Type A equate their worth with their billable hours or career identity, sacrificing their health, joy, and well being. Obviously, I’m sure there are some exceptions. If someone is so passionate and truly in love with their work, then maybe an exception to this generalization can be made. And I’m sure other exceptions exist. For me, this is simply an observation I’ve made based on people I know (colleagues, neighbors, friends, etc.).
Alternatively, few people seem to love to be called Type B, as the feeling I get in our society is that “Type B” means lazy and unmotivated. If the majority of the time we are presented with these two polar opposites, it’s no wonder so many people over-value being a Type A person. However, as both Types A and B are so restrictive, limiting, and black and white, I propose we aspire to a new group I call “Type C.” My personal definition of Type C is the person who has more balance in life – blending work, self-care, family and friend time, play, etc. A more balanced life is likely to be much healthier both physically and mentally, as you’ll likely carve out time for a healthier lifestyle and time with people who bring you joy. You will also likely still be able to maintain your job and work duties, just not be “all work” 24/7/365.
Many of you are really trying to find this life balance. It is by no means simple or easy. However, if we get off the Type A train that generates guilt any time we’re not slaving away at work, then we have at least adopted a mindset that will work with us rather than against us as we seek that balance we proclaim we consciously desire. If you continue to believe deep down that your only value is the billable hour, but you say you want a balanced lifestyle, it’s likely to be an uphill battle. I invite you to embrace and experiment with the idea of a Type C mentality and life, where both work and play have value. You will find the greatest happiness and success when your values, beliefs, and behaviors align. Now get up from your computer and stop working for a while! I mean it – scoot!
© Copyright 2016 Ashley Curiel, PsyD, therapist in Beverly Hills, California. All rights reserved.