These days, there is not one week that goes by without coaching my clients on how to navigate the feeling of "overwhelm" of burnout. This feeling, of course, is something that this pandemic has exacerbated. However, regardless of the external factors, for many professionals from underrepresented backgrounds, this particular situation has presented them with a sneaky mindset challenge that has thrown many under the bus.
Here is the thing, for us professionals from underrepresented and minority backgrounds, this pandemic has hit us with a triple whammy of uncertainty, social and economic unrest that has hit home, literally. To make matters worse, in many ways, perhaps, this is the one scenario that our upbringing acts as our kryptonite. In many ways, besides the many external factors pilling up, what I see coming up are limiting beliefs and stories that we have picked up and bought into along the way in our upbringing and are now working against us. It makes us particularly ripe and a perfect candidate for the "the burnout fast track."
Below I will go over three of the main recurring paradigms that contribute to burnout amongst BIPOC professionals and provide suggestions to counter them.
This paradigm crosses many cultural lines and one that I see the most present. This is about the superwoman that holds it all together selflessly, tirelessly, and mighty. Asking for help (or even hiring help at home) means not living up to this image. The message is that if we ask for help or if we don't live up to these standards, we are no longer that superwoman that we are supposed to be. Instead, we are selfish and seeing as bad.
Moreover, in some cases, the message almost means that you are not ___[insert your ethnicity]___enough, or in other words, you are losing part of your cultural identity. As a result, we tend to take even more work at home and work. There is little to no delegation, and burnout ensues.
Another paradigm that I have seen repeatedly. Here in this narrative, we tell ourselves to continue carrying "the torch" and follow the same path as those that came before us. Here, the main message is that we owe it to our family and ancestors to continue to carry on with life in the same way they did. And by the same way, it means not seeking help because it's viewed as a weakness, not talking about it because it will equal complaining. We ought to bear it all with a stoic and selfless attitude, no matter how much is put on our plate, because if they did it, we can too. And so, we internalize and take on more responsibilities, to the point of breakdown, costing us our sanity and productivity at work.
The Magical Doer
If I had to put a dollar in my bank account for the number of times I hear, "I've always been the doer, the one that gets things done no matter what," I'll probably be rich by now. This type of paradigm has come to us due to our success through the years of sacrifice and hard work that mark our very existence and has helped us in our survival. Somehow, as a BIPOC professional, we tie our value and worth with hard work. To do less work, or work that is not as hard does not carry the same worth.
And it makes complete sense. We've been the ones always going the extra mile at school and work, achieving more and more. We are always making things happen, and we like to wear that "doer badge" with pride and honor. To do less or the mere idea of doing nothing is an insult to our own identity and is laziness. Yet, this way of thinking drives us to the brink of burnout, and it probably is the root cause for that guilt you feel every time you take a day off for yourself.
Now that I've shared with you these three paradigms let me share three strategies to counter them and banish burnout for good.
#1 Dish the labels
Whatever is that image that you have in your mind, it's time to let it go. You are not a superwoman, torchbearer, or magical doer, you are a human, and as such, you are entitled to seek help, delegate, and take on less. Yes, perhaps back in the day, it was helpful to you. Or just because your parents and grandparents struggle and made sacrifices, that does not mean you have to do the same. If anything, they made those sacrifices, so you live a better life. What is more, it does not equal that you are less of Latina, African American, Asian, or [___insert your ethnicity here____]. Dish these labels and start living your own life in your own path.
#2 Re-evaluate your values
Next, I like to invite you to re-valuate your values. Are you living your life according to values that are inherited, born out of fear or avoidance? Or are you living your true values that are
coming from your highest and happiest self?
Let me share two common values that are commonly misappropriated as authentic: financial stability and hard work.
Most of the time, we think that we genuinely value hard work because we have seen our folks working hard to avoid being poor. We grow up valuing hard work because we fear the consequences of not working hard. A similar thing happens with the value of financial stability. We value financial stability because we fear not having enough money and the struggle that comes with it. As a result, we end up drained, driving ourselves to the bone.
Please, do re-evaluate your values asap.
#3 Re-set expectations (with yourself and others)
Lastly, here is another thing that falls entirely under your control. Re-setting expectations with yourself and others (including your family.) This is not an easy feat, and it requires courage, discipline, and compassion.
You will need the courage to have conversations that are difficult but needed. Whether that is with your partner, parents, siblings, or kids, sometimes we need to set expectations rooted in the reality of the present moment, not expectations from a different point in time. You will need the discipline to set and maintain these new boundaries and compassion with yourself and others when these boundaries are challenged.
Get the help you need.
I know it might seem like an impossible feat to regain a sense of control and balance right now but believe me, it's doable.
So much of what happens is beyond our control. Instead, focus your efforts on the things you can control, on making an impact within your sphere of influence, and it starts with you.
My mission at Prime You Coaching is to equip mid to senior-level professionals from underrepresented backgrounds with the mindset and skills to achieve that next-level role.
Through my coaching program Elevate, and Own, Your Voice. We will work from the inside out to facilitate your transition to an executive position in a way that is authentic and powerful to you. And you'll leave with an actionable, achievable game plan to obtain and succeed in that leadership position you want — on your terms.
If you are ready to elevate and own your leadership voice, you can apply here.