April is Stress Awareness month, and part of what is essential to recognize is the psychological cause of stress, which is uncomfortable emotional experiences.
Negative emotions arise when we are stressed because we experience pressure to be and do more than what our internal energy feels capable of at that moment. In other words, our demands exceed our internal energy reservoir.
Most of us have been taught to push aside our feelings and show up for the demands.
However, since COVID, more people are pushing back at the demands to prioritize their mental health. This pushback has led to work trends such as “Quiet Quitting” and “Bare Minimum Monday” to reclaim a greater sense of work-life balance.
While organizations fear what this pushback means to employee productivity, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. There always have been and likely will be people who try to skirt by in life, as they care mainly for themselves and less about others. When people live this way, lacking generosity, life tends not to be generous to them in return. Quite frankly, these are the type of people that AI will likely replace. This is the unhealthy expression of this pushback.
There is a healthy expression of this pushback that will ultimately lead to greater productivity and creativity. The type of work AI cannot replace. What is happening psychologically speaking for those reclaiming greater work-life balance is a rebalancing in their self-worth.
Let me explain.
When you push yourself beyond what you can handle internally, you feel stress because you prioritize meeting external needs over your internal needs.
There are times in life when this is the hand you have been dealt, and you can rise to the occasion. However, suppose the push you feel is constant. Eventually, there’s a price to pay for over-extending yourself, which often shows up mentally, physically, or both.
Before COVID, constant pushing oneself was an expectation of most jobs. The problem with this approach goes beyond the impact this has had on our mental and physical health. The impact has been on our self-esteem and self-worth.
The vast majority of us have been taught to push aside our internal needs to meet external expectations of us. The result is that we have been driven as a society by external validation and away from internal validation.
When you receive your validation from the external, your worth is based upon what you accomplish. What you do matters more than who you intrinsically are. Your energy then gets sucked into trying to prove yourself at the expense of yourself. In doing so, you distance yourself from your needs, power, and wisdom, which results in a lack of self-trust. The less self-trust you have, the more you seek validation and guidance from the external. The result is being overly reliant on aspects outside of yourself to be affirmed, which makes you more emotionally volatile, not to mention less productive and creative.
On the other hand, by learning to provide internal validation, you know that your worth is innate. There’s nothing you need to do to prove your worthiness. This teaches you to turn toward your needs and take care of your energy. In doing so, you relink to your inner wisdom. You begin to trust yourself more, which allows your creativity to soar. Your productivity naturally arises because you are tapped into your innate desire to do and be your best. You’ll naturally go the extra mile on initiatives that matter most to you. In other words, you’ll have a rebirth of the natural leader that you were born to be.
The work-life balance we crave is reordering our self-worth from the external to the internal. It’s the shift from force versus trust. It’s an inner awakening now happening to most of us that allows us to lead our lives with greater love toward ourselves. We have a choice to believe that when we lead our lives with greater self-love and self-worth, all will go downhill because we can no longer manipulate people or that greater love is what we need within ourselves and in the work we do. As always, the choice is yours.