That’s right, you Don’t Need Superpowers. Today I bring you a blog post near and dear to my heart. I grew up reading DC and Marvel comic books. Watching Superhero tv shows and movies. The idea that someone could fly, and run faster than a speeding bullet was amazing. I personally loved how Batman was human, but he was able to beat even the biggest and most powerful villain. Every one of these characters had one thing in common. They were more than human. More than me.
I grew up in an environment that told me I could never measure up. My parents trained me on how to fail standardized testing. I also experienced a lot of physical abuse growing up. At an early age, I was told that Creator God, the most powerful being in all existence, hated me from birth because of what someone else did and that I would suffer in extreme pain forever. I believed this for most of my life. Only more recently did I learn, You Don’t Need Superpowers.
At the core of my upbringing, I was taught my parent’s shame cycles. I believed that I was less than and I needed to work to be more. I was raised in the upper-lower class. In school, I was taught that hard work made good things happen to you. The harder you worked, the better your life would be. I was also taught in school that I was dumber than others. This created a lot of Shame inside of me. It was painful to look in the mirror.
What do you do when you look in the mirror and see a monster? Let’s rephrase the question. What do you do when you are walking down the street and you see a crazed gunman shooting at people? I personally would run away and get help. I know my limits. So, when you see yourself in the mirror and see a monster, most people run. How do you run away from yourself tho?
This is where the split comes into play. It’s easier to create an object and live with that than to live with the monster. It would be easier to have the crazed gunman as a statue in your living room instead of having the gunman in your house shooting it up. This is the same way we treat ourselves. This could look different from person to person.
This split creates an alienation inside yourself. Let’s take a look at Frank’s life for a second. Frank grew up in a very traditional home. Showing any form of extreme emotions was frowned upon. As a man, Frank was to be in complete control of his emotions at all times like his father and grandfather. If he received punishment, if he expressed any emotions, the punishments would last longer. Fast forward a few decades. Frank is now a dad of 3 girls. Every time his girls express emotions, Frank immediately feels out of place. He starts to feel two ways, his daughters are broken and he was broken for feeling like this. This part of him is alienated from himself. He projects this part of himself in every relationship He is in.
Greater Than Vs Less Than
These exposures to our ugly statues; our shamed self is painful. There are many things people do to escape this hurt. In the end, this statue of self is either less than or more than human. Here are some examples of less than:
- A slob
- Family Scapegoat
Here are some examples of more than:
- Family Hero
- Celibate false man of God
As time moves on, these lies become truths in people’s lives. I believed the lies and became both the family scapegoat and the family hero. The less than makes me wormlike while the greater than disables my will, or grandiosity, bigger than life. This is where the need for superpowers comes into play.
Why did I want superpowers?
Looking back at my childhood, I can see why I was drawn to comic books. I was taught I was born less than everyone else. I believed I had to work hard for anyone to even notice me. As the middle boy, this was partially true. If I had superpowers people would notice me. In the comics, people would look up at Superman as he flew over. All eyes were on his greatness, not his weakness. Only the bad guys saw Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite. I wanted that power. The power for people to notice greatness beyond any other human standards. I knew I couldn’t be Superman, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
The will wills what can’t be willed.Healing the shame that binds you - John Bradshaw
I am a product of this will wanting to will what cant be will and an idea of being wormlike or less than. The feeling of being wormlike was always painful and I wanted to escape at all costs. I studied magic, body language, emotional intelligence, and more. If I could see the bad coming, I would be able to handle it. I didn’t have to fear the boot of people stepping on me like a warm.
This concept bled into my work life. I would work extra hard without breaks and go much longer than others. I was called upon to complete work others would never do, couldn’t do, or will not do. A backup battery landed on my leg at my first IT job damaging my back. I didn’t take care of my back, and now I suffer. I had to prove my worth more than taking care of myself.
Why You Don’t Need Superpowers
Our Culture tells us, to work harder and get more rewards. This culture tells us we are bad (ineffective) if we don’t perform at our peak potential at all times. This concept repeats itself from generation to generation. The need to control has been present since the dawn of man. The act of using shame to control others is nothing new. This need to control is, in of itself, a form of shame.
You are Human
The truth is You Are Human. You have limits. Being human means, you have limits. Over the years, Superman went from jumping tall buildings to flying. He struggled with electricity. He also struggled with limits that were realistic. As the character developed, the need to be more and more grew. This was people’s need to feel like they were more than their limits. To make Superman more relatable, DC comics gave him a weakness of kryptonite. They gave him a limit because he reached a point where he was no longer relatable.
Don’t be Superman
See, we are not Superman, and let’s face it, we will never be. That’s a beautiful thing. Think about life being perfect and all-powerful, that would be boring. There is a real need for community. This need is because we all have different limits and skills. It’s beautiful and OK. I have no hands-on skills when it comes to doing any kind of repair work in my house. However, I am good with technology. I can sit here and tell myself, I am weak for not being able to patch the hole in my ceiling by myself, or I can speak with friends and family who can. By asking for help, I show my strength of being human. Its OK.
I recently heard an analogy about if everyone dug a ditch together for water in the same space, all we would have is a big hole and lots of hurt feelings. However, if everyone dug in their respective spaces, we would have a ditch big enough for water to flow.
Our culture tells us to run on all cylinders. Learn everything that ever was and even more. The thing about these concepts is they are impossible. These things are not human. Like myself, I hurt my back by picking up a heavy backup battery. I was trying to be more than my limits because that is what I believed I should be.
A young man recently told me he was struggling to learn every programming language for a potential programming job. It takes time to learn a language. It’s impossible to learn them all. This is what he was trying to do. He was led to believe, the more programming languages he knew, the more jobs he will get. Of course, this is a lie. The truth is, the more programming languages you learn well, opens more doors. The key is well. It’s impossible to learn all programming languages, so how would you learn them well?
It’s ok not to know everything. That’s simply impossible. It’s ok to take breaks and not push at 100% at all times. That’s how burnout happens. Did you know that the majority of millennials are burned out? Suicide rates have greatly increased in the past 20 years. Mental health issues keep climbing. A large percentage of Americans are on anti-depressants. All of this is because culture teaches us we have to be more than human or we are trash.
How do we break free? The first step would be to realize you have a limit. Discover what those limits are. If you can’t seem to study for 7 hours at a clip, then don’t. Find a healthy threshold and do that. Respect your limits. There is nothing wrong with them.
Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.Aristotle
The next step is to set boundaries for yourself and others. I grew up believing that if you had boundaries, you didn’t love anyone. This translated to being a bad person. It wasn’t until later did I realize this was a lie to control me. Think of boundaries like doors. Do you want strangers in your home when you are not there? I don’t. The door is a boundary. The lock is you inforcing that boundary. The door is a good way to keep danger at bay. So are boundaries you set in your life.
Ever had a job that worked you 60 hours a week, but only paid for 40? That’s a boundary problem. This behavior is a refusal to respect you. At a previous job, I was expected to take on all the coding, the helpdesk, and projects all at the same time without the access needed to complete these tasks. I often found myself working 60 hours because I didn’t respect my time or my family. My boundaries were weak.
Breaking the statues
Those statues you have all over the place. Aspects you have frozen and beaten down over the years. Those aspects of yourself live inside those statues. You didn’t kill them. They are still there. It’s time to smash those statues and let those parts of you out. See them, address them, know them. Find why you feel like a bad person for getting angry. Discover why you feel less than when you don’t know something you shouldn’t know. Bring those parts back into yourself so you can be whole. This is the hardest part as there are so many of them. Free your gargoyles by shining love and care on them. I suggest a licensed therapist for this process. However, Don’t go gargoyle smashing alone.
In the book, boundaries for your soul, the author speaks about what is healthy and not. She points out that when exploring yourself, if you feel toxic shame, then it’s time to address that part of yourself. This is a lifelong process. The culture we live in encourages us to make statues instead of breaking them. When I catch myself fantasizing about superpowers, I remind myself, You Don’t Need Superpowers. Then I review the day to see where the stressor came from. In the book Indistractable, Nir teaches that every distraction happens because of a trigger. Grabbing your phone could be triggered by boredom and so on and so forth. Find the shame signal and break yet another statue.
You are human, and that is Good.
Please note, I am not a therapist. I have just lived through a lot in my life and want to share my experiences and knowledge. if you experience any issues while reading this blog, please speak to a licensed therapist.
Do you struggle with any kind of addiction? Well, I should say, what is your addiction? Everyone has one. Each addiction is held to society’s standards which they live in. For example, here in America, overworking is praised while in other mature countries, it’s looked down upon as it makes you unproductive. Some addictions are needed parts of life. Like food. Sobriety isn’t starving yourself to death. So, how do you define Sobriety in human needs addiction? We follow an acronym “S.A.F.E.S.”
Secret, Abusive, Feelings, and Empty
Is it a secret? So, are you in the closet eating a doughnut? Are you hiding your financials from your SO because you are spending that money on sketchy massage places? How about other things? How about eating out to hide those emotions? If you can’t tell your SO, accountability partners, etc… It might be a good idea to leave it alone. I know it’s a hard concept because it’s simple.
This one is really important. Is it abusive? Is the intent of eating xyz to damage you? To feed some core emotion? Is your long showers really good for you? How about buying that on amazon? Drinking that drink? How is it abusive to yourself? At first it’s hard to see if something is abusive to yourself. So, it’s important to look at your behavior in your addiction to see if it is. Sometimes we will take naturally happening items and say its abusive. For example, when a guy sees a woman and thinks she is attractive and focuses on what he sees as attractive. This is natural. Men are designed to see sexual compatibility. Now, if he takes it to the next level and starts the chase while being married, that is more abusive. At the end of that road is just pain and loneliness.
Another example would be politics. I spoke with a young lady who didn’t know if playing a black character in a game was racist. She spent hours and ended up crying in a corner. This is self-abuse. This was not a safe line of thinking for her. Abuse can come in many forms and each addiction has it’s own structure.
Feelings and abusive oftentimes go hand in hand. For example, when I am depressed, I will go out and eat. This is abusive to my finances and my body. However, it helps the depressive state I am feeling. Instead of addressing the feelings, I am masking my feelings. I have seen people drugs, sex, alcohol, and more. If you find yourself wanting to hide away from what you are feeling, what you are doing might not be safe. It’s always better to address the feelings instead of masking them. A bandaid can’t fix a broken arm.
Masking your feelings will leave you empty. If you start feeling emptiness and or loneliness, it’s time to pull back and ask yourself if what you are doing is part of S.A.F.E.S. or not. That loneliness will eat you alive and leave you in a space where you can’t see yourself anymore. Over time, you can start seeing additional issues crop up to hide the issues that you are using to mask. That emptiness is destructive.
I have added Shame to Overeater’s anonymous. Shame can come in healthy and toxic forms. If you are feeling a sense of worthlessness, self-hate and more. It’s time to run. Run as fast as you can. Call your accountability partner. Call upon your higher power. Do something. you are not what your mind is telling you at this point. You have entered the results of the unsafe cycle. What you are doing or going to do will bring you down and more than likely lead to a full relapse.
Just imagine a safe and each action you take should go through that safe. If you have more than one issue, like myself, it’s best to have a few of these safes. Don’t let the secret control what you do. Avoid self-abuse. It’s not ok to mask the emotions for too long as it brings emptiness and breath toxic shame into your life. Keep a sticky note with “S.A.F.E.S.” in your car, on the monitor of your computer. The refrigerator at the house. The candy jar, and any other place that you might find yourself doing actions outside of the safes.
Values are the fundamental beliefs that guide our behaviors, decisions, and attitudes toward life. They are the principles that define our character, shape our perspective, and determine our priorities. We learn our default values through our community and families. As we grow, we change our values. Sometimes this is to match the communities we are in, sometimes we accept other values. We do this in a subconscious manner. Normally, this process is unintentional. There is a way to create value in our life though. Let’s define how, or Values defined as my dyslexic brain likes to say.
Seven Steps overview
Here is the overview list of each step. These are understandable as they are, but I like to expand on them with the concept of loving yourself or valuing yourself. This method comes from the book “Values Clarification” by Simmon and Kirschenbaum.
- freely chosen
- chosen from a consideration of alternatives
- chosen with clear knowledge of the consequences
- prized and cherished
- publicly proclaimed
- acted on
- acted on repeatedly.
Firstly, if you wish for your value to stay throughout your life, you must willfully accept it. I grew up in a Christian home. My beliefs and values were given to me by my parents. At the time, I did not freely choose them. As I grew older though, I choose to accept things like, loving others, helping those in need, and more as part of my core values. However, my belief system stated I was a bad person from birth. This birthed a value of self-worthlessness. A sense of unlovability. This value was reinforced through physical and sexual abuse.
For years, I acted upon this core value. I choose not to follow my dreams and stayed in the same job I had in high school. I didn’t believe I was worth more than scooping poop out of toilets. Many years later I started believing that I was worthy of love. Eventually, I broke down the religious dogma that taught me I was worthless. It was then I freely choose the value of self-love. This was the first step to integrating this self-love and care into me.
Other values I have chosen throughout my life are some of the core values of real Christianity. Treating others as equals and not less than. Being there for people. Raising my kids in love and not hate. Allowing anger to flow in a positive way. All of these I freely chose as a child, and as an adult, I still hold true to them.
Chosen from a Consideration of Alternatives
Growing up, you don’t get a chance to consider the alternatives. As an adult, you get to. When creating a new value willfully, it’s a must. Let’s look at the value of isolationism. My Uncle was a strong Republican. When I was younger, he believed in isolationism. I was able to be part of the changing of this value. This is a value he was thought while growing up. Isolationism value states that only those born in the country should receive help from the government and/or be part of the government processes, like voting or holding governmental positions. The alternative to this is a melting pot and involvement.
He changed his view because of an Indian man challenged his political beliefs through his spiritual beliefs. He considered the man’s spiritual standing and decided to consider the alternative to his value. The man was a critical thinker and helped my uncle reach that level of thinking. Using his critical thinking skills, he considered the idea of the Melting pot. He saw that the melting pot value would bring in new ideas and help the country grow. He was able to let go of his thought value for a value that he choose freely and considered himself.
We must weigh out the alternatives. By not doing so, we rob ourselves of the truth and longevity of our value. Now consider the alternatives to not loving yourself. What are they? Hating yourself, being indifferent to yourself, treating yourself less than, treating everyone greater than one? Each value has its own consequences.
Chosen with clear Knowledge of the Consequences
Knowing the alternatives is the first step. Knowing the consequences of your actions is the next part. If you value the diversity of animal life, global warming is painful to watch as destroys animal diversity. In my uncle’s case, accepting the melting pot meant he had to accept people as people and not what he was raised to believe. He had to decode his brain and way of thinking. Undo years of training. Which he was successful at doing. This was a hard process for him as he lost friends and family members. When you share a value with someone else, and you change, it can cause conflict.
It’s important to weigh out the consequences of the value that you choose. Lets look at self-love. The consequences of choosing to love yourself are somewhat painful but fulfilling. In self love, you must learn to say no, and set boundaries. This will push people away from you. As it is natural for people to take advantage of those who don’t love themselves.
Another consequence of self-love is integrating yourself. No longer can you say, I’m just born that way. Instead, you have to face your hurts and work through them. If you are comfortable with your current life and don’t want to grow, loving yourself is going to be hard as it forces you to grow.
However, loving yourself means you will grow. It means you will become whole. It means you will be happier with who you are. At one point or another, you will look in the mirror and not be disappointed to see yourself.
Value must be Prized and Cherished
Looking back at my Uncle. Before changing his values, he use to say something along the lines of, “all these people coming to our country stealing our jobs.” After changing his values, he said “What a beautiful mosaic of people. This is how we grow together.” To his deathbed, he cherished all races and people. He was excited when he heard of a governor for another country taking office. He would call them “Fresh Views” He went out of his way to help everyone equally.
In choosing to love yourself, You have to cherish moments where you do love yourself. For me, I cherish my front porch. I set a boundary of keeping it livable. Now, I sit on the porch each night and watch the sunset. I play with the kids on the front porch. School bus students have a place to sit and talk. I stand firm on my boundary as it is a way of self-love for me. You have to look at where your value brings you and what it does. Hold those to your heart. Remind yourself of them because it’s easy to forget.
Next, you must be public about your value. Going back to my uncle, he did this by how he voted. When he spoke with other members of his family, and how he lived his life. Yes, he lost friends, however, going public kept him accountable. Baptists use baptism for this purpose when someone accepts Jesus. They take a public dunking in water to show all their friends and family what they believe and the values attached to that belief. During the start of Christianity, this would get you killed. Now-a-day, people clap.
When it comes to self-love, setting things like setting boundaries shows people that you are treating yourself better. Being willing to say, “I’m going to take some time for myself” and meaning it, shows it publically. Other things like taking care of your hair, shaving, exercising, going to the doctor, and more all show it. With self-love, the act of acting upon it is your public proclamation.
Act-On Your Values
It’s time to act on your values. If you value human life, you will help human life. A pro-life, states they love a child and want to see a child be born. It’s not a true value if the person doesn’t support adoption. It’s not a value if the person wants to defund programs that help mothers take care of their children. Free day care and other items should fall into pro-life. However, we don’t see it.
Acting upon your values is the meat and potato of the value. It gives the value, value. My uncle valued the melting pot. He Choose to vote and support those with good ideas, no matter what their nationality was. I saw him debate more than once with his former isolationists and even converted a few. He acted upon his value which enforced his value.
When it comes to self love, you have to act upon it. Taking care of your body is the start of self-love. When someone starts to value themselves, you will notice they will dress better. I started brushing my teeth each night. A family member chose to go to more social events and meet new people. There are many ways to act upon self-love. One way to proclaim it each morning. Try using the following statement:
I love myself. I will accept myself unconditionally.
Acting upon it over and over again
I am someone who likes to get projects off the ground and launch them into the sky. I’m an activator. If you want a dead project resurrected from its death, call me. However, I struggle with keeping it going once it was in the sky. This is very important. If you start reinforcing your chosen value, previous values will slip back in. As one man told me, it takes half the time to create a new habit when you are intentional than when you created the habit unintentionally.
To build the value, you must build the habit of that value. The action of acting on that value over and over again. It has to be drilled into your head. Especially if you have had values that are alternatives to your current values. Uncle would watch multiple news outlets instead of the same one. Always looking for fresh ideas and such. His actions reinforced his beliefs and values. Thus, at his funeral, he had a large crowd of people. The speaker said he had an open mind and it showed.
To love yourself, you have to take care of yourself daily. Brush your teeth each day. Take time for yourself each day. It’s ok to take care of yourself.
Taking our values at face level will at some point fail us. We have to reevaluate our values from time to time. We need to make sure they still hold true to us. If they don’t, it’s time to let them go or reup those values. It’s not easy to make a new value. We are talking about the core of self when rebuilding a value. It takes time. There are no overnight changes in this world. As I have learned, there are three stages, initializing, processing, and defaulting. We have to initialize that change. We have to process it each day, sometimes multiple times a day, and then at some point, it becomes default behavior.
Welcome to another mental health Monday. I’m going to be talking to myself big time today. Here in South Carolina, springtime is often met with confusion and a sense of making up your mind. The older trees will stay dormant longer than the younger trees. This leaves us viewers with a unique chance to see the trees with leaves and without. We get to see a skeleton of the tree in sorts. As the tree grows, it moves in set patterns. Those patterns are amazing.
You can follow the tree from the base, up the branches, and through the smaller branches. Each break-off shows a different adaptation to the world around it and itself. The tree reaches up for the sunlight. Its figures stretch out and grow leaves to catch as much sunlight as possible. This is important because the tree lives off the sunlight and the soil it is in. Much like us. During the fall time the trees’ leaves change color to catch the remaining sunlight, then it goes dormant during the winter months. Sunlight is the positive influence in the tree’s life that helps it grow.
You as a tree
Now, think about yourself. See yourself as a tree. In what ways are you growing? Are your branches facing downwards away from the sun or are they growing upwards towards the sun? What areas of your life are you dormant? What voices are you listening to? Are you stuck in the darkness of your own mind or are you listening to uplifting voices?
When you take the sunlight away from a tree, the branches start to droop. This is the same way in our lives, when we stop focusing on the positive things and only focus on the must, our branches start drooping. Depression starts to come in, and over time, we can barely move forward. We become trapped thinking. “This is all we can do.” We say this because all we can see is the ground. We can’t see the sun. It’s not until we start looking up do we see that sun. That positive influence in our lives.
However, always looking at the positive isn’t healthy either. A younger tree will quickly sprout leaves, but then the cold snap happens and it loses those leaves. It loses all that energy. Thankfully, the older trees are there helping them along the path. See the old trees have learned something too.
It’s ok to be dormant for a while. That’s the same way in our lives. It’s ok to go with the flow for a while, especially when the sun isn’t around. We all go through that time in our lives, sadness. There is only so much energy in a single day. So instead of using it all at the first sight of light, the older trees wait until the light is consent and then start growing. At the end of the day, it still is looking up and not down. It’s still waiting for that positivity to come back, that light. This is how we should be. A hope of good times. As the tree grows, so do we.
Applying to IT
Sometimes in the IT world all we see is problems. It’s part of our jobs to see and fix problems. Most of us enjoys doing this. I know I love the puzzlingness of the human behavior. So, how do you look up when there is only problems in your face? Well, the best way I can describe this is like having a bee in your car while you are driving down the road. You can swat at the bee and put your focus on the bee, or you can drive your car. Rolling down the window makes the bee stay where it should be because of the wind. Instead of focusing on the problems in front of you that will always be there, look forward. Look past them. Look past the person yelling. They are yelling for a reason. Lets that big brain of ours see the world instead of the problems of the world.
The same can be said for a fence. A fence is in front of you, a boundary, or you can look past the fence and see the ladder waiting on the other side that you can pull through. The illusion of boundaries keeps us standing still. We stare at what we have been trained to stare at instead of whats past it. Keeping your mind on positive things will help grow you.
It’s ok not to have leaves right now. It’s your winter time. There is nothing wrong with you. It’s ok to be bare right now. On the same note, it’s ok to be full of leaves. Everyone goes through seasons. Embrace that season, and keep your hope up for spring. Be patient and enjoy the world around you. Don’t let that negative voice kill you. This is what I have to remind myself daily.
For years, I thought Burnout was equal to weak. Boy was I wrong. Burnout is a real thing and it changes how you see this world. Burnout can take a good worker and make them the worst worker. That’s what it did to me. What is Burnout and How do you avoid it?
What is burnout
Burnout is a special type of work-related stress. It’s a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Burnout is normally accompanied by a reduction of accomplishment and personal identity. AKA, feeling like you are part of a never-ending machine. Does this sound like something you are feeling? If so, ask the following questions about the past 3 to 6 months:
- Have you become Critical of others at work?
- Do you have trouble starting the work day?
- Do you take extra time to get to work each day? (Especially true for work from home)
- How has productivity been? Up or Down?
- Is it hard to concentrate on simple tasks?
- Feeling Disillusioned about your job?
- Substance abuse? Food, drugs, Alcohol, sex, etc…
- How is the sleep?
- Are you experiencing physical changes like weight gain, headaches, stomach problems, or random unexplained pains?
If you said yes to more than 2 of these, then you may be feeling burnout. We can stop it at its source by changing how we do things or where we do them. It is also a good idea to speak with a medical professional during this time because burnout does cause depression. Depression is a major Killer in the united states.
Results of Burnout
If you allow burnout to run around in your life, there are some consequences.
- Excessive stress
- Anger, Irritability
- Substance abuse/misuse
- heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Vulnerability to illnesses
- Increase in pain
Possible Causes and Personal Experience
I will go over the basics from the mayo clinic and give some examples of my life that started me down the path of burnout. There are more than these, but these are the most common. I experienced these myself and I fought for a long time against them. Let’s dig in.
Lack of control
Most places allow you to make choices about your work within reason—things like your schedule, assignments, workload, and resources.
In a previous company, the lack of control was evident. I never had the resources I needed when I needed them. For example, the company only had 1 spare SSD but had a demand for a turnaround of 1 day on some high-level clients. This caused issues because it took about 3 to 5 days for a new hard drive to be ordered and shipped. When I brought this up, it was met with, the CEO stating 1 drive or another excuse. This was a daily issue that left me saving face with the client. This was not part of my job duties but became it.
The workload also became an issue. Everyone was assigned to the phones, however, I was the one that got most of the calls. I was a level 2 engineer. The techs were to be answering the phones, but there were never enough techs to answer the phones. It got to the point where I had to study new technologies outside of work just to keep up with the demand.
Unclear Job Expectations
An unclear expectation can cause an unneeded level of stress. If you are unclear about the degree of authority you have or what management expects of you or others, you’re likely to feel uncomfortable.
This was a huge part of me. One company I worked for changed the rules of conduct randomly. This caused undue stress. One minute we are told to answer the phones on the first ring no matter what, then next minute we are told not to and let it ring 2 times for a tech to get it, but then a few minutes later to pick it up. This caused chaos and we didn’t know what we should do.
Other items changed as well. I was told to work on a problem until resolved. Then I am told to escalate if I have a feeling something is going to take more than 30 minutes. Escalation didn’t happen and I was left with an angry client. When brought up what they expected me to do, it changed each time. It was a case-by-case level issue in a structure that was set up to be generalized. This caused problems and unneeded stress. Often times I felt, “Am I doing wrong for even doing my job?”
This is oftentimes caused by the system setup and not a single person.
Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
Sometimes we run into office bullies, micromanagement, undermining coworkers, and more. These are basic Dysfunction.
I will cover my experiences with a bully in moral conflict. The bully was a micromanagement agent as well. So, I can discuss that. He would question everything I did. He always asked if I was smart enough to understand what I was doing. This was a manager who became a director. He questioned the basic things like virus scans. Items like screen cleanliness were an issue for the printer display screen. If a single fingerprint was there, it was my fault.
Another form of micromanagement I have experienced is time. One place I worked at started a phone system that tracked when we were talking and when we were not. We were required to sign out when we left our desks and sign back in when we came back to our desks. We had to give a reason for each time left and came back. This included bathroom breaks. For those with dyslexia, they were often times in the office explaining their medical conditions.
When a job is monotonous or chaotic and you need a constant max level of energy to maintain. This is one of the fastest ways to lead to burnout. This often times happens when a company has a high turnover rate or when a company has more work than employees.
At one company I worked with, there was an exodus from IT. For a few months, I was the only person in the IT department who had any idea of what was going on. From when I entered the building to when I left, it was non-stop. Those months caused me so much fatigue. During this time, my personal life was riddled with death. I don’t know how I made it through those months.
Another company I worked for never hired enough people to cover. When people were hired, within a month they were given tasks that took them away from their base job. This left me holding the phones. It was a constant. By the time I left, I had no energy for my family. This was a system issue that the highest management refused to fix.
Lack of social support
Isolation is a huge problem with mental health. If you feel isolated at work, as I use to call it, I’m on an island. Then this leads to depression. The company I worked for that never hired enough was just like this. I often times had calls that were beyond me due to management requirements, but no one was available to help. It oftentimes required me to physically stand behind management until they gave me what I needed. One client often times cursed at me, threatened to get me fired, and even threatened physical harm, a Karen. When I spoke with management about this, the conversation ended up with “It’s just her deal with it.” Over time I did deal with it, and I left.
if your work takes up so much of your time and energy, that you can’t spend it on life, it’s time to change things around. I experienced this in two different ways.
The first way was when the exodus of IT occurred. I worked anywhere between 40 – 80 hours. While in the waiting room learning the fate of my mother, I had people calling me. It was a nightmare. I was the only one they could contact though. It was a problem.
On the other side of this, I worked 8-5 each day, but it was so constant that I had no mental energy when I got home to do anything. I was burned out each day. All I could do was crash. I didn’t have the energy to see my family, friends, or anyone else. I often times cried while driving to work because I didn’t want to face the day.
The place with the exodus of IT. I worked with a bully. At first, he was super friendly. Everyone got along with the man. Then He was promoted to team lead. Finally, He was promoted to director. After his promotion to director, he started showing favoritism to the women of the group. Closed-door meetings became the norm with them. When I had meetings with him, he required them to be closed doors. Which I refused. He started micro-managing each person in the department. It got to the point where he would stand behind us as we answered calls and questioned everything we did. In all honesty, I was ok with this.
At the time I was a system specialist. My hands were in almost every system. So, when something changed, I knew about it as it was my job to know. I started seeing unnerving changes. My coworkers who were of Latino descent suddenly had additional phone calls coming to their desks routed from the outside. Their calls went from 1 to 3 a day to 300 a day. He often times stood behind them as well. Then when it came to hiring he made sure to only hire people he personally knew. These were moral strikes to me. What finally did it for me was when my coworker informed us she was pregnant, he started adding additional workloads onto her plate. Then when she couldn’t perform, he physically marched her out of the building. Two weeks later, he hired a personal friend of his to replace her.
By the way, HR didn’t care. He was getting results. This caused me more stress than documenting my pee breaks.
Outside forces can cause burnout as well. Family issues, sickness, and more will produce a level of stress that will bleed into the work world.
For me, it was the passing of my parents. My dad was sudden and without warning. After he died there were a lot of things that needed to be done that we didn’t realize he did. Then my mom 6 months later got sick. Her colon died. She almost died then, but she suffered for 6 months. My wife and I became her caretakers.
Handling Job Burnout
There are a few things you can do when you are in a world where burnout is a real deal. Which is anywhere. Items like Setting boundaries, taking breaks, finding that sweet work-life balance, supporting groups, socializing, physical activities, escaping the screen, and finally Set Boundaries.
Setting boundaries is the best way to prevent burnout. What does setting boundaries mean? It means saying No. As a system administrator, I should be expected to plunge into the toilet. there are physical limits to our abilities. We shouldn’t force our bodies and minds beyond those limits. Saying no will give you room to exist and do your best. A car has no ability to say no when it comes down to driving. It will keep going as long as the driver keeps pushing it. However, you are not a car. You can say no. You can set boundaries. For me, I should have set boundaries that I will only follow a new rule for a client if it was in a sop signed by the client. This would have prevented me from becoming angry at the consent changes.
During your work day, it’s ok to use the bathroom. Like the car, it will keep going until it falls apart. Setting boundaries for personal health is important. This includes mental health. Get hit by a client that really tries you, take a break away from your screen. This is very important. If you cannot do this, remember you are not a car. You have a right to set a boundary. If they do not respect the boundary, it’s okay to look for other employment, you are not at fault.
Taking breaks isn’t just limited to daily work, but also your pto. If you have time off, use it. Often times I see people in companies with unlimited pto never take to because of guilt or shame. Take your PTO! You are not a car, You are flesh and blood. You work better when you regularly rest. A good example of this is a client’s computer. When was the last time it was restarted? When was the last time you rested?
talking about taking breaks, you need to realize that human being does better when there is a balance in their life. When my mother was in the hospital. My work life was off-balanced because my life needed more time than work, yet, I was giving work priority. what I should have done was set the boundary with my manager explaining my situation. If he chooses to say no, then that is his fault, you do you. Finding this balance is hard. Some places want you to spend 60 to 80 hours each week. This isn’t a balance. Once again, you are not a car. You deserve better.
It’s ok to talk with HR about your workload, assuming you have a useful HR. It’s also ok to speak with your manager. If neither is willing to support, you, it might be a good idea to find a social group that can help. I use an app called meetup. Here I have found a few related social groups that have helped me solve some of my problems. They gave me tips and tricks not only with my work-related stuff but with general life. I have seen groups on Facebook, linked, everlite, and other places.
Along with support groups, it’s important that we system administrators socialize. The thing many of us hate doing. It’s important to socialize for many reasons. You can find support. You can find someone to vent to or even help you find someplace that isn’t nearly as stressful. As social creatures, we need that time with people. I heard it once said that online only provides 30% of the social interaction we need.
Burnout is very isolating. It’s best not to face it alone. Its ok to find others, either for support or just to complain to.
One thing about burnout is the body suffers a build-up of acids and stress hormones. Eating right and drinking water are very important. Getting out and walking, or others is just as important. Sweeting helps push those hormones out of your system. This reduces the chemical impact of burnout. Setting a “Gym time” to focus on your physical health will increase your productivity throughout the day. This gym time can be a simple walk around the office, down the street, and pushups at the desk. Anything physical. Burnout in IT is often a physical as well as a mental experience. So don’t be afraid to set a boundary about sitting too long. You only have one body. Make sure you are doing maintenance.
Escape the screen
It has been proven that escaping the screen is helpful for the mind. As IT people we are always connected. We are always present. Our work email is on our phones. Our personal email and projects talk back to our phone. That interconnection forces us not to be present. Being present allows you to work through your emotions. This avoidance of presence is no different than taking mind-altering drugs. It’s a way to hide away from ourselves. It’s always best to face your emotions head-on with those you can trust. Set a time to escape your screen. When you go for a walk, put your phone away. Be present with the world around you.
Establish a Routine
We are creatures of habit. When we have a routine, others will naturally respect that routine. For example, I take lunch every day at the same time 11 to 11:30 am. No one calls me, no one messages me. They know I am at lunch. This is a boundary I created by doing it over and over again. Everyone knows that I use the bathroom at 9:45 each day. They know it because I do it. Same way with grabbing my kids when I work from home. These are things I do at the same time each day. People respect actions more than words. They know I am going to do XYZ. Routines are important because it gives us something to look towards. It’s a stable object in your daily structure of chaos. Set times to be away from the screen, and do it. People will follow along with actions. If not, keep doing it.
By having a routine, you start creating an organization in your life. If you know where things are, reduces the stress that you are feeling. Let the organization be yours and not what others dictate. I say this coming from a neurodivergent mind. Many people in IT tell me to use OneNote or obsidian for all my notes. I use a notepad and a whiteboard. My object permanence is much easier to keep if I have a physical object there. For others, it’s different. However, you can keep yourself organized, and do it. The stress reduction is amazing when you know where stuff is. Also, take time to be organized. I sometimes know when we hang up the phone, someone else is already calling us. Take the extra 5 minutes and take notes. If it was a ticket, put the additional information in the ticket. Set that boundary and you will find yourself more organized and able to recall stuff easier.
If you didn’t realize, setting boundaries is the occurring theme here. If you don’t set boundaries, then you are a car. Waiting to be run over by the monster truck. You are not a machine. You are a human.
As a father, I have boundaries for my children. You would think not touching the stove eye when it’s hot is a common sense thing. It’s hot, it will burn me, better not touch. Even after touching it, my son will try again. The boundary isn’t there to prevent him from learning or being productive, it’s there for his protection, and my productivity protection. Setting boundaries is not just for you, it’s for others as well.
Imagine, you have a heart attack because of the stress. What happens? Well, your kids will see you in a hospital gown and that will leave an impression on them. I know this from watching my mom and dad. Your work will suffer the loss of a head count and your knowledge. For my American readers, the bills from the hospital time will out way the money lost taking time for yourself. We are talking 6 figures.
Setting those boundaries isn’t just for you. It’s for everyone around you.
Final thoughts about Burnout in IT
Burnout in IT has recently become a major problem. However, it’s not just in IT. It’s everywhere. Most of the principles can be used in other fields as well. Take care of yourself.
For the IT manager, please consider making some of these items required. Have your staff make a routine for breaks. If you need to create a rotation, create a rotation. I have found a 10-minute break every 2 hours increases productivity in me by 15%.