How do you know if it's worthwhile? - Part 1

Part One: Overthinking, overworking, repeated late nights and for what?

by Elejha-Ze Gengan

Image by Luis Villasmal on Unsplash

My eyes becoming heavier, I close them for a moment only to open them as I come to the realization that the day has already come to an end. It feels as if it just started but I’ve already lived through it. Unable to look back, I’m reminded of the work I need to get through.

”Tomorrow”, the promise of something new yet no one really gets to experience what tomorrow holds.

In a society where we seemingly run, if not sprint, through life from a young age we have this mindset that we have to race out of every moment despite feeling unsatisfied. Constantly looking for a future of what life could be if we merely obtain more. This idea that our duty is to achieve, buy, own and live perfect lives is constantly reinforced.

This entire delusion frenzies us with anxiety which culture tells us we can rid ourselves of if we just achieve a few more things. Perhaps earning more money or purchasing more items. This, in turn, creates an endless feedback loop of unsatisfied hunger. Caving into this could be us surrendering our life and giving up ourselves.

From a young age, the concept of a linear life made me anxious, going through a twelve-year education system which leads to you seeking higher education until you land your first job and start a career path. After which you’re faced with milestones or achievements set by society, milestones such as purchasing your first car, buying your first house and eventually settling down and having kids. Becoming part of a society that romanticises overworking to a point where you find yourself in your mid-forties, overworked and unhappy. Each day passing you by with the blink of an eye and all you’re left doing is well work.

There is nothing inherently wrong about working towards achieving certain goals but these are merely to be enjoyed if they do work out, but not to be depended on for one’s happiness. If one is dependent on them, their happiness and peace in life are especially susceptible to being inconsistent, taken or never achieved at all.

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of them reported being often or always exhausted at work. 44% reported feeling sometimes exhausted.

The romanticized workaholics are oftentimes positively portrayed in biographical films and books, exposing us to stories of successful people and making us believe that if we don’t “get there” it’s only because we haven’t made enough of a personal sacrifice.

The International Stress Management Association conducted a study which revealed that Japan held the highest percentage of employees who were overworked by a wide margin, with 70% of the economically active population suffering, Brazil with 30%, followed by China with 24%, the United States with 20% and Germany with 17%.

In 1974 German Psychoanalyst Hebert J.Freudenberger in 1974 identified Burnout Syndrome as a psychological disorder characterized by a state of emotional tension caused by stressful working conditions. In 2019, Burnout Syndrome was officially recognized as a chronic disease and is now on the World Health Organization (WHO) list, yet many still don’t understand its seriousness and consequences. People still romanticize overwork as a manner in which they achieve professional success.

“Study while others are sleeping; prepare while others are playing, and dream while others are wishing.” - these are all motivational images circulating the internet. I agree, we all need a form of motivation but these seem so empty, overused and fabricated.

This, in turn, can lead to personal isolation from friends and family, eating poorly and neglecting sleep. It becomes draining to our minds and bodies. It affects your professional performance, physical health and social relationships. You continue doing it because you want to achieve and become better but at what cost?

Not to mention the symptoms also include irritability, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, aggressiveness, isolation (as mentioned), anxiety and memory impairment. Overworking could cause your body fail, leaving you in a state where you are unable to think or socialize, and all your hard work will end up being in vain.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to work hard for your personal achievements but we often want to build on other people’s lives and mirror their success stories. Setting goals and expectations that may not properly fit our reality. A lot of will be reflected to you in a sense of context, you’ll start to believe that it all comes down to luck, opportunity or perhaps age. The fact is that each of us has our own unique story with different adversities and achievements which shouldn’t be compared.

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