I don’t know whether you agree, but I think there is always a cost to leveraging your career in the workplace. I’m talking about the emotional, physical, spiritual, or just plain psychological toll that we pay when we push to achieve our career goals and delay gratification in other areas of our lives.
The answer to whether you are starving yourself on any these levels lies deep within you. You and I both know that, in many cases, there are no options when you’re trying to advance your career.
I meet single parents every day who are completely maxed out. I meet executives who are riding high, working 70-hour weeks, and then discover health and financial costs to their hard work. I meet college grads grappling with how they are going to pay back their student loans and still have pizza on Friday night and live in a decent neighborhood.
Driving hard and losing yourself in your career can take you off course on many levels. While listening to a program on Oprah’s “Spiritual Sunday,” I learned about a new concept called emotional anorexia. According to Dr. Robin Smith, author of Hungry, The Truth About Being Full many women and men starve themselves emotionally. Metaphorically speaking, Smith calls this “eating crumbs” in their personal and professional life. This starvation involves not feeding your spirit and not getting what YOU need, and then lying to everyone including yourself.
Maintain this behavior throughout your adult life and you can become emotionally bankrupt. That’s exactly what happened to Dr. Robin Smith, a well-known therapist and psychologist who has appeared on Oprah more than 35 times.
Sometimes, tragedies such as layoffs, terminations, personal setbacks, and relationship issues can help us grow. Transitioning during these phases helps you become more of who you are and brings you from an unstable period to a more healthy and stable stage of your life.
In fact, Oprah espouses that adulthood allows us to finish the unfinished business of childhood. A flood, an unexpected illness, a death, or a terrible car accident are examples of things that can wake us up to what’s most important. Ask any cancer survivor about what they learned while undergoing surgery, chemo, and radiation, and you will witness a superb expose on the value of “NOW.”
Settling for emotional crumbs in a relationship or in a job doesn’t really allow us to develop and learn about family, our friends, and ourselves, but it’s up to us to read between the lines. Hardships can bring us to an awakening. The question remains, will you be kind to yourself after you experience the trauma of being terminated or ending a romantic relationship? Being gentler with ourselves helps us mend what is broken and heal what seems impossible.
Through therapy, meditation, and exercise, many people achieve an extraordinary transition to the “other side.” What becomes clear is that understanding, compassion, and kindness are requisites for becoming content with who we are.
Much of the difficulty lies in the meaning of identity. What does it mean to not understand your identity? You may find yourself asking, “Who am I without my job, my money, my spouse, or my children?”
Tying ourselves to external things and running towards the prize is not always the right choice. I understand this more clearly every day that I work in my career counseling practice. I hear more often than not that people don’t want to repeat their parents’ behavior. They are desperately searching for balance, because they have seen firsthand what it feels like to not have it.
Being out of a job or sticking it out in relationship that only leaves us “crumbs ” is a surefire way to ensure emotional anorexia. The lack of identity and shame such a deficit causes ultimately becomes a monumental issue.
Though striving for success and driving towards self-sufficiency is a natural impulse, what would happen if we worked on reducing the power of our egos and minimizing the drive for personal power in the workplace? Would we have fewer problems? In contemplating your next career move, perhaps you should consider whether it will express your deepest values and give you the emotional nourishment you so desperately need.