Updated: Nov 10
I became so focused on getting ahead in my career and fitness that I didn’t leave room to enjoy things that don’t serve my larger goals. I’m taking myself too seriously. Each time I’m assigned a task or set a goal, I don’t let myself rest until the task is accomplished, and then I immediately look for the next one. Of course, I can still pick out all the mistakes I’ve let slide in the last few weeks, such as missing a workout to spend time with friends this weekend, which leads me to question if I’m making these thoughts up in my head. I wouldn’t be Michelle if I didn’t question it, but still.
I’m replaying the last few weeks (months?), trying to figure out when I became this hyper-focused and uptight with my goals. In hindsight, taking this role was a huge risk – on my part and the manager who brought me on the team. As well as I did in previous roles, this is a different ball game. For the first time in a long time, I’m the rate limiting factor of how much I can learn and achieve. Don’t get me wrong, this is exactly what I wanted.
Once I realized I’m capable of not only delivering, but exceeding expectations in this setting, I realized that there’s no limit to what I can achieve. My dream is to be an executive, but if I want to be CEO, I think I have a shot. However, I recognize how much focus, talent, determination, etc it takes to reach that level. There is only one CEO --- so everything matters from people skills to brain function to appearances. The difference between me or someone else getting that job will be determined “at the margin,” so there’s no room for error. That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself anytime, especially at age 23. I was never the smartest, best tennis player, most social, or hottest growing up. As much as I compared myself to others and wish I could be a blue-chip tennis player (top 25 in the country) or in the most advanced math class, I took pride in being well-rounded. Being well-rounded was my greatest strength. But sometime in the last few months, I realized that for my experience level, I’m a “blue chip” in the workforce who also enjoys casually running half marathons on the weekends. At first, I panicked that I was losing my sense of self-awareness. The feedback was so positive that I thought I was losing my self of self-awareness and becoming over-confident when I started to believe it. I started avoiding sharing that I graduated college one year ago because I thought it affected people’s perception of me. Even though it’s someone else’s problem if they don’t like my age, I was afraid that it might limit my opportunities. Turns out, it wasn’t my sense of self-awareness that I was losing. I didn’t want to talk about myself in group settings because my activities include working out and kicking ass at work. I never want to brag about myself, but that was the truth, because I spent every ounce of focus on it.
I became carried away “optimizing” every single aspect of my life that I couldn’t feel my emotions. (Recognizing emotions are a weakness to being with.) It wasn’t until my face started itching and my anxiety tongue (it’s a thing if you Google it) started acting up that it occurred to me that I might be stressed. I refused to believe I was stressed because I thought I should be able to do more. I even got upset with myself for allowing myself to spend significant time with another person, because it was distracting me from achieving more. Like… that’s the opposite of being well-rounded.
It’s been a few weeks since that, and my anxiety tongue hurts so much that I can barely focus or sleep and I can’t taste food well, but I don’t feel the pain of it when I’m eating, so I’m constantly eating. I hate this so much, but it’s my signal that something is very wrong. Even though I’m getting 8 hours of sleep, I think I consistently feel exhausted due to stress. I’m young. I give everyone else crap for not having life figured out, but none of us are supposed to have it figured out, nor do we need to as long as we’re headed in the correct general direction. Maybe I want the chance to be a hot mess. I don’t even need to be a mess, I just need to take a step back, stop taking life so seriously, and enjoy it. I’ll perform better at work and in the gym if I do, anyway 😉.
On the surface, I’m keeping up. I’m kicking ass at work, and I’ve only missed two scheduled workouts in the last few weeks, including when I ran the half marathon. (I’m still beating myself up for those two workouts.) However, I’m so stressed that it’s affecting my ability to enjoy any one of these activities. My team wants to push me to do as much as possible. My close friends and family support me and want me to go for what I want, which means working even harder and achieving more, because that’s what I keep saying that I want. Others might be jealous and want to see me fail. I have to be the person to recognize what’s best for me.
It’s been so long since I allowed myself to take a break that I forgot how to take a break. My mind is constantly running at 100 miles per hour unless I force it to shut off, which only creates more problems. Getting drunk would probably be good for me, but I need sober fun first. What should I do? I’m brainstorming what to do after work today, but I have no idea what to do.
It’s never a question of if I’m going to be okay or not. I know who I am and what my goals are well enough to know that I’ll be more than okay. There’s more to life than spreadsheets and weights, as much as I love and prioritize those things. I failed to leave space in my “system” to have fun without feeling guilty for having fun. I put too much pressure on myself to deliver with every single thing I do.
I panicked because I “let myself get distracted” from work and the gym by spending time with someone. How ridiculous is that? The purpose of my life is not just to work and workout. I’m supposed to be well-rounded. The purpose of life also includes love, family, and friendship. I lost sight of that when I realized I had the chance to be the very best at something. I’m reminded why I don’t need to be CEO—“only” an SVP. As I become more senior, I’ll have more responsibility, which comes with more pressure. I’ll always do my best and want to make the right decisions, but life goes on no matter what, and there’s no reason for me not to enjoy it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love my job and working out. My order of priorities hasn’t changed, but my attitude needs to change. I need to give myself a chance to engage my mind in other things, or allow my mind to turn off. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m not going to get everything done immediately. I can’t let that stress me out, because that doesn’t solve anything at all.