With the summer approaching, most students are excited to finally rest from endless deadlines and projects. But not me. For as long as I can remember, summer holidays have always been a great source of anxiety and uncertainty. No school work means no daily planners and to-do lists, no routine events dictating everyday life. Having nothing to do simply drives me crazy. So, am I a workaholic? And if so, how can I stop being one? Well, here I am attempting an answer, hoping to enjoy my last summer as a student.
The Hamster Wheel
My friends, and even people I barely know, often praise me for being hardworking and ambitious, as if these were the only qualities a person would need to succeed. I find it difficult to accept it as a compliment, as I perceive hard work as a curse, rather than a blessing. Most of the time, it feels like I’m running on a hamster wheel and can’t get off. Sure, I wake up early in the morning, plan my day to the minute, and usually get things done. But this is not because of a clear objective I’m pursuing. Simply, that’s the only way I know. For me, resting is way more stressful than having three deadlines in one day, because while laying on the sofa, I can’t stop thinking of a more useful way to spend my time.
The Impostor Syndrome
People with impostor syndrome tend to work much more than they actually have to because no matter the amount of effort they put into something, they never feel satisfied.
“I got this job because there was no competition”, “I got a high grade because the teacher was in a good mood”, “I got into this university because I was lucky”. If any of these sentences sound familiar to you, then you probably suffer from impostor syndrome. I definitely do. In other words, I believe I deserve no praise for my accomplishments, as I associate them with mere luck, rather than work or talent. People with impostor syndrome tend to work much more than they actually have to because no matter the amount of effort they put into something, they never feel satisfied.
The problem with this lack of self-awarding is that success has now lost all meaning because I don’t let myself enjoy it.
Never feeling like what I do is enough is probably what makes me a workaholic. After completing a challenging project or submitting an assignment, I never take a moment to congratulate myself on my hard work. Instead, I immediately move on to the next task. The problem with this lack of self-awarding is that success has now lost all meaning because I don’t let myself enjoy it.
The Weight on Your Shoulders
Everyone has some kind of weight or pressure on their shoulders. It can be your family, financial issues, or the fact that you only get one chance of doing something right. For me, the latter is the most powerful. I moved to study in one of the most economically and politically stable countries in the world, and you don’t get many chances like this. Understanding that if I don’t get it right this time, if I don’t succeed at my education and my future career, I won’t get another chance, provokes a lot of fear. So I run. I wake up, make plans, and rash through the day, not even letting myself take a deep breath.
I don’t overwork because it will help me accomplish my goals. I overwork because I’m scared I will fail if I don’t. Yet, the outcome is the same: I’m still finishing my Master’s abroad at 21. But the journey is much less pleasant. Living with this constant pressure weighing on your shoulders might cause elevated levels of anxiety and poor sleep quality. It might cost you your social life because you often choose work over hanging out with friends. And this, I believe, is not the best way to live.
Letting Go of the Weight?
The best thing to do would probably be to let go of this weight and throw it far-far away. But it’s easier said than done. Would I be where I am if not for my workaholism? I will never know. Maybe, if I didn’t feel this enormous pressure, I would never have accomplished anything. Maybe, that’s what keeps me moving forward. Moreover, some weight will always be there. Almost no one has the luxury to live without any worry or stress. After all, this is what makes us human, what motivates us, what we learn from.
Instead, I think that establishing a safe relationship with your own “weight” is the best way to go. Sometimes, when it helps you succeed, you can let it be. But when it feels too much, you should force yourself to put it aside, rest, and get back on your feet.
Editor: Cecilia Begal