One of the hard things about burnout is that while it’s easy to see what’s not working, it’s harder to know what we actually want. Our desires are often hidden, even from ourselves, and it’s no wonder. We can easily get into the habit of suppressing what we want to avoid the pain of dissatisfaction when reality doesn’t line up.
I’m really bad about doing this. Having grown up with a sibling who needed everything, I learned to need next to nothing. “Wanting” things is even harder. It’s so much easier for me to focus on what other people want than to pay attention to my own desires.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading an extremely popular best-selling self-help-ish book by an author who everyone knows. I’d avoided reading it for a long time, since I figured whatever it contained would probably become part of the global lexicon, so I didn’t really need it anyway. While I was reading it, something about the author and the book got on my nerves. It wasn’t that great of a book…why did it sell so many copies? And since when did they get the right to completely make up a new personality framework? They weren’t even a psychologist!
As I was sharing all of this with Adam, he gently chided me for being jealous of this author. Me…jealous? Of a world-famous author who didn’t have the “right” degree but who wrote what they wanted to write anyway and was universally beloved for it? Why would I be jealous of that? (Oh right, because that’s basically me except for being world-famous and universally beloved and writing what I want to write all the time. I’ve got the lack of degree part down, though.)
Sometimes it’s easier to see what we want when we look at who we’re jealous of. And the really interesting part is, this author doesn’t bother me half as much when I’m actually writing what I want to write and publishing it. I don’t even need to be world-famous or universally beloved (though yeah, I guess that would be nice). If I’m actively doing the thing I really want to do, I feel magnanimously toward this author, and authors everywhere.
Jealousy is an embarrassing emotion, but it’s very useful if we pay attention to it.
Try to look at this as a clue, rather than something to feel ashamed about. It’s universal to feel this way.