Healing My Unhealthy Relationship with Work

Over the past two years I have been unlearning the habits that contributed to my unhealthy relationship with work. For the first leg of my career I was in a very unhealthy relationship with work. Like the kind of relationship where I was obsessed, not sleeping and may have contributed to my early gray hairs. Now that I am on the other side of this relationship drama I’m able to help others work through this – because our jobs should not control us. We are so much more than what we do for a living. 

I promised my TikTok commenters that I would make this subject into a longer series so this blog is going to be part 1 of I don’t know how many on this subject. This post is going to be an introduction to the subject and I’m including the Youtube video I created on this for those of you who prefer video/audio chats below. 

What is an Unhealthy Relationship with Work?  

My unhealthy relationship with work became painfully obvious to me when I realized that I spent more time worrying about work than I did working. My work stress impacted my personal life almost consistently and my work performance impacted my self worth. In short, work took over my entire life. Leading up to this realization the signs of burnout were there and my attempts at boundaries were failing but it took a birthday spent in tears over a work mistake that I realized I needed to do something about this. 

I was letting my career treat me in an absolutely unacceptable way. I would have never let a person treat me the way I was letting this relationship treat me. My self worth had plummeted and I no longer recognized myself in what I did and frankly I didn’t want to care about work anymore. In short I went from over-engaged to apathetic. 

Self Worth and Work 

Once I caught on that work was dictating my emotional happiness it was impossible to unsee. A good day at work always meant a good day at home and a bad day at work meant a bad evening. If a Friday went poorly the whole weekend could be ruined. This relationship was obviously toxic so once this revelation sunk in I started making a plan to remedy this. 

An obvious option here was to quit my job. With my new observation fresh on my mind I realized that it wasn’t just my current role that I had this issue with – it was work in general. I no longer valued my personal successes and I needed to remedy that. 

Morality, Boundaries and Personal Success 

As cliche as this is, I started with a major mindset shift (mostly through journaling – more on that in a second). I set boundaries, practiced saying no and I made my work performance morally neutral. This change did not happen overnight but once I came to terms with these concepts things got a lot easier. For everyone this will look different but for me the knowledge that I could empower myself through boundaries and not worry about being perfect at my job was liberating. 

Ok, But How? 

I spent a lot of time working through my emotions around work, finding places where things felt wrong and looking for opportunities to build walls to keep work out of my personal time. It was a struggle at first but lucky for you I already did it. If you want to make those mindset shifts and reconfigure your relationship with work, start by answering the following questions. 

  1. What is my relationship with work?
  2. Can I make my work performance (or employment status) morally neutral, i.e. doesn’t reflect as good or bad on me? 
  3. Why am I taking work so seriously? 
  4. Why does my job get to define me? (don’t blame yourself on this one blame society)
  5. Who am I if I’m not my job? 

And from these questions things kind of snowballed. It brought me out of my career funk, helped me find a career path that I actually enjoy but that I don’t let consume me (you can check it out here since I now help people like you through this situation and more). 

You Are More Than What You Do 

Through this mindset shift it finally clicked for me that I was so much more than what I did. My job was one of the least interesting things about me and that I was worthy of work life balance and respected boundaries. I was not saving lives everyday, I did not need to bring work stress home with me and I sure as hell was not landing a rocket on the moon – I did not need to take work so seriously (though actively doing my job to stay employed was crucial). 

If you want help working through this please reach out – I’m happy to help. If you’re happy to work through it alone I’ll keep posting about this on here, tiktok and Youtube

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