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'I've always felt levels of emotional exhaustion.' I need to talk about personality burnout.

This article was originally published in The Lonely Girls Guide newsletter. You can subscribe, right here. 

I have always prided myself on being able to do the most.

From as early as I can remember, my parents threw me into every form of sport they could think of. 

Tennis, ice skating, athletics, swimming, dancing (lol), basketball - all of it. I was extremely bad at all of them, but never stopped. 

The only reason I don’t do any of those things now is because I was so bad the coaches had to literally tell my parents they should probably take me out (R.I.P. but also very good advice).

I carried this mentality of ‘always do everything and more’ throughout high school and now, into the workforce.

Watch: How to spot and combat burnout. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia.

The first time I heard about burnout was when I had just started working at Mamamia as a social media assistant. I was reading a piece by Keryn Donnelly titled The five symptoms of burnout every working woman needs to be aware of. As a lover of emerging trends, I clicked on it straight away. Then I saw the symptoms.

1. You physically feel emotionally exhausted

2. You’re just not motivated

3. You’re frustrated and cynical

4. You can’t concentrate or pay attention

5. You feel hopeless and apathetic

I could relate to all of these. Not only in my experience in the workforce (which had only just begun), but in my life more broadly.

Being born in this country, I was taught that everything I was offered was a blessing. I hated playing sport, but whenever my parents asked me if I wanted to quit, I always said no because I didn’t know how to stop, or whether that was even an option. 

Since I was 15, I've always felt levels of emotional exhaustion. I just put it down to other factors.

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It wasn’t until I read about burnout that I realised I’d been suffering from it for 10 years.

Personality burnout. Since I was a child, I've formed my personality around the notions of “saying yes to everything”. Why? Because I knew women who look like me don't have the luxury of saying no without it directly impacting their future.

Not only have I believed that I needed to say yes to everything, but I also believed that in order for me to be offered opportunities, I needed to be extremely likeable. The most likeable person in the room.

I couldn’t give anyone a reason to not choose me for something - whether that be a job opportunity or even a new friendship. I always tried to be the most charismatic, funny and likeable person. I would loudly prove to everyone that I wasn’t the quiet, submissive, introverted stereotype they expected.

It was exhausting, but I wasn’t allowed to be exhausted.

About a year ago I was having dinner with my family when my mum asked me why I was so quiet and if something was wrong.

“I just don’t feel like being happy,” I replied. The look on her face broke my heart.

It was then that I realised I didn’t have the same privilege white women do when it comes to burnout. The ability to separate their work burnout from their social burnout. For me, they were tied together.

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I asked Emotional Female author Yumiko Kadota how she navigates burnout as a woman of colour and she put into words something I had been feeling my whole life but couldn’t explain.

“Women of colour have unique obstacles when it comes to work. Those of us with ethnic parents often feel a lot of pressure to enter professions such as medicine, law, or finance. 

And once we’re in, we feel like we need to stay in. However, many workplaces aren’t designed for women of colour to succeed - the power structures are designed to promote cis-hetero able-bodied white men. 

The structural racism within many occupations also mean that white women benefit from some of these power structures. For Asian women, there are difficulties such as the bamboo ceiling. 

There is a docility myth that Asian people aren’t interested in leadership positions, which often leads to Asian people missing out on higher positions.”

It’s difficult for women to succeed in the workforce, but for women of colour, it’s even harder. For many of us, our parents gave up their life opportunities for us, and we have that embedded in the back of our minds with every decision we make.

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