Why High-Achieving Women Burn Out
Jan 08, 2017
At some point or another, most high-achieving women have experienced burnout. Burnout is more than stress – it is excessive stress over a period of time that creates the conditions where the results that once came so naturally are almost impossible to come by. It is that sense of dread of burning the candles at both ends and not making any progress. It is that no-win guilt about never quite achieving that illusive work/life balance.
Most people who struggle with burnout don’t talk about it out of fear of being perceived as weak. But it is time to let science come in and bust that myth. Gender experts Louann Brizendine’s (author of “The Female Brain”) and Alison Armstrong have completely shifted my understanding of burnout so that I can appreciate the hidden gifts of burnout as well as create strategies for avoiding burnout in the future.
Here’s three insights from them that illustrate why burnout is actually inevitable for high-achieving women:
- Extra accountability and responsibility requires testosterone. What men naturally possess, women have a fraction of. While obviously women can achieve the same as men, over time it exhausts them. Therefore, bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan tires women at a hormonal level.
- Unlike men who are wired to be single focused on a specific result, women are wired to notice everything. Alison Armstrong calls it “diffuse awareness.” Women pay attention to the work at hand, all the emotions, needs and concerns of the people we work with, how our home looks and what going on with our friends. And if we have children…you can only imagine what our “Mommy brain” does to that challenge!
- Women are wired to be pleasers not because we are weak but because it is a part of our survival system. Being perfect and being pleasing is a way to ensure that we have a place in a protective group. Think of lionesses who hunt together. Our biological and survival need to be pleasing is why we will make sure everyone else’s needs are met at the expense of our own.
The solution to the burnout challenge is NOT for high-achieving women to do less. It is for them to do more self-care and personal energy recharging. It means:
- Saying “no” to standing in the gap when others are not fulfilling their responsibilities.
- Delegating smarter and not feeling bad about it.
- Prioritizing doing things that feel decadent but honestly recharge our batteries.
- Letting go of perfection and accepting “good enough.”
- Letting go of the illusion of the perfect person – that fake ideal woman who can run a company and raise her kids and not have any help. She doesn’t exist.
Already in burnout? Here’s some relief:
Read my blog post: 4 Soul Sucking Myths About Burnout (and How to Debunk them)
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