Author and Empowerment coach Kate Witteveen writes about the unexpected New Year’s resolution that will enhance your wellbeing and prevent burnout.
With the majority of New Year’s resolutions being abandoned by February, it is easy to dismiss them as a waste of time and energy. However, there is one resolution that will help prevent burnout and enhance your wellbeing.
Contrary to what you may expect, it isn’t to exercise more or take up meditation. One of the most helpful New Year’s resolutions you can make to enhance your wellbeing and prevent burnout is to stop being “good”. This is especially important for anyone who can relate to being a perfectionist or a people-pleaser.
Perfectionists and people-pleasers place unrealistic expectations on themselves and try to be all things to all people. They are often so busy being “good”, they forget to be kind to themselves. Burnout and other negative health outcomes are often the result.
Recent research published in the Journal of Concurrent Disorders[i] found:
- Levels of perfectionism are increasing, especially among young people.
- Perfectionism is associated with negative outcomes, including stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Perfectionists feel a strong need to be seen in positive ways, which increases the pressure they place on themselves to achieve goals and maintain unrealistic standards.
Although it sounds too good to be true, choosing to place less emphasis on being “good” and more emphasis on being kind to yourself can have dramatic effects, including not only enhanced wellbeing, but also better workplace outcomes.
One of the biggest surprises for many recovering perfectionists is that their performance doesn’t suffer when they show themselves some compassion. Rather, they often get better results with less effort, and there’s good science to explain why.
When you are focused on the fear of getting it wrong, you are operating from the part of your brain that deals with threats and survival. That primal part of your brain narrows your perspective and makes it hard to think creatively and problem solve effectively.
In contrast, when you focus less on getting it perfect, and stop worrying about what others think, you often do a better job. When you are more at ease, you can access the parts of your brain associated with creativity and problem solving more easily.
People-pleasers are equally shocked to discover that saying “no” to unreasonable requests rarely leads to negative outcomes. Rather than being selfish, placing boundaries around your time, energy, and attention ensures you can fulfil all your obligations without running yourself into depletion.
Recognising the importance of taking care of yourself in order to care for others is an important first step in preventing burnout and protecting your wellbeing. Giving yourself permission to stop striving to be “good” is liberating and could be the single best New Year’s resolution you will ever make.
As Ed Sheeran once wisely said, “I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” Let’s make 2021 the year of not being good and see how great it can be.
[i] Flett, G.L., & Hewitt, P.L. (2020). The perfectionism pandemic meets COVID-19: Understanding the stress, distress and problems in living for perfectionists during the global health crisis. Journal of Concurrent Disorders.
Kate Witteveen Bio:
Kate Witteveen is a Success and Empowerment Coach, Author, and Recovering Perfectionist, with a PhD in psychology and a passion for preventing burnout and enhancing well-being. She wrote her first book, “Why Being Good can be Bad for You” in the hope that, by sharing the lessons she learned in her journey from compulsive good girl to burnt out academic, she could help others to avoid the perils of perfectionism and the brutality of burnout.