Today, I want to talk to you about something that I think is really important. In fact, it's a huge part of why this blog even exists. I want to talk to you about your work situation.
A sad fact: we've all had jobs we don't like.
(If, by some chance, you haven't had a job you didn't like, please tell me your secrets!)
Now, don't get me wrong, it's natural to have a period of time where you work for a job you don't particularly love. Sometimes you just need the work and you gotta do what you gotta do.
There's nothing wrong with that.
And really, work isn't always going to be sunshine and rainbows anyway.
Work is stressful, that's the very nature of it. But when does it cross the line from being just a job you dislike to being something that is considered "soul crushing?"
How do you know when it's time to run away as quick as you can?
I recently was blessed with the opportunity to leave a job that I often describe as soul crushing. It was often difficult to explain to people the enormous weight that working there put on me. Because from the outside, it just looked like any other job that had tough times.
Actually, from the outside, it looked like I had the best job ever.
(Looks can be deceiving.)
If you're in a bad work environment, you just know. It's something you don't always realize until you're there.
But if I could have seen the signs of my job being soul crushing, I would have made an effort to get out sooner. Sometimes we don't realize how detrimental to our health and lives a poor work situation can be until it's too late.
you feel trapped
While I was working my 9-5, I felt the overwhelming despair of being stuck.
Ok, I know that sounds like I'm being dramatic.
But when a work environment is toxic for a long period of time, it breaks you down until everything feels hopeless.
I wanted to leave, but I was so blinded by my situation that I didn't see any other options. There wasn't a way out. I couldn't just leave because I needed the money, job searches never went the way I wanted,
I fell into a downward spiral of fear that I'd be stuck there forever.
I felt stuck. Trapped.
That's not how a job should make you feel. Yeah, I've had other jobs I didn't like, but none of them left me feeling like I was stuck there and would never get out.
Feeling stuck is a sure sign that your 9-5 could be a toxic environment. And a sure sign that you should make an effort to get out.
You feel emotionally and physically drained
Work is tiring. It's normal to be tired when you get home from work. But there's a huge difference in being tired and being completely drained.
There was a time when I worked 2 jobs. I was young and ambitious and wanted to do everything.
(The lack of a social life was a factor, too.)
I would leave every morning at 7:30 and wouldn't get home until after 11:00 that evening.
I was hardly ever home. And even though I was physically tired from working all day, I would still come home, tidy the house (I know, I know.... overachiever), work on my artwork and hobbies, read a book, and then go to bed.
The point here is, even though I worked long days, I still had energy to do the things I loved. I was still motivated to take even more time out of my day to be able to do things for me.
Now fast forward to when I worked my soul crushing 9-5. Even after a relatively short day,
I was too exhausted to do anything. By the time I'd get home I was so drained. I didn't read, didn't clean my home, everything just felt like too much. I would spend every evening staring at the tv, to exhausted to do anything.
When you are so drained that you no longer have the energy or motivation to do the things you love, there is a problem.
You dread going to work
Ok, so I know just about everyone would rather stay home than go to work. I've always been that way. I hate leaving the house. But, I do understand that money is a helpful thing to have, so working is a must.
But I'm not talking about just wanting to stay home.
It took me a considerable amount of time to realize how much I dreaded going to work. Because of my natural I'd rather stay home attitude, I figured it was just me being an introvert. But I was wrong.
I finally realized there was a problem when I took a week of vacation. I stayed home that week and just relaxed and caught up on all the housework I'd been too exhausted to do. It was a great vacation.
And then it happened.
I had a complete breakdown.
Just one day left of vacation and I thought to myself, "I have to go back to work." And that thought broke me. I couldn't handle it. I cried.
I'm not proud of that story, but the idea of having to go to work should not illicit that kind of response.
I cannot count how many mornings I cried on the way to work just because I was having to go to work.
I even cried most days coming home.
There's a difference in preferring to stay home and dreading work. When the thought of going in to work makes you cry, that's a huge clue that there's a problem.
You sometimes HOPE you get sick
This goes right along with dreading going to work.
I like being healthy. Most people do. And I would work really hard to make sure that I stayed healthy, because that is important to me.
But every morning when I'd wake up for that awful 9-5, the first thing I'd do is grab the thermometer and pray for a fever.
I genuinely wished myself ill just so I could stay home from work.
Now, the really sad part about this is, there were days when I was sick. But because I felt so trapped at my job, and because of a lot of other things that were going on there at the time, I would still go to work on those days.
Even on days when I was sick, just like I'd hoped for, I still went in to work.
14 Day Self-Care Challenge
Over the next 2 weeks, I'll be walking you through all the different dimensions of self-care and helping you make time for you.
You feel unmotivated to do your job well
I like to think that we all have some desire to strive for excellence in what we do. We want to do well and we want to succeed. That's human instinct.
And, on some level, we choose our jobs because there's something about them we like. There's something about the job that we enjoy doing.
I know we already talked about work isn't always fun, but you chose your career for a reason.
There were lots of things to love about my job. For the most part, I did arts and crafts for a living.
(That is an overly simplified description of that soul crushing 9-5.)
Doing DIY projects, making things, planning parties and events... That's what I really love. I am passionate about that. And I like everything I do to be done with excellence. I strive to be the best.
But when my job got really soul crushing, when it was at its worst, I lost all of that drive to do my job well. I was so unhappy being there, that I just didn't care.
Did I still do my job? Yes, obviously. But did I try as hard as I should have? No. I just couldn't.
I realize it's natural for interests to change over time, and that's what I thought was happening. Maybe I just wasn't into crafts anymore. But that wasn't the case.
Any project I did outside of work (when I could actually muster up the motivation) filled me with joy.
I still had my passion, just not at that job.
You feel jealous when someone leaves
This was such a huge clue that my 9-5 was just not for me anymore.
I would get so jealous whenever a coworker got to leave.
And by "leave," I mean they got another job, didn't have to work anymore, moved away, or was fired. Yes, I really, genuinely got jealous when coworkers got fired.
Why? Because they didn't have to work there anymore. They got out. Even if it wasn't willingly, they got out.
Jealousy is not a feeling that should ever accompany a coworker getting fired or leaving. There should at least be some twinge of sadness over not having them as a coworker anymore.
But there wasn't.
Not only was I jealous, but I would be so stinking excited for them whenever they got to leave.
Farewell parties were never sad, they were celebrations. Even when I left that job, the overwhelming sentiment from my friends and coworkers was unanimously "I am SO happy for you."
Everyone knew it was better on the other side.
If that's not a sign that a work environment is toxic, then I don't know what is.
You experience physical side effects of stress
This one is huge!
But even though this should be one of the immediate clues that your 9-5 isn't good for you, stress side effects are often brushed aside as not that bad until they're severe.
I could write a book on all the negative effects of stress I experienced in my life because of that soul crushing job.
Everyone experiences and handles stress differently, but when you put up with chronic stress for long enough, it'll manifest itself physically.
In the relatively short time I was at that job, I experienced the following symptoms:
My hair fell out. I'm talking like handfuls of hair coming out of my head until it was thin enough that I had to cut it off. That is not an experience I would wish on anyone.
But happy news, I have insane amounts of new growth since I left that job about a month ago!
I ripped my fingernails off. I know. Gross. But I would get so anxious.
I'm not a nail biter, but I do pick and rip at them. I didn't paint my nails for almost a year because I couldn't grow them long enough to paint.
And I love when my nails are painted.
I didn't eat. So I know stress eating is a thing, and I definitely did my share of that.
But that was all candy, which hardly had any calories. I was eating junk and not eating food that was good for me.... or food that had the calories I needed. And lost a dangerous amount of weight because of it.
Which probably greatly increased how much of my hair was falling out.
I cried all the time. This might not seem like a big deal, but I'm not kidding when I say I used to be referred to as an ice queen.
I've never been one to show my feelings. I have gone years of my life without shedding a tear. (well, at least not in public)
But all that went out the window with the soul crushing job. I cried at least once a day for almost 6 months.
Really, I could go on all day about how the stress affected my life.
Other things I noticed was that I was angry all the time, fought with my friends and family constantly, I didn't sleep at night, had nightmares when I did sleep, I had terrible headaches, and I struggled to take care of myself.
If you're experiencing physical side effects from the stress of your job, it might be time to rethink your work situation.
You've become depressed
After everything we've already talked about, this one should come as no surprise.
Falling into depression is a natural outcome of working a job you hate.
Think about it. You feel like work is pointless, you have no passion for it, but when you get home you have no motivation to do anything else.
Your entire life starts to revolve around that job. You probably even think and stress about it when you're at home.
That's no way to live.
As someone who has struggled with depression her whole life, I knew the signs well but at first I just assumed it wasn't work related.
My depression comes and goes as it pleases and I thought this was just one of those times.
After about 6 months going through life on auto-pilot, a strange mix of all the feelings and no feelings at all, I started to think maybe something was actually wrong.
Working harder to practice self-care helped a lot, but my real cure came when I put in my 2 weeks notice.
I've been all smiles since I left there.
You feel unappreciated
From all the people I've talked to, this seems to be the #1 reason why they're unhappy at their jobs.
Everyone wants to feel appreciated.
We all work for paychecks, yes that's nice and all, but you can't beat the feeling when someone says "hey, you're working hard. I see that. Thank you. You're great."
Working hard and having it go seemingly unnoticed can be incredibly discouraging.
And I'm sure this is a key player in losing passion for doing your job well.
You're constantly fearful of being fired
You'd think that with how happy you are to see other people leave, you'd be thrilled to get the chance to leave yourself!
But not quite.
You hate your job, but you feel stuck there. You need the job. And even though you have no motivation to do your job well, you're terrified of being fired.
It's an endless cycle of fear and discontent and not being motivated.
I hope by now you're starting to see how all these signs start to intertwine.
Tiptoeing around, fearing that you'll do something to get you fired, is only going to add to the stress you're experiencing.
The thing about that kind of fear, it lives in the back of your mind.
So even when you go home and make a half-hearted attempt at relaxing, that fear and stress is still there.
At work or at home, you're constantly on edge.
You've become a different person
I mostly lived in denial of all the other signs that my job was soul crushing, but this is the one that tipped me over the edge.
I was becoming a different person. And that was enough to convince me that I needed to change my situation.
Now, I am all about personal growth. We are changing and growing all the time. The person I was 5 years ago is not the person I am today.
And I'm sure the same is true for you.
That's just how life goes. People change. People grow.
But the change I was experiencing at my 9-5 was not growth. It was actually sending me in the opposite direction of where I wanted to go.
Those that know me well or have known me for a long time know that I have a heart for people. Even though I am an introvert and have an outwardly icy appearance, on the inside I am warm and sensitive.
And more than anything, I believe in being kind to people.
A little bit of kindness can fix a lot of things.
That's who I am. I've spent a lot of time getting to know myself well. Kindness and a desire to help people is a huge part of my life and decisions.
But you'd never have known that while I was at my soul sucking job.
I've always had a bit of a sarcastic side, and I was aware that I let that show more than I used to. But there came a moment when I realized I had changed. And I didn't like it.
The conversation went like this:
(Me) Why didn't she just tell me herself? (Coworker) She probably won't talk to you about it because she's afraid of you. What? Why would anyone be afraid of me? Come on, Rebecca.... really?
I was heartbroken. People were afraid to talk to me.
Because I was mean and cynical and cold. That is not at all who I was, who I thought I was, who I had been.
The change happened so gradually, I didn't realize it until I'd become a completely different person.
Our situation changes us, either for the better or for the worse.
But, There is hope
If you recognize any of these signs in your own situation, I encourage you to find a way to change your situation.
I've been free for a whole month from a job I thought I was stuck at. It wasn't an easy road, it took 2 years to get all the pieces to come together to be able to quit.
But I did it.
Things will get better, but you have to make it happen. One step at a time.