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I Gave Myself to Burnout

I grew up in a giving family. We didn't have a lot of money to give extravagantly but we valued the act of giving of our time, talents and energy to others. My home was a Christian home and I remember hearing "The Lord loves a cheerful giver." To me, this meant that I needed to joyfully give of myself in all things-- whether it be sharing with my sister, doing my chores, working hard on the volleyball court, or giving part of my allowance to the offering plate at church. It also meant that if I found myself unhappy about having to give, then I was probably doing something wrong. (I'll get back to the significance of this faulty thinking.) Looking back I don't recall ever talking about the relationship between giving and receiving. I just grew up believing that it was the giving that mattered. It is now my belief that the loving energy inherent in the act of giving is actually the same energy of lovingly receiving and it is a beautiful dance that makes the world go round.

But, it took me a while to get to this place. In fact, I spent most of my life giving of myself to show my love and appreciation. It became my identity, a value, and ultimately my ticket to burnout.


I GAVE myself to burnout.


The truth is , I have received a lot over the years- love, shelter, food, good financial compensation, etc.- and it sustained me...for awhile. But, as I became an adult, went into the practice of medicine, continued to identify with being a "cheerful giver"- possibly to prove my worth and that I wasn't a selfish, egotistical, greedy doctor- I further lost sight of the energetic connection between the act of giving and receiving. Ultimately, I gave away more than I was actively receiving, and I burned myself out. I had all the classic signs:

  • physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion;

  • a sense of being unfeeling, negative, callous, and detached; and

  • a decreased sense of competence in my work.

I am thankfully on the other side of burnout and several years down the road, having been through counselling and life coaching and even becoming a certified life coach myself. I now hold the belief that

the years of giving of myself was not the problem. The problem was that I never prioritized the restoration of my energy stores- I hadn't made receiving a priority at all. I simply did not know how important it was to intentionally receive and to restore myself so that I had enough left to do all the giving that I wanted to do as a doctor, mom, wife, friend, daughter,