Do you find it hard to switch off/stop/take holidays/find time for self care?

Do you say things like:

‘They always leave early’

‘I’m just so busy!’

‘I’ve got so much to do.’

‘I couldn’t possibly take a holiday.’

Do you judge others for not working as hard as you?

Not switching off will hinder your healing as your body will never enter the rest and digest state. This belief causes us to not just work hard but to WORK TOO HARD.

It’s not clear where I picked up this belief. Since we pick up most beliefs before the age of 7 then it was probably observed by me or said to me by someone in authority- a parent, a teacher, a relative. It is not about blame but it is useful to notice where it has come from. I know my parents both worked hard but I wouldn’t say they worked themselves into the ground for their jobs. They were always home for tea and always spent loads of time with us as kids. Most of the time when they clocked off they didn’t give work a second thought. Well that’s what I remember!

I think that something else that has driven this belief was the worry of not measuring up. Trying my best but it not being good enough. Therefore, I always felt that I had to work harder and harder so at least I could say well I couldn’t have done anything more. When I use the term working hard what I really mean is working too hard. Beyond the limits of a normal day, not being able to switch off, feeling guilty if I didn’t work each evening or weekend.

In fact, I worked myself into the ground. I remember asking my mentor in my first teaching role if I was doing something wrong. Should I be working til 11pm every night and all day at the weekend? I was told it’s just because it’s your NQT year. In other words it’s the norm everyone else does it so why can’t you? Unfortunately, my NQT year was also when I developed the fear of loosing my job. Let’s just say the Head was a bit of a law unto himself and I lived in fear of not measuring up and being caught out at any moment. People were shown the back door and promised a good reference if they left there and then or if they chose to stay, they were told they would get a blank reference. I didn’t want this, so I got there first and left last every day. I knew it was noticed when you arrived and left. SO I played the game. Except the game wasn’t much fun.

All of this just reaffirmed my belief that you should work hard and if you’re not working hard then you’re lazy or you’re not good enough. Don’t all issues boil down to that worry that we’re not good enough?

This is why the ethos of the places I’ve chosen to work over the years has been crucial. The thing was though even when I had senior leaders telling me not to spend hours working at home I still did it. The pattern was ingrained in me. THE FEAR. I was driven and wanted to succeed but thought I had to work harder than ever to get there.

But then there was the wakeup call…

Until the wake up call I allowed this fear to rule my life. After the miscarriages I vowed to look after myself more and luckily I had a great Head who encouraged this. I worked hard at work and chose whether to do more at home for the first time in many years. Did I feel guilty? Of course I did!

When I returned from mat leave I was faced with new leadership and a new regime. I knew very quickly that I didn’t want to put myself through the stress. Did I go along with it to please people? Yes. Then I found myself completely out of alignment and slipping back into old ways. This was possibly harder than my NQT year. Going along with something I didn’t agree with really pushed me to my limits and I ended up feeling anxious.

It wasn’t until I left my role that I realised why I felt so anxious- I was out of alignment and I was compromising my core values.

This pattern of working hard is still there haunting me and catching me out at my lowest points. It’s been around for a long time so it takes time to rewrite the story. I still feel guilty if I don’t feel like I have ‘worked hard’. What does that even look like?

Have you got this belief going on in the background for you? Can you pinpoint where it came from?

Do you find it hard to switch off/stop/take holidays/find time for self care?


Confess your stress!



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