09 Nov


"The problem isn't that you have felt burnt out, the problem perhaps is you didn't know what to do when you did feel that way. Pretending is preventing."

Bible App. (2023). Instagram. Retrieved November 9, 2023, from https://www.instagram.com/p/CzBrhVUO7pK/?hl=en.

THE MEAT (The Main Idea)

Time to break it down: 

Pretending is maintaining an overt and sustained false appearance. 

Preventing means to hold or keep back. 

But why does this matter, and how does it relate to our daily lives? To answer this, we must first define burnout, as the complete quote provides the context. Burnout means pushing yourself to the point of failure, wearing yourself out, or becoming utterly exhausted, primarily from overwork or overuse. 

Connecting these definitions to the quote yields a more comprehensive understanding. At its core, "Pretending is preventing" underscores the importance of acknowledging our limitations and seeking help when we encounter burnout. Burnout often arises when we push ourselves beyond our limits, believing we can handle everything without assistance. This insight reveals that pretending to be fine can be a significant contributor to burnout. 

By concealing vulnerabilities and struggles, we prevent ourselves from seeking the necessary help and support, ultimately hindering growth. In essence, this quote serves as a compassionate cautionary message. So, listen up.

THE CHEESE (Added Depth) 

Navigating burnout can often feel like trying to find your way through a Buffalo blizzard. You're on a path you know well, but suddenly, you can't see the road ahead, and everything feels somehow foreign. Recognizing burnout often happens in hindsight, much like trying to spot landmarks through the rearview mirror during a whiteout storm. It's a journey that many of us undertake, often unaware of its presence until we're deep in the throes of exhaustion. 

My own story of burnout began in my 23rd year of teaching, a year that introduced me to a host of challenges, both personal and professional. This year brought a new job in a different district, but it also ushered in a cascade of challenges. My father's month-long hospitalization with an undiagnosed condition coincided with my doctors finding a suspicious mass. On the eve of my first day at the new school, I was up until 1:30 am, organizing my guest room for my brother's red-eye flight home to be by my father's side as his health declined. I navigated a world still figuring out COVID protocols, and the relentless debates on masks and vaccines only added to the chaos. As the year unfolded, my father's recovery from multiple organ failure was followed by his tragic loss to COVID. 

People saw the capable person I presented, but in truth, I was crumbling from the inside. The emotional pain from losing my father, and the mental gymnastics I played at work, was taking a major toll on my physical body. When I finally let my closest friends and family in, I saw just how much help I really needed and all those months they could have been helping me. 

I was preventing them from offering their care and empathy. 

The first step to prevention is being honest with yourself and then with your closest friends and family. The next step was the most challenging: allowing those around me to care for me. Accepting their help felt like waving the white flag, signaling that I couldn't handle life on my own. In my mind, that equated to failure. The truth, however, is that my true failure would have been not accepting help and pretending I could navigate life alone. 

During the blizzard of life's challenges, burnout can often remain hidden until we're deep in the throes of exhaustion. It's a journey that many of us undertake, often unaware of its presence until we're left with no option but to navigate its nasty terrain. Navigating burnout requires the courage to be honest with ourselves and those closest to us, and to let them offer the care and empathy we need. It's the first step to preventing burnout. 

The next step, though challenging, is to accept their help. It's not a white flag of surrender; it's a declaration of resilience. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire you to recognize your own challenges and potentially find the courage to stop pretending things are okay and preventing your growth. 

THE OLIVES (A Surprising Element)

While reflecting on the quote "pretending is preventing," it's hard not to think of another saying that's often thrown around: "fake it 'til you make it." It's a mantra that many of us have heard at some point, often meant to encourage resilience and a positive attitude. But, let's pause for a moment and consider how these two sayings intersect. 

On the surface, they may seem contradictory. "Pretending is preventing" urges us to be honest and open about our struggles, while "fake it 'til you make it" seems to advocate putting on a facade of strength. However, there's a subtle harmony between these two expressions. What if, instead of a contradiction, they represent a dynamic balance? 

Perhaps "fake it 'til you make it" can be a temporary coping strategy, a tool to help us push through challenging times. But here's the twist: it becomes problematic when we prolong this act of pretending beyond its usefulness. In other words, there's a time and place for putting on a brave face, but it shouldn't become a lifelong mask. The moment we realize that pretending is no longer serving us, and that it's preventing us from seeking help and experiencing true growth, it's time to drop the act. This is where "pretending is preventing" takes the lead, reminding us that genuine resilience comes from being honest with ourselves and those around us. 

So, next time you find yourself in the midst of life's blizzard, and you're considering whether to "fake it 'til you make it," remember the value of authenticity and reaching out for support. It's not a sign of weakness but a testament to your strength and your journey toward personal growth.

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