“Inflation is real. And I’m broke.”
This was shared with me by a woman in an organization for which I was preparing to speak. Although many people have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of goods, she wasn’t referring to money.
Over the past few years, some of the most important jobs in our society have grown more emotionally expensive, thanks to the pandemic and other factors. They are harder to do and there are fewer people willing to do them, yet we need them more than ever.
Let’s consider nurses as one example. They are carrying unsustainable patient loads and burning out in the process. If one quits to save herself, what happens to the ones left behind
But is she expected to sacrifice her own health, sanity, and relationships for the sake of everyone else? And exactly how useful is a burned-out, mistake-prone nurse with compassion fatigue?
You could replace “nurse” with “teacher” or “social worker” or “airline pilot” or “police officer,” and on and on…
Inflation is real.
And with emotional costs rising, many people are finding themselves broke.
So what do we do?
Well, it depends.
Self-help gurus promise easy answers because they are easy to sell. Unfortunately, complicated scenarios rarely have simple solutions. Each industry—each individual—has its own unique factors and challenges.
A problem like this requires thoughtfulness and self-awareness. I must fight the temptation to boil it down to a one-size-fits-all answer that saves the day in one fell swoop. Instead, let me share some truths that may shed light on what makes sense for your situation.
Truth #1: Life is hard. And that is normal.
We are consistently lured into pursuing a life of ease and comfort, conditioned to believe that something’s wrong if we experience anything otherwise. We humans put too much stock in what’s happening right this moment, falsely assuming the good times will always roll or this hard stretch will last forever. This is called recency bias. But it’s always been true that to everything there is a season. It could be that you are in a season of challenge that is extremely difficult, but also temporary. If so, take courage! Persist! Facing down difficulties will make you better, stronger, and believe it or not, happier in the long run.
Truth #2: It’s not your job to save the world.
This is a hard one to swallow, especially if you’re like me and suffer from a bit of a savior complex. First of all, it feels good to help others. And wanting to help as many people as possible provides a sense of purpose, which is also good. Things go sideways if we develop an outsized expectation of the role we’re called to play. Yes, there may be few people who can do what you do as well as you can, but the fact is you could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and believe it or not, the world will find a way to go on. (Why always a bus? Why not a VW Beetle packed with clowns? Or a Door Dash driver on a unicycle? But I digress.) Perhaps you just need to shift your perspective, take yourself a little less seriously, and give yourself permission to do the best you can and the grace to acknowledge it’ll never be enough. Why? Because it’s not your job to save the world.
Truth #3: It’s hard to help people when you’re dead.
Speaking of getting hit by a VW Beetle packed with clowns, bad things happen when you push yourself to the brink. You need time to rest and fill your cup. If you keep your foot on the gas, eventually your body will hit the brakes for you. To restate the obvious, it’s awfully hard to help others when you’re laid up in a hospital bed, or, you know, dead.
Truth #4: It’s not all or nothing.
When we feel overwhelmed and depleted, we commonly default to extremes. Your options are not limited to “quit this job immediately” or “stick with it forever until it kills me.” You could also give it another month, pray, re-evaluate things, and then decide to quit, stay, or…give it another month. You don’t have to resign yourself to your current situation, either. Maybe you can go half time. Maybe you can transfer to a different department. Maybe you just need a little vacation. (Or a long one!) Perhaps your first priority should be to give yourself a little space to identify all your options because there are probably more than you realize.
So…if you find yourself having a hard time keeping up with the rising emotional costs of your particular situation, what should you do?
I don’t know.
But I expect that you might, especially if you felt one or two of these truths ping your soul.
Thank you for caring. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for making a difference.
I wish you clarity and peace of mind as you discern what’s next.
And the agility to avoid any clown-stuffed vehicles that cross your path.