I had a position at a job once in which the demands for my work outnumbered my hours and abilities. All the items I was asked to do were important in their own right, yet I was simply unable to do all of them without burning at both ends and sacrificing my own sense of self and well-being. I became frustrated. I felt disrespected. Resentment was building in my heart with anger towards my supervisor. Above all, I was tired. I wanted to do a good job, truly, and yet I was stretched too thin. I talked with a mentor at the time and his reply both terrified and freed me.
“Lindsay, you have to let some balls drop.”
As someone who works hard and wants to do the best job I can at all times, the idea of intentionally letting things drop seemed out of the question. How could I just choose not to do a part of my work? People depend on me, I may get in trouble with my boss, I don’t like negating my responsibilities. I had adopted the attitude that it wasn’t my fault, there was simply too much to do, and that the demands would have to change in order for my attitude and well-being to change. It wasn’t up to me, the job and expectations had to change.
However, this belief system flew in the face of my agency and choice. The resentment I was inwardly brewing was impacting only me and keeping my hands tied. I wasn’t getting more of my life back with this demeanor–quite the opposite actually. I quickly became aware that changing my attitude and actions was the only move towards power and freedom that I actually had.
So I asked my friend a bit more about this idea of letting balls drop. Questions like what if I drop the wrong ones or get in trouble with management? What if folks are upset at me and families I work with lose trust in my abilities? He kindly walked me through this, reminding me to trust myself in knowing which balls were droppable and which I must keep juggling. He challenged my beliefs that perhaps by letting balls drop, those above me might take action upon seeing the workload is too much for one person. He encouraged me to choose my needs and a work/life balance, which means both things have to give a little.
Part of my story is my need to get things right and the idea of choosing to let them be wrong was extremely uncomfortable at first. I knew there would be questions from my boss, and there were. I knew I would be tempted to blame and defend myself, and I was. I knew it would be uncomfortable to simply acknowledge I couldn’t get to it all, and it was. And in it all I hoped it would be ok, and ultimately it really was.
I got some life back. I found myself less tired and frustrated. My arms were no longer tied up in exhaustive juggling, rather more open to critically deciding what would make it onto my plate and what would have to be dropped. In some ways it was a practice of boundaries. In some ways it was a practice of self-care. In some ways it was a practice of my needs being of equal importance to others. And in all ways it was a practice of balance, choice, and empowerment.
As I write this, the critic in my own head desires to explain my absence from blogging over the past month. And the truth may be that my reasons are legitimate and worthy. However, I also acknowledge that though those are true, I fully decided to let this ball drop because ultimately it was droppable. It’s a hobby I enjoy and hope is of some value to others, yet it is droppable when I start juggling too much. And in the end, it is freeing to hold that truth tightest.
Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.
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