By Angélica Pérez-Litwin
New Latina: PSYCHOLOGY CORNER
Can’t stop working?
Do you set unrealistic expectations for your performance (perfectionism)?
Do friends and loved ones complain that you’re “always working…”
It’s all a matter of degree of course. Working hard is important for achieving our life goals, taking care of our families and ourselves. The problem occurs when we are not able to stop working and find personal value throughout our work performance. We become obsessed with accomplishments and achievements.
Workaholism is known as the “respectable addiction” in the United States and other developed countries. Social and economic power are greatly valued in our society, and long hours of work and professional achievement are one of the means to that end. But true workaholism comes at a high price, with many individuals experiencing the emotional and physical ramifications of chronic work-related stress. They may also experience challenges in building or keeping social and intimate relationships, as well as problems with work/life balance.
Let’s see what a workaholic looks like:
1. It is very difficult for them to relax. They often, if not always, feel the need to get just a few more tasks done before we can feel good about ourselves and allow ourselves to relax. When we do complete these tasks they find just a few more that we need to complete, and then a few more…. These uncontrollable desires often result in frantic, compulsive working. They are powerless to control this pattern.
2. They are so used to doing what they are expected to do that they are often unable to know what it is that they really want to do and need to do for themselves.
3. They often feel that they must complete certain tasks, even though they do not want to, yet they are too scared to stop.
4. They often feel resentment about having to complete tasks when they would rather relax or play. At these times they procrastinate, usually wallowing in self-pity and self-judgment. They become absorbed by our “stinking thinking,” cannot concentrate on the task at hand, and yet are too scared to give up the task for a moment and allow themselves the space they need.
5. Their sense of self-esteem is based largely on their perceptions of how others judge their performance at work and in other areas of their lives.
6. They often think of themselves as either the most intelligent, capable people they know or the most incapable and worthless people they know.
7. It is hard for them to see themselves honestly and accept who they really are.
8. They often betray themselves by giving in to the demands of people whom they perceive as being in “authority.”
9. They operate out of the mini-crisis mode, using this as an escape from experiencing their true emotions.
10. They do not often experience true serenity.
11. They have an obsessive desire to understand everything in their lives, including their every emotion. They cannot allow themselves to experience emotions that they do not understand, fearing their loss of control.
12. They have an underlying fear that if they give up control and allow their emotions to surface, they will become raving lunatics for the rest of their lives.
13. They judge themselves by their accomplishments and hence have the illusion that they must always be in the process of accomplishing something worthwhile in order to feel good about themselves.
14. They cannot sit down and just be.
15. They often go on intense work binges with the illusion that they need to get the praise of their fellow workers and bosses in order to feel OK.
16. They have the illusion that people will like them more if they appear more competent than they actually are.
17. Often when they are praised by others they tend to discount themselves as not worthy of their praise.
18. They tend to schedule themselves for more than they can handle, believing people will like them more if they can do more and do it faster.
19. They are often dishonest about their past experiences and their present capabilities, tending to not mention their failures and to exaggerate their successes. They believe that people will not respect them or like them just as they are.
20. They hurt inside.
Quiz: Are you a workaholic? Here are 20 questions you should ask yourself:
- Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
- Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can’t?
- Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
- Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
- Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
- Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
- Do you take complete responsibility for the outcome of your work efforts?
- Have your family or friends given up expecting you on time?
- Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won’t otherwise get done?
- Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?
- Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
- Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
- Are you afraid that if you don’t work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
- Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
- Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?
- Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
- Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
- Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?
- Do you work or read during meals?
- Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?
If you answered “yes” to 3 or more of the 20 questions above, you may be a workaholic.
Some root causes of workaholism
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA): A large percent of workaholics grew up in homes where at least one parent was an alcoholic. Growing up, ACOA develop a harsh sense of responsibility, and a need to be in control and problem solve at all times. They can’t trust that others will do what needs to be done. Career success and achievement provides them with a sense of esteem and validation that their parents were not able to give them.
Growing up with parents who were achievement oriented and had very high expectations. Children learn very quickly to do what is necessary to gain their parents’ love, validation and approval. But when love and approval are “conditional,” (to the child’s achievement in school, sports or talent), children internalize the idea that “doing” and working hard is necessary to be loved and feel good. Consequently, not being productive results in tremendous anxiety, which they in turn avoid by working long hours and doing their best at work.
Working hard is an easy way to avoid intimacy and close relationships.
Work offers an opportunity to satisfy, impress and gain the respect of authority figures. Adults who have unresolved issues with parents who were difficult to please or to impress, may find themselves (unconsciously) working hard to satisfy the wishes of an employer or supervisor.
Work achievement and productivity is a great source of self-esteem and personal value. Professional labels and powerful positions are used to fill up a sense of emptiness and worthlessness.
Fear of failure. Consequently, the person over-compensates by working more and harder.
Fear of disappointing employers, supervisors, colleagues and friends.
- If you’re ready to tackle this problem, learn more about this and consider getting support from a professional.
- Make time for relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation and exercise.
- Make time for creative interests and hobbies.
- Take time out - to focus on yourself, your life and where you really want to be.