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You Can Love Your Job Without Being Married to It

There’s a fine line between dedicated and burned out, but the media’s portrayal of the workplace makes it hard to tell the difference.

As adults, we know that the workplace is usually not how it’s portrayed in the media. People don’t hide cats in file drawers, and intentionally blocking fire exits is a fireable offense, yet the employees in the hit TV show “The Office” took it all as par for the course.

But even after we set out on a career path, the expectations and impressions that the media has ingrained in us for years are hard to shed.

From a young age, we see the workplace portrayed in television shows and movies. For many children, this glimpse into adulthood sets the stage for what they believe they will experience in their own careers.

When we believe that working overtime, coming in when we’re sick, and saying yes to every new project makes us look dedicated and worthy of a raise, we start to lose sight of why we work in the first place: to give ourselves a better quality of life.

The Myth of the Committed Worker

The media has done an excellent job of “selling” the workplace. We’ve all seen shows or movies where co-workers are as close as family members and spend time together outside of work. It’s not an uncommon sight to see someone burning the midnight oil to make a deadline, answering a work call in the middle of the night, or declining a family event because they’re needed at the office.

These events have become so common in the media that they’ve become normalized by the real working class. We live in a society where saying ‘no’ or cutting out early are signs of weakness or ineptitude, and we continue to push ourselves away from our best interests to avoid this negative imagery.

But in doing so, we’re doing the company and ourselves a disservice. Becoming burned out doesn’t allow us to perform our best, both inside and outside the office, and as a result, our health and work ethic take a hit.

A Truer Narrative of the Workplace

It’s imperative to reject the narratives we see in the media that are not based on reality. Real life happens outside of work, whether you’re at home with your family and friends, traveling the country, pursuing a hobby or other interest, or even doing volunteer work. You are more than your job title and responsibilities, and you deserve to let those other areas thrive.

Ideally, you can choose a job that gives you personal fulfillment, but if you don’t have this luxury, it’s okay to acknowledge that your job can simply be a means to an end. We all need a way to provide for ourselves and our families, and we rely on our jobs to do this.

In either case, your job allows you to put food on the table and a roof over your head as well as enjoy a higher quality of life—a life that includes so much more than working long hours and pleasing shareholders.

Real Strength Lies in Setting Boundaries

It takes strength to show up at a workplace that tries to consume every part of your life. It also takes strength to show up for your life and focus on the things, people, pets, and causes that matter to you outside of work.

Though working hard can indicate your strength and resilience, learning how to say ‘no’ and take care of yourself can equally prove your value. Set boundaries that allow you to protect your health and mental well-being—the work that you do will matter even more.

Resources:
How TV portrays office culture
“Burnout” is not only a personal problem, it’s a workplace problem

Felicia Baucom
felicia.conway@gmail.com
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