I get the sense sometimes that because I don’t talk much about how busy I am and how backed up my workload is, I appear to be lazier, less competent, and have a lower work ethic. I’ve been familiar with this trick my entire life. The longer you play it, the more convinced you are of your own burden.
I don’t mean to dismiss the stress and suffocation of people who do feel busy and that their work is overwhelming. It’s real, and it’s causing physical symptoms. But the dismissal that I may be lazy because I don’t call everything that comes across my desk “brutal”; that I do less work than others because I take a lunch; that things are unfair because I have the time to help people but rarely myself ask for help (let that logic sink in) – these are ways that an individual turns their stress outwards into comparisons and competitions.
By not doing this, I often do the opposite. I take other people’s stress as a measure of my luck, leisure, and luxury, then feel really, really guilty about it. I should be suffering – it’s just what the cult of guilt that’s been passed through my cultural background in both religious and secular manifestations has drilled into my head. This is likely where those visibly stressed pick up some of their habits as well. Misery is the only metric of how well you’re doing your job, in life and in the workplace.
By accepting challenges as par for the course, and being more efficient at the steps required to solve problems and implement changes, I am going to appear to be more relaxed than counterparts to those factors. Relaxed isn’t lazy; it isn’t a sign of underperformance or avoidance of work. But the gaze of those around me tell that it’s interpreted as such. Should I look down with shame? Should I wear this assumption proudly? Should I bite back with the subtext of my eyes shaking its head and blaming these people for their own troubles?
Or should I convert to their belief system and stress myself out by talking about stress?