Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 5-23-2022
“Life is too short to wear matching socks” -EaE
Have you ever found yourself spinning in a cycle that continues to fail? You thought you had the formula down, you thought that hard work equated to success, but then again, the success isn’t happening. Or, if it is, it seems to always be at a detriment to your health and mental health. From the moment we are children that can begin to comprehend rules, values, morals, social norms and consequences, we are fed a lot on ‘how to go about making a life’ and ‘a living’. At the same time, these ‘social rules’ and expectations do not take into consideration who we are as a unique individual. The perfect formula for one person, won’t necessarily be the right formula for you. Your parents dream job, may not be your dream job. Your friend’s advice may actually be the worst thing you can put into practice, because it doesn’t apply to you. The lifestyle you are living because your intimate partner insists, may actually be killing you inside. These pressures may lead us toward a lifestyle that is ‘seem ably’ right from an outsider’s perspective, but feels wrong to us on a personal level. This may lead to the risk of overinvesting ourselves into people, places, things and situations.
Why is overinvesting dangerous? I am not just talking about from a financial perspective, but anything imaginable: our time, our emotional/ mental energy, our physical energy, our resources etc. Simply put, it’s dangerous to wear ourselves out doing things that will work against us in the long run. It’s dangerous to wear ourselves down doing things that are counterproductive and/ or harmful. And even scarier is when we have no idea that we are in this over investing/ burnout/ shame cycle, and our health and mental health plummet hard. I’ve had the difficult but rather crucial task of helping some of my clients come to the realization that they are directing a lot of their energy/ time/ emotions into some things that will get them nowhere. Metaphorically, it’s like being the hamster on that wheel, it’s never-ending because they go right back into the same place, despite the energy investments.
What does over-investing look like?
In the workplace: The first sign is often the risk many fall into of being overworked and underpaid. It can be extremely disheartening to work a job that just covers all the bills, but there is nothing left over for yourself. The other important thing is to evaluate why this is? Is there any wiggle room? Did you also over invest in material things that are now costing you and making daily life not affordable? Or are you truly stuck with the bare minimum without wiggle room? It’s quite interesting to evaluate what people want vs what they need. American’s, in general, have a skewed perception of this due to heavy advertising/ marketing toward consumerism. The better way to combat this from a psychological standpoint is to pay very close attention to what actually brings you peace/ equilibrium. More often than not, people express it’s the smaller/ free/ cheaper things vs the expensive things (instant gratification). As far as the job itself, can you work your way to something higher paying? Or, at the very least, find a different position of equal pay? Sometimes a change in work can also make a huge difference toward burnout prevention.
In a Business venture: There are definitely stories of people that invested their all in an uncertainty, and wound up rich. Just remember, this is the exception, not the rule. Also remember, you are only hearing the positive parts of the story, not the terrifying parts. Entrepreneurship has become more common, and there is nothing impossible about it, the issue lies more in how we present it to the world. With this mystical career path comes many myths, perceptual differences, expectation reality mismatches, hopes & dreams absent of logic and more. Life has never been about wanting, dreaming, and then magically having. It has always required us to invest parts of ourselves in exchange for, hopefully, something that has worth. Proceed with caution, study, plan, prepare, take consistent action, have good mentors. And, if you don’t want to put that type of work and risk in, don’t do it! Find a suitable 9-5.
In a relationship: Sadly, this is one of the more common areas people run a high risk of overinvesting. Society pressures us into marriage and family so often that many of us are at risk of over investing in a relationship that lacks compatibility. Even worse, some relationships become extremely toxic to a point we may even be investing in our own abuse! The emotional part of our brain hangs onto the highs of the relationship even through the low points, while our mental, physical health and sometimes our wallet starts to deteriorate. Even in relationships, if there is no gain and all investing, we can gauge that it may not be worth it in the long run. The hard part is stepping away from the emotional brain long enough to actually neutrally evaluate what it’s doing to you. If you know it should end but you feel guilty, ask yourself why you are choosing someone else over you? That’s the cardinal rule you have forgotten. (Or may have never been taught)
In Academia: If you’re racking up a lot of college debt while simultaneously changing majors and setting yourself back more, it’s time to take a pause and evaluate/ reevaluate. Did someone pressure you into college, meanwhile you have no clue what you even want out of life? Here’s the issue: Now a day’s, college is way too expensive to enroll in, and not know what you want. I’m here to tell you, you do not have to do this. What do I hate more than seeing people with heavy student loan debt? People with heavy student loan debt, and still no degree or idea of what they want. Then, no professional career, but rather something minimum wage that they cannot live off of because now they have adult bills with student loans, and barely any income to cover it. What may be better for you at this point? –A trade school/ -Take time off from school to work different jobs and learn yourself while also getting more income to live off of/ Volunteering w/ food and shelter stipends/ -Military (Maybe!)
In a Hobby: Are you miserably in a cycle toward a hobby that’s leading to feelings of fear, resentment, shame and frustration. Let me first ask an important question: “Remember when this hobby was supposed to be for you to have fun?” Why did it become miserable? Did you start to raise your expectations to impossible standards? Are you actually doing it because someone else made you do it? Is it boring now because you got too good at it? Are you no longer challenged so you may need to find a better place of practice, or perhaps switch up to something more challenging? Are you stretched thin and no longer have the time you used to, and yet you keep trying to do it the same amount? If you’re now miserable more than anything else with your hobby, reevaluate, ask yourself the harder questions and make the change necessary for your life. The change may be your mindset, or money given, or time given. This is both circumstantial and personal to you and you alone.
In Revenge/ Justice Seeking: Did an individual or group of people screw you over to a point your entire life and mind was impacted? Now, all that consumes you (understandably so) is the obsession of making sure they get what they deserve after hurting you. It’s completely normal and even healthy to want justice for those that have hurt you. What’s not healthy, is becoming obsessed with it to a point you put all your time, money and emotions into it to a point you end up more hurt. I had to include this because I have seen this happen; people have taken out loans for useless lawyers and were down tens of thousands of dollars, and still, no justice. Or on a smaller scale, wanting revenge on an ex friend or lover, you put your energy into trying to battle them, they’ve moved on, while you waste your time on someone who no longer cares. Again, an investment is a good one only when there’s a return on it. In some cases, we do not get that return, and then the next step would be to accept this as a fact, start the healing process, and move forward.
To conclude, let’s go over what good investments look like. Again, a good investment means there is a good and worthwhile return. This investment could mean our time, money, resources, and mental / physical energies. The follow on return should then be, money, resources, mental/ physical highs, increased knowledge, incredible memories (in exchange for our time) and so on. Nothing guarantees success or failure all the way, so a process of investing and hopefully improving our lives, often requires us to take some time to evaluate and reevaluate how something is working for us. It requires honest internal dialogue as well as constructive criticism from those we trust most.
Most importantly, you have to do it for you, and it has to feel worth it.
One thought on “Are you Over-investing?”
I wish I had been told this many many years ago. Maybe I could’ve spared myself some misery, but I was brought up in the 60’s and 70’s. This advise just wasn’t there.
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