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An Underrated Cause of Burnout

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

In 2017, I closed the doors on my fitness group – Activmommas. At the time, the group had close to 2,000 members. The reason I had given for closing the group was that it just didn’t feel aligned for me; it wasn’t my purpose any more. Honestly, I knew it wasn’t my purpose but I didn’t know why. For the longest time, I felt that I was meant to help these women but I failed them, I couldn’t get them to believe in themselves as much as I believed in myself.

Image credit: Ulrike Mai from Pixaby

I turned to fitness in 2013 for two reasons. First, my father had suffered and survived a mild heart attack. I grew up watching him take care of his health – going for walks to stay fit, eating reasonably healthy food, and for something like this to happen to him scared me because I wasn’t doing any of that. In fact, I was still carrying so much extra weight from my pregnancies. The second reason was to tap into endorphins to help me overcome postpartum depression.

Over the course of a year pursuing fitness, I lost all of my pregnancy weight and then some. I started sharing my story on social media because I wanted every mother who thought she couldn’t do it to believe she could. Mine was a “girl-next-door” type of story. I had seen celebrities lose weight and their stories didn’t resonate with me – if I thought this way, surely, there were others who did too. What if sharing my story helped so many who felt the way I did? That, if a plain Jane could do it, so can they.

But the main purpose was to help these women love themselves, to help them feel worthy of their own attention, care, and nurturing. They dedicated their lives to their families, their children, and their spouses with almost nothing left in their tanks for themselves. They battled feelings of low self-worth and sought validation outside of themselves. I know this because I was there too.

All I wanted to do was to plant the seed of self-love within them so they would find all they sought within themselves instead of seeking it in their environment and relationships.

But I communicated my intentions in the wrong way. The pictures I posted were of the six-pack I built after having two kids, one via C-section. I was invited to write an article about how mothers feel about their bodies postpartum – even though I wrote about the effects on mental health, the article received more attention because of what I wrote about the physical effects. It was my fault, my intentions weren’t reflected in my behaviour. 

Within a matter of months, my group grew exponentially and I worked day and night, weekends and holidays to provide information, support, guidance, and encouragement to all of my members. I would comment on every post, respond to every query – I did all of this absolutely free of charge. With the group growing past 1,000 members, this became extremely exhausting for me. I was burning out fast.

My biggest stumbling block was my inability to help these women believe in themselves and take action towards bettering themselves. For me, I wanted better for myself and I took action towards that but I couldn’t resolve this contradiction in others: they wanted better for themselves but struggled to take action required for them to achieve what they wanted. This contradiction probably drained their energy as it did mine.

How I wished I could bottle up the belief I had in myself and give it to those women but alas I couldn’t. I failed them. In almost two years of running this group, I only offered two paid programs. I wrapped up the second one in April 2017 after which I decided to close my group. I was totally burnt out – no matter how hard I tried, except for a handful, I was unable to help the majority of these women, to encourage and motivate them. I failed.

The announcement of the closure of my group was met with sadness and disappointment. So many had come to rely on the safe space I had created as a pick-me-up especially because I used to write countless motivational posts and offer encouragement through livestreams. I felt terribly guilty for taking that away from them but I had nothing left in my tank to give. When I was asked why I took this decision, the only answer I had was, “It feels out of alignment for me.”

I couldn’t tell anyone why it felt out of alignment because even I didn’t have the answer. It has taken me over 5 years to understand what “alignment” I was referring to all those years ago. My Uniqueness. My Intangible Drivers. My intention and behaviour regardless of context. When I was leading my group, I was out of alignment with who I really am, out of alignment with my Uniqueness which is why I was burned out. In essence, I was working against myself. I was in contradiction with who I am and what I am supposed to bring to this world because of who I am.

I am a Compassion-Server. This is my Uniqueness. What is Uniqueness? It is our mind/soul which is independent of our behaviour. Personality tests measure behaviour under specific circumstances without looking at a person’s intentions. Uniqueness looks at our intentions, our soul, our WHY – some people call it “consciousness or soul’s purpose.”

The issue occurs when our brains lead us to take action without considering our soul’s purpose most likely because most of us don’t know what our soul’s intention or purpose is. This results in us working in opposition to what our intention (soul’s purpose) is and it is this contradiction that results in draining our energy until we burn out.

As a Compassion-Server my intention is to help others not feel bad as they go through the pain of growth, so I bear that pain of growth for them. How do I do it? Through my behaviour of doing whatever it takes to fill the need (for example, the actions I took for my group – responding to numerous posts, answering questions, messages, etc, every day).

Where did I go wrong? I was operating as an Exhorter-Server. An Exhorter’s intention is to encourage others to move forward by getting them excited about the future. How an Exhorter fills a need would be different from how a Compassion Intangible Driver fills the need because the intention is different so the behaviour will be different regardless of the fact that both are Server-HOW’s in their behaviour.

As a Compassion-Server, my Uniqueness would’ve offered these women the space to share their pain of growth but not the pain of abuse. I never was in a position to encourage them because this is not my Uniqueness, yet I stepped into it believing it was. The result was that I ended up working against myself and draining all my energy while also being unable to help the women I was committed to helping. I failed in two ways: not being true to who I am and disappointing so many women as I was unable to help them.

Operating outside of one’s Uniqueness is the same as filling the gas tank in a car with jet fuel.

Sure, the engine may turn over but after a while, it will stall (burn out) because the fuel is mismatched with the engine. In the same way, if we operate outside of our Uniqueness, we may gain energy in the short term (in the same way as the engine of a car will turn over using jet fuel) but we will lose energy over the long term and eventually burn out (the engine of a car stalling after a while of running on jet fuel). The only way to gain energy indefinitely is to function within one’s Uniqueness.

Understanding my Uniqueness helped me determine my zone of genius – areas where I can still fill the need keeping my intentions in mind, and be of help to others while gaining energy in doing so rather than burning out. 

This information has led me to become a self-bullying interventionist because I am able to have compassion for those who are extremely harsh on themselves while helping them stop bullying themselves by teaching them tools and techniques to change their destructive behaviour.

Do you think the reason you might be feeling drained is because you are operating outside of your Uniqueness? Are you ready to stop working against yourself? Take this quiz, it is the first step in discovering your Intangible Drivers, your Uniqueness.

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