About this time last year, I was super burnt out. After nearly 4 years in full-time ministry, my heart, my body, and my soul was for lack of better word — DONE. I’ve shared briefly about this in little blurbs on Instagram posts, and have even mentioned it a couple times in past blogposts, but I think to truly understand the depth of this exhaustion, I should rewind.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a pretty driven person. Perhaps it was due to upbringing, or perhaps I was meant to be an Enneagram 3 from birth. Either way, I’ll always find a way to do the most I can, in the least amount of time – but not for the sake of resting afterwards. No, it was definitely for the purpose of making room to then accomplish more.
Now this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, for a majority of my life this worked to my advantage. Western culture absolutely worships productivity, efficiency, and individual meritocracy.
The real issue began to surface when my understanding of my relationship with God, with myself, and with others was also dependent on what I achieved, how fast I achieved it, and what more I was working toward. You see, in this mindset there’s no sense of ever having “arrived” after something is accomplished.
Oh, I’m serving as a Resident Advisor, while leading a small group, while working 3 part-time jobs, while being a full-time college student? Well then what more can I add onto my plate? What more can I do to better steward these responsibilities? What more can I pursue, now that I feel like I’ve nearly got all that managed?
Now, my motivation to do more wasn’t necessarily a negative one. As someone with religious values pursuing a social-justice related major (American Ethnic Studies & Education), the most obvious motivation I had was to pursue justice for the sake of all people flourishing – particularly those who’ve up to this point been marginalized. It only takes a quick scroll through social media to notice not all people are flourishing, if any.
This motivation in-and-of-itself is good. But as an achievement-oriented person (and let’s be real, a human in general)…placing my personal value and self-worth in what I do – is a less obvious, but ever existent second motivation that I also needed to acknowledge.
So let’s factor these two motivations into some of the work I engaged with while in ministry. The intention I had going into the job was to care for, educate, and empower the students I worked with, such that students could positively bring impact and change to the systems and communities they were a part of post-college. This is good.
But factor in the second motivation that I was admittedly much less aware of…and my own character, self-worth, and value is put to question whenever my effort in caring for, educating, or empowering students fell short. In addition to this, even when things were going well; there was always a sense of it still not being enough – because there was alwaysmore work to be done. The world, and the evangelical church for that matter is still broken and unjust…and if there’s clearly more work to be done, then I haven’t quite done all that I should be doing. You can see how our lovely burnout spiral begins.
So fast-forward to this time last year, when I miraculously (with the help of therapy and a few good friends) came to the realization that something about this whole way of living was just, off. I still cared about justice. I still cared about God. But I just couldn’t reconcile the disconnect I felt between my intended motivation, and the reality of my dilapidated soul.
The months following my decision to leave ministry were hard. I’d sensed that the only real thing I should be doing at the time was, well…nothing. Finally acknowledging that this merit-based-worth mentality had taken such a strong grasp on my soul, I avoided just jumping into the next job, the next task list, or the next achievement as I normally would.
I sat in my discomfort — and I felt depressed. I felt anxious. I felt worthless. And at times, I felt lonely. The only real spaces where I found myself genuinely experiencing God again, were in practicing yoga. The only person I believed truly cared about me when I wasn’t serving or helping them in some way, was my husband. And the only thing that kept me grounded in those months of battling with those thoughts and feelings, was the belief that the way I had been living didn’t need to be the way I had to live the remainder of my life.
And I don’t mean to make these 6 months of “rest” seem like they were inherently terrible, nor unbearable in any way. I have a wonderful husband, incredibly supportive friends and family, and the financial flexibility to take this time to step away from the responsibility of work. I’m definitely not complaining. I’m simply sharing about the internal questions, and process that my soul went through to embody the drastically different values and self-perception that I have now.
Around 6 months into this intentional rest & unemployment, I started noticing differences in the way my body, mind and soul felt and functioned. And I should emphasize that there were no obvious “aha!” moments, events, or special revelations that happened during those few months. It was simply a long, gradual process of shift in perspective and experience of myself, and the world around me.
In practicing yoga regularly throughout that time, my body felt strong, flexible, and grounded. I came to find that I didn’t need to underfeed and overwork it in order to feel my best. This overflowed into my mind as well, as my internal dialogue began to change. Rather than feel that the worth I had as an individual was scarce without action, I began to believe that I had an abundance of worth for simply existing. Instead of being afraid of failure, opposition, or judgement, I began to exercise flexibility in recognizing that I don’t have to know and understand everything. Or do everything right the first time – that there may not even be a “right” way to approach every situation. And with my body and mind finally in alignment, my soul felt peace as well. The dissonance that my intended motivation once had from the well-being of my soul finally began to dissipate.
And so, with this new mindset, I’ve decided to start doing things again. But this time, I recognize that my pursuit of loving, educating, and empowering those around me must come from a far different place than it once did. It has to begin with embracing my own abundance in worth – rather than desperately grasping for it through actions in attempt to prove to others and myself that love is something I deserve. It starts with humbly acknowledging what I don’t know and putting myself in a position to learn. And it involves pursuing joy, for the sake of joy – regardless of if it “accomplishes” anything in the process.
This doesn’t disregard my desire to seek justice, and to live it out in every corner of life possible. It simply means that in my pursuit of justice, I have to ensure that I’m nurturing my body, mind, and soul at the same time.
To me, holistic wellness is more than a non-toxic skincare regimen, a new diet, or engaging in some fitness program. Pursuing holistic wellness is investing in that which encourages the flourishing of my body, my mind, and my soul. The wellbeing of all 3 aspects of myself are not independent of one another. Investing in wellness holistically means addressing mental and emotional health, asking spiritual questions that I need space to wrestle with, and experiencing joy in activities that very well may have no productive outcome.
Similarly, seeking justice needs to look different too. Pursuing socially conscious living implies that the entirety of my life is centered on building a world where all people flourish. It also implies that I not center my own ego in the process, in assuming that I am the solution to all of the world’s injustices. I’m one person working towards a solution, but I’m not the solution. In this season of life, working towards a more just world looks like questioning the social impact of my consumption habits, but still finding joy in the process by expressing myself through my ethical fashion journey. I acknowledge that sustainable living won’t fix the world, or it’s unjust systems. But I also acknowledge that I’m human, with limitations, and beginning this journey by questioning the integrity of something as simple as the clothing I wear, is better than letting fear of failure stop me from beginning at all.
So in this space, exploring holistic wellness and socially conscious living may take the form of health-related blogposts, or ethical fashion reviews. But I hope what is communicated in the content I create reaches far deeper than product marketing or discussing wellness for the sake of its trendy nature. My motivation in this little corner of the internet I occupy, is to explore the inseparable nature of holistic wellness and just living. It’s to confess that hey, I’m new to this too. And I know just as little about these topics as anyone else, but let’s learn about it, imperfectly, together. And it’s to inspire those of you who are along for the ride; that this journey in pursuing a world where all people flourish is not impossible, but will undoubtedly take a regular self-check and a whole lot of intentional self-care. It’s a tricky balance of self-love and selfless-love that is nearly impossible to “achieve,” but I believe it is well-worth the journey of constantly pursuing.