The Body and Workaholic Women

Quiet Quitting

There’s been a lot of chatter recently about “quiet quitting”–the act of putting in minimal effort and enthusiasm in one’s job. Whether these quiet quitters are readjusting their commitment to their jobs to healthier levels, or they’re apathetically disengaging, it’s not yet clear. I suspect it’s a combination of both.

I commend and celebrate anyone who is “quiet quitting” for their own mental well-being. But trends like these have little positive impact on women who’ve been programmed to operate from an underlying belief that their self-worth comes through achievement or being perfect. Such women are much less likely to make a seemingly simple decision to “quiet quit” to bring more balance to their work and personal lives.

Women who have impulsive overworking tendencies face a much taller hurdle to jump than someone whose self-worth is unconditional. They suffer from a lifelong patterning of workaholism and overextending themselves.

I am a recovering perfectionist and workaholic. I have driven my body into the ground to the point of injury and chronic pain multiple times. I have ignored my loved ones when they needed me most. My suffering isn’t an indication that I’m a thoughtless, cruel human being. I was conditioned from a young age to pursue my worth in the form of knowledge, achievement, and being “good.” My insecurities of worthlessness, ignorance, and wrongfulness were deeply imbedded into my unconscious mind-body, and have manifested themselves through my behavior, impulses, beliefs, and physical patterns.

Differences in the Body

Because I love to challenge common notions, I argue that overworking isn’t necessarily limited to someone who stays late or goes in early to their job, nor that the problem only happens in the workplace. You can overwork within a 40-hour work week, and you can certainly overextend yourself in how you show up in other obligations outside your job. Women who have an inherent need to prove their worth through their actions will find one avenue or another to drive and direct all of that energy–regardless of the pressure from the environment.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I experienced the impact of overworking in a 40-hour-a-week job where I never worked more than 40 hours a week. And yet I still suffered from mental exhaustion and burnout because I approached my work with tremendous intensity for every minute of those 40 hours. I was hyper focused, didn’t taking breaks, worked through lunch, and chronically armored my muscles in a rigid body. It had a profound, vast, and very negative impact on my mental and physical health.

As an HSP, I also became rattled and overwhelmed when there was more work than could actually be done in a 40-hour work week, even though my superiors insisted that it was okay that I didn’t complete all of it. Knowing that did nothing for my body.

Some women are able to work over 40 hours a week and still maintain their well-being. It’s an individual difference, and I highlight my own experience to say that you can be overworked in your body for different reasons across different scenarios.

“Women have such potential to bring into the world a totally new insight into the cyclical pattern of life. But if they keep trying to run that straight line of perfection and performance, the body catches up with them. And the body will only be outraged for so long before it takes revenge.”

Marion Woodman

Factoring in the Body

Women who struggle with overworking, struggle with it on a cellular level–at the level of the body, not just the mind.

Overworking is an addiction, and it’s hard to quit. But unlike other addictions, such as substance abuse, where it’s clear that you’ve relapsed (just one sip of alcohol), overworking is much harder to measure. Overcoming this kind addiction requires inner work at the level of the psychological and physical body.

If you’re a woman who struggles with compulsively overextending yourself, and you have reached a breaking point—which literally might mean that your mind or body feels like it’s being broken—you have mounting evidence that you cannot sustainably continue living this way. Your relationships may be suffering. You may be experiencing physical pain. You probably feel detached and disconnected from your body and emotions. You’re likely exhausted, or even angry and frustrated.

There’s a good chance that you feel guilt or shame for the areas of your life that you’ve neglected out of your impulsive need to perform, succeed, or perfect yourself or your work. This is a critical moment for you, because self-judgment and shame can send you into an unhelpful spiral that takes you further away from your true Self–where you are already whole, perfect, and worthy.

Daily Mind-Body Practice

The road to transformation is a journey of the mind and body.

The physical manifestation of your overworking tendencies cannot be unlinked from how you show up on a mental or psychological level. On the physical level, women who operate from a belief that they have something to prove (either to themselves or to others), will often show up in life with all of their energy concentrated in the front of their body. In other words, you live, occupy, and reside in the front of your body, while neglecting the inside and back body. In the sense that you orient yourself forwards in how you pursue your achievements or how you try to perfect yourself, your work, or your environment, you may also literally have a tendency to lean forwards or perpetually posture yourself as though preparing for the next action.

In the process of ignoring the rest of your body, the ignored parts can become numb and wanting for attention. The front of your body may feel braced, tight, or rigid. Noticing how you occupy your whole body is a part of your embodied transformation.

A movement practice can have a profound impact on how you explore and occupy your full body. Many women spend a lot of time and money on dis-embodied exercise. Embodied movement in itself can be life-changing.

Start by observing how you lead with your physical body moment-by-moment in your daily life. If you find that you feel most active in the front of your body, explore what it feels like to be in your back body. To connect how your physical body connects with your mind, begin to ask yourself what belief is associated with each part of your body where you notice a concentration of energy. If you clench your jaw, for instance, what story or belief relates to that holding pattern? How has that belief protected you and limited you?

When you find yourself caught in a tension-holding pattern, practice the movement and posturing of surrender for a moment. Relax your muscles, allowing yourself to slouch, let go, and yield to the present moment. Notice how your thoughts and beliefs shift. Practicing this exercises several times each day will contribute to an embodied transformation–releasing rigidity from the body and changing your self-beliefs.

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