How the Glorification of Busyness Impacts Our Well-Being

Couples Counseling Costa Mesa

Being excessively busy can get in the way of you living your best life

How many times have you started your day looking at a long to-do list, checking numerous emails, forecasting multiple appointments and obligations for the day and wondering how you are going to get it all done? Our world is busy and continues to place demands on our time like never before. We are often juggling responsibilities at work and at home, trying to find time to take care of ourselves and maybe even have fun once in a while. As much as we may complain about being busy, we seem to not be slowing down at all. What is the appeal of being busy and how might it be getting in the way of you living your best life?

So often we tend to view being busy as a badge of honor or a way to establish status and a sense of worth. This line of thinking tends to make sense in our society because, for the most part, it is still fairly individualistic and no one wants to feel like they are being left behind. We are wired for connection and want to not only belong but feel important, as if being perceived as important or needed better secures our connections with others.

What We Think of Ourselves

Living in the world means that we are interacting with others. From an early age, as we are learning about the world and how we fit into it, we begin to look at what others are doing as a point of reference.

Psychology Today describes social comparison theory as, “… determining our own social and personal self-worth based on how we stack up against others we perceive as somehow faring better or worse.”

As we go through various seasons of life we look around and, not only notice what others are doing, but place value and meaning to what we see. We then use this value and meaning to look at ourselves and what we’re doing to determine where we stand.

In our observations of the world around us, we might start to notice patterns of what seems to help people gain things like:

  • Status
  • Connection
  • Love
  • Value
  • Acceptance
  • Admiration
  • Power
  • Influence
  • Success
  • Accomplishment

As we notice these patterns, it is common to naturally incorporate that information into our narrative of who we are, who we want to be, or who we believe we are supposed to be. The values of society start to integrate with our development of values and tend to guide our decision making.

If our desire is to feel connected, successful, accepted and influential, then we are going to look and see what seems to work to help people achieve those things.

In our society, one of those behavior patterns we are likely to notice could include someone who is always on-the-go, overscheduled, and moving in a variety of directions at once. Naturally, our observations tell us that is what we should be doing as well if we want success, connection, acceptance, and influence.

What Others Think of Us

As a human being interacting with other human beings, it is fair to say that we are apt to consider what others think of us. Admittedly, we are looking around observing others and placing meaning and value to their behavior and assume others would be doing the same with us, observing our behavior and placing value to what they see us doing or not doing.

We learn that how we show up in the world seems to matter. If we have learned through our own social experiences that certain patterns of behavior, such as being extraordinarily busy and constantly on-the-go lead to being successful, connected and accepted by others, then we may find it appealing to engage in those behaviors.

Harvard researcher and professor Matthew Lieberman, Ph.D., studies the neuroscience of human connection and suggests that our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water. He states in his book, Social, “We intuitively believe social and physical pain are radically different kind of experiences yet the way our brains treat them suggests that they are more similar than we imagine.”

In other words, when we feel social pain, such as feeling judged or rejected, it matters to our mind, heart and our bodies. We want to avoid that kind of pain, so we do what we can to avoid having to experience it.

Being busy can possibly offer us a sense of assurance that we have secured a social place within our community. We see ourselves as plugged in, connected, and valued and assume other people likely see us the same way as we continue to demonstrate our excessively busy behavior.

However, the pain of rejection or disconnect that we are trying to avoid may not outweigh the pain we put our minds and bodies through by glorifying busyness and being constantly on-the-go.

Busy vs. Productive

Many of us have been in situations where we have gone through the day feeling extremely busy and overcommitted in our scheduling and obligations, yet look back on our day not feeling particularly productive.

Being busy and being productive can often be confused with one another. However, being productive means more than running around endlessly and feeling over-extended. Merriam-Webster defines the word productive as, “Yielding results, benefits or profits.” Essentially, it means that we have something to show for our hard work. Being busy has to do with an amount of time, where productivity has more to do with our use of time.

Remember why you are taking better control over your time and keep the big picture in mind. Managing time and ridding yourself of excessive busyness is likely about connecting with friends and family, taking care of your physical health, and living with more peace and joy. Remind yourself of those things as you determine where to set boundaries. It is not so much about saying no to the person in front of you as it is about saying yes to yourself and the people who mean the most to you.

By Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP, Reviewed by a board-certified physician

Patrice Hooke, LMFT uses practical honest feedback and focus on the strengths of my clients to help them reach their goals. I believe that with honesty, compassion and understanding, we can all find healing and have a more fulfilling life. She is especially passionate about couples counseling Costa Mesa.