How do we become workaholics? The roots are many but mostly from our early identity formation. My workaholic journey began in my teens. Just before entering high school, my family moved from an urban industrial multiracial working-class city to a laid-back middle class suburban community. The cultural shock knocked my identity off its foundation. To fit in, I unwittingly became a people pleasing overachiever.
There are upsides to hard work and high achievements. But my story reveals the toxic side of this trait when it forms our identity.
As an insecure adolescent, I just wanted to be accepted but did not understand the power of identity. I never knew when or if I achieved acceptance. The unending search became an elusive carrot on a stick I could never catch, even after I became a Pastor. Few of us understand this mostly unconscious and interior formation, so a toxic one easily develops.
Balance is a leading indicator of a healthy identity. In my workaholic journey, no one saw how much I worked or could read my internal toxic identity map. To me, I thought it was all totally normal. Spoiler alert, identity is about who we are, not what we do. I would spend the next thirty years chasing this elusive carrot.
Three months before turning fifty, I landed in an emergency room from a life-threatening heart attack. I am grateful God spared me. My body finally had enough of the crazy and busy life without balance.
During my recovery, a Christian cardiologist looked at both aspects of my heart issue. He assured me he could mend and make heart healthy again. My internal identity that put me in his office would take another cure. The stress course and other good books helped me deconstruct a toxic and unhealthy identity. Counseling set me free to become a human being and not a human just doing.
Rebuilding my life around a healthy identity totally changed everything and every relationship. My family life, career and non-career avocations have all flourished. I’m more blessed in helping others. Identity and balance are necessary in your own life first to be more effective in serving others with theirs.