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Self-insight for success > When the going gets tough > Is BUSY the New Status Symbol?

Is BUSY the New Status Symbol?

By Galia Barhava-Monteith

I have noticed a peculiar shift – the socially acceptable answer to “how are you?” has mysteriously transformed from “well, thank you” to “I am soooooo busy”.  Of course, my tongue is firmly in my cheek, but nonetheless, I think it will ring true with many of you.

I used to think nothing of it when people told me they were “so busy”. I even used to envy them in a way; they must be so busy because they were really good at what they did, and that meant they were in such demand, and/or they must be so popular that everyone wanted them around!  I confess, I didn’t feel so busy myself, I felt things were good and interesting but didn’t feel run off my feet and so ‘in demand’ as those other people seemed to be.  It did make me feel somewhat inadequate!

But over time, people telling me how incredibly busy they were became boring.  Because you see, everyone is busy.  And I started noticing some differences in how people, and especially women, were approaching their state of being busy.

It struck me that some women I know, who are actually very busy, be it with huge jobs or big families, never say they’re busy, in fact, they seem to face life with grace and poise and just deal with stuff. In contrast, many of the women and men who proclaim being so-busy at any provided opportunity, didn’t, on objective assessment, really have as much going on in their lives; much of their ‘being busy’ was self-generated chaos.

So Why the Need to Be Busy?

Those super busy people don’t seem happier; they seem breathless and out of control, and they aren’t thriving or flourishing through their endless running around. So, I pondered, what drives this need to proclaim and portray this endless state of busy?

1. Status

Well, it worked on me for a while.  If you are busier than someone else, it could mean that you are more in demand, professionally, socially or whatever, ergo, you have more status.  I think this is a big motivator for many people who feel they are more important and by extension that others are less important simply by proclaiming they are busy.

2. Avoidance

If you are forever busy, running from one place to another, you don’t have time to stop and think and perhaps confront things that should be confronted in your life. This is part of why some people keep taking on more things, not giving themselves a chance to stop, take a breath and reflect on what’s actually going on.

3. Underestimating the importance of down time

There has been much research on the importance of sleep. It seems that we have commoditised sleep and underestimate its importance for our health and well-being.  The same applies to down time.  Super busy people seem to feel that every spare moment should be filled with something. If they have a 30 minutes gap, they’ll fill it with a networking coffee or a phone call. They will make back to back appointments at the weekend. And when you tell them that you’re doing ‘nothing’ they look at you as if you’ve arrived from Mars.

So Why Is Being Busy Not Good for You?

We all need time to reflect and process.  Throughout a painful personal health journey, I used all the tools I learnt from positive psychology and my yoga practice, and a lot of what I did was reflection, being present and mindful.  Because of my experience I believe it is extraordinarily important to re-assess yourself day to day so that you don’t ever get to that breathless state of being busy.  And my reasons are prosaic.

Your health and wellbeing

I was in perfect health when I was diagnosed with only a very subtle symptom.  It was tempting to carry on being ‘busy’ and hope it would just go away but I listened to people around me. It turned out that the symptom was a sign that something was wrong and, if left untreated, could lead to a serious situation.

If you are too busy to stop and reflect on what’s happening with you physically, emotionally, and mentally, how can you tell when some weird symptom should really be investigated before it becomes something a whole lot worse?

Our body needs us to pay attention to it rather than view it as a nuisance when something isn’t quite right and threatens to interfere with our ‘busy-ness’.

The health and wellbeing of those close to you

If you are forever running from place to place and thinking about the next thing on your list, how can you tell when your nearest and dearest aren’t thriving? That’s what strikes me the most about those people who are always busy – they are not aware of the impact their own busy-ness has on the people around them.  To know what is really going on with your partner and children you need time to be present and to actually take the mental space to reflect on what’s happening. So many teenagers who find themselves in very bad situations say they felt like their parents “weren’t paying attention” and weren’t actually there because they were too busy.  Kids and adults can be masters at hiding what is actually going on – and if you don’t take the time to really look, you will risk missing it.

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