The Tyranny of Self-Imposed Obligation
I love vacations! Vacations give us the chance to step outside of our routines and the everyday demands of our lives. Here’s a quick list of the things I don’t do on vacation.
Instead, here are the things that I do on vacation.
Just writing about vacation and visualizing myself there fills my body with tranquillity. The familiarity of our everyday routines can create the illusion of peace, but it lacks the serenity that accompanies time without obligation.
My last vacation was with my family in January. It was a lovely trip, and we knew it would be one of a fleeting few remaining with my older daughter starting college this fall. After her departure a few weeks ago, I realized that I needed a vacation. Mentally, I was exhausted. Reading my social media feeds was draining my energy instead of fueling my creativity. It was a struggle to write and develop content for my business. So I permitted myself to take a digital break. I stopped writing my blog. I limited my engagement on social media, personally and professionally. I didn’t attend my weekly networking groups on zoom.
My original plan was for a single week. My father was in town to help me with a home renovation project, so the timing was perfect. But the next week, I was still on the struggle bus. Every internal push met a mental shrug and sigh. My vacation was not finished.
As I examined my internal struggle regarding my hiatus from virtual communication channels, I asked myself some tough questions about my commitments to myself and my business. I am selective about the obligations I assume because fulfilling my commitments to the best of my abilities is one of my core values. I realized that posting regularly, engaging with others’ posts, creating new content, etc. were tasks that I’d accepted and could also refuse.
In its truest definition, an obligation has an ethical or moral context. Clearly, electronic engagement doesn’t meet this definition. Instead, content generation and attention are functions of business development. As business owners, we do these things to gain exposure to our target audiences, build awareness about our services, and build relationships with others in the business community. We benefit from these things and the free platforms that we use benefit from our activity. I like when businesses value customer loyalty, and at some level, appreciate that this is what social media is doing when they increase the exposure of their most consistent users.
However, many people feel shackled by the demands of maintaining an active social media presence. In my view, consistent engagement on electronic business channels is a throttle that we all have the power to adjust. We can allow them to rule us as dictators or exert our free and independent will. When we allow the judgments of others to shape our narrative about ourselves, we enslave ourselves.
So, if you too are feeling burnout from the demands of maintaining your digital presence, make your own list of all the things you gain from taking a vacation. Allow your mind and body to reconnect with the tranquility you experience when you disconnect. And then give yourself permission to take the vacation from your digital life that you have earned.
You have power and voice in this relationship. You don’t have to buy into the fear-driving narrative that keeps you compliant with the demands of a business partner who will never stop asking for more from you. The only person who can release you from this grind is YOU, so just let it go.