We give our energy away all too easily and often without realising it until it’s too late.
There are so many ways in which we use the finite amount of energy we have on thought patterns, people, behaviours and choices that don’t serve us. From comparing ourselves to others and giving attention to ‘energy vampires’, to rumination and self-sabotage, we are experts at wasting our energy.
As human beings, we create energy by metabolising the food we eat. We are all pretty clear these days on the general ways in which we can optimise this energy – eating well, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and managing stress effectively. However, we don’t often stop and think about the ways in which we undermine ourselves by wasting the precious energy we create on things that don’t fulfil us.
As a holistic leadership coach, there are the most common ways I see people wasting their energy and my tips on how to curb these tendencies as you set yourself up for success in 2024.
1. Comparison Mode
Comparing yourself to others can be a source of motivation and growth but more often than not it makes you feel envious, inadequate and self-doubting. I’m sure you’ve had that experience of seeing an instagram post that instantaneously changes the way you think and feel about yourself. Just like that, you start focusing on what you don’t have and waste your energy thinking of all the ways you don’t match up.
To curb this reality of life, especially in the age of social media, you need to have a strong self-awareness practice and an ability to challenge the negative thought patterns that arise. Shift your focus to your own strengths and progress. Remind yourself of what is important to you and that what you see in front of you is never the full picture (or a completely truthful picture in the first place). Be grateful for what you do have and list out the top things you are grateful for in your mind right then and there. Finally, consider reframing the comparison into a learning experience – what could you learn from this person that can help you grow in the direction that is authentic to you?
2. Energy Vampires & People Who Don’t Reciprocate
Energy vampires are people who drain and deplete you with their constant negativity, victimising, drama, self-centeredness and need for attention. These people may not be immediately obvious to you since they are often adept at manipulation and gas-lighting. With energy vampires it’s crucial to establish healthy boundaries and limit interactions to protect your own wellbeing and prioritise self-care to restore your energy. Using empathy to understand the root causes of their behaviour and learning to communicate clearly with them is important. These kinds of relationships can be nuanced and complex so make sure you get support from friends, family or a professional as you need.
Then there are those people who you want to give your energy to but for whatever reason they don’t reciprocate or appreciate it. They may not be intentionally wasting your energy but they are all the same. It is up to you to be honest with yourself that maybe this relationship or friendship isn’t serving you and it may be time to let go. By creating space, it may make the other person realise their lack of effort and give them a chance to bring renewed energy to the relationship.
Rumination is a repetitive and intrusive thought pattern that, when the focus is negative, can cause distress and be a significant waste of energy. When you ruminate you are usually fixating on past mistakes, perceived personal shortcomings and what others might think of you. Not only is the thought pattern itself energy intensive but its self-perpetuating nature can lead to chronic anxiety, stress and insecurity.
Meditation is the most powerful technique to curb rumination as it teaches you to observe your thoughts and let them pass without engaging with them. Consciously focusing yourself on a task that requires concentration is also an effective way to break out of rumination. And don’t hesitate to talk with a professional as they can empower you to effectively manage your negative thought patterns.
4. Perfectionism & Procrastination
It can be beneficial to have high standards in work and life but when a focus on quality and excellence crosses over into perfectionism, your precious energy quickly becomes wasted on your fear of failure. Perfectionism is a tendency to relentlessly pursue perfection (whatever that is) at any cost – the cost usually being your own wellbeing and happiness. The biggest waste of energy comes when you start inevitably beating yourself up for not living up to your own unrealistic expectations.
Procrastination is similar in that it is also often driven by a fear of failure. When you procrastinate you avoid important tasks and waste your energy on meaningless activities or things that aren’t a priority.
To manage these tendencies you need to set realistic goals as well as milestones within your goals so you can focus on one small task at a time. It’s also important to cultivate self-compassion and support yourself like you might support a child or friend – show yourself the same love and encouragement you would show them.
Perfectionism is a sign you have a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. A growth mindset is crucial to sustainable progress and long-term success so look to consistently reframe what you perceive as mistakes as learning opportunities.
5. People Pleasing
People pleasing is a self-sabotaging tendency that is driven by a fear of rejection and a desire for acceptance and belonging. People-pleasing is not a character trait but rather a learned behaviour. People pleasers have difficulty in saying no, dealing with conflict and often feel responsible for managing the emotions of those around them which in turn depletes their own energy.
People pleasers need to learn how to inherently value themselves as much as they value others. A good place to start is giving yourself permission to set boundaries and to experiment with ways to communicate ‘no’ that still feels empathetic and considerate.
People pleasers usually have core values of connection, kindness and some form of altruism. It is paramount that as a people pleaser, you strive to operate from your values instead of your fears – this will turn any people-pleasing tendencies into healthy acts of love and compassion that don’t neglect yourself. Get clear on what thoughts and feelings drive you to self sabotage and try to be as self-aware as possible as these default behaviours often happen without us even realising.