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How to Stop Hiding at Work and Face Your Life
Technically, my work day ended at [4:00]. I’d finished with my last client of the day hours ago and all of my work tasks were done. I was just catching up on Netflix as the clock moved closer to 6. I could have gone home hours ago except my husband was home and I was pissed at him.
We hadn’t been getting along and every attempt at working things out was a series of fits and starts with more fits than starts. Going home had very little appeal. It was just easier to stay later at work. Again.
Sometimes, we do it consciously. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it but either way, we are running away from home.
We’re hiding from and avoiding conflict, tension, disappointment, boredom or unhappiness. Whatever it is we’re trying to dodge lives there and at work, we’re safer.
Things are organized, more predictable, and far less emotional.
And that’s when the numbing begins.
We start to tune out. We don’t pay attention to ourselves, our feelings, or our relationships. We give our relationships less and less attention and use work as a convenient excuse or alibi. Suddenly, what starts out as a convenient way to avoid an irritant becomes an ingrained way of managing difficult personal situations.
Luckily, I didn’t let it go too far or for too long. I did go home and my husband and I worked it out but every moment I was hiding in my office watching online TV was bringing me further away from him, our marriage, and the parts of my life that really mattered.
Are you running away from yourself or someone else?
When did you start hiding and avoiding home? Before you can get honest with anyone else, you have to get honest with yourself.
Take some time to think back on where it all began. If this is just another episode that is part of a larger pattern, get clear on that, too.
What’s the issue from where you stand? Are you just struggling with yourself and how you are feeling about something? Are you feeling disconnected or in conflict with someone you have a close relationship with?
How are you contributing to the problem? Any conversation, change, or pivot that needs to happen next will happen easier, if you can first own how your behavior is playing a role in whatever is going wrong. What are you doing, saying, not doing, or not saying that is contributing to whatever has gotten off course?
How are you feeling these days? I know that question is annoying. Not wanting to answer it is likely why you’ve been hiding and avoiding life. However, you’re still just in a conversation with yourself here and before you can be ready to tune back into someone else, you have to be willing to tune into yourself.
- Are you angry? Disappointed? Resentful? Frustrated? Scared? Lonely?
- How’s your energy these days? Do you feel like you have slowed down?
- How hopeful do you feel about your ability to turn things around?
- If someone else is involved in this and we’re talking about a relationship struggle, how in tune to it do you think your partner is? How aware are they that you are managing a problem?
What have you already tried?
Most people don’t go straight to skipping a problem. They usually try to talk about it or deal with it first.
- What have you already tried? What was the response? Where are you getting stuck in your efforts or in your communication?
- Why do you think you’re still hitting a roadblock? What’s getting in the way?
- If others are involved in this conflict or tension, what is the feedback you’re receiving? What are you hearing? What’s your response to it all?
Are you running on empty?
If your gas tank is empty and you are quarter past done, you are going to be really limited in your ability to move, change, or pivot until you fill up your tank and it’s unlikely that you will find your “gas station” in the parking lot of your office.
Take care of yourself. Numbing out is a short term fix, not a long term solution. Take some time to really catch your breath. Catch up on your sleep. Spend some time doing the things that light you up and with people that give you energy.
Do you really want to fix things?
Some people hide at work when they are just avoiding the ending, change, or pivot all together. They aren’t looking to fix things, go back, try again, or reconnect. They know they are done and they are just avoiding telling themselves, or someone else, that truth.
You can’t rebuild until you first walk away. Whatever proverbial walk we are talking about, be it a personal change, professional change, or change in a relationship, you have to fully walk away before you have the freedom to begin again. Otherwise, you’re standing still, sitting on go, and watching your life go on with you taking an active role in it.
It’s time to use that turn signal and pivot. Make the change, have the hard conversation, get the answers to tough questions. Choose to move.
If your struggle is a professional one, this article might help.
If you’re struggling personally with a lack of motivation, passion, or direction, the above exercise hopefully gave you some direction and ideas on where to find your fulfillment outside of your office.
A sample script for a hard conversation:
If you are having a tough time in a personal relationship, use the above exercise to put it all together to tell the person what you want them to think. Find a neutral time and start to open up:
Hey, I have to be honest with you about something. I have a confession of sorts, if you will. You’ve probably noticed that I have been spending more and more time at the office and the truth is, I haven’t actually had to be working that long. To be honest, it’s just been easier than dealing with this tension between us.
I’ve been avoiding us and you and I feel bad about that. I’m running away from home and away from the problem, rather than towards you and the solution. I know that isn’t fair and isn’t the answer. I just didn’t know what else to do.
I’ve been feeling_________ because____________.
Then, I got frustrated because I tried ____________ and it didn’t work so I just gave up. I know I’ve only made things harder by________. I am sorry about that, too.
I really think we need a do-over here. Can we talk? Try again? I really want to listen to you and hear what’s going on for you. I hope, too, that you can listen to me cuz clearly, not talking, is not working.
Running away never really solves anything. I know you know this. Instead, start talking and walk closer toward the life you want and the fulfillment you are seeking.