I’m excited to be interviewing the lovely author Tayeba Abdur-Rahman, author of The Brink of Burnout: How to take back control of your work life and stop living for the weekend. It’s a self-help manual for recovering overachievers who are working themselves to the bone (does anyone else recognize themselves in the title!?)
Tayeba is a Londoner born and raised, however, she is currently splitting her time between London and Singapore (her husband is from Singapore).
She has a BSc (Hons) Medical Biochemistry from Brunel University and an MA Medical Anthropology from SOAS. And while she put her degrees to good use, her years in an overwhelming work environment left her feeling ‘off’.
“I was functioning, but not fully living my life and that felt suffocating and disorientating,” Tayeba explains. Her own experiences sparked her desire to get into burnout coaching.
“I’d personally suffered for a long time with burnout but didn’t even know there was a name for it at the time,” Tayeba shares. “It wasn’t until I left that work environment altogether and moved out to a different country that I had the headspace and time to reflect on what had actually happened to me. Through research, I realized that I had been suffering from burnout.”
So Tayeba decided to write a book!
Tayeba knew she wasn’t the only one, so she was inspired to share what she’d learned and practiced with all the others who felt the same way she had!
“I found that while information is plentiful, seeing how it could relate to my own life experiences [could be] eye-opening,” Tayeba explains. “I’d found ways of coping with burnout that actually worked and knew that I had to share.”
How Does Burnout Happen?
After reading through her book, two points that Tayeba made about accountability really hit me.
One is that the people who get burnt tend to get burnt out over and over again. The second that stuck with me was that this is due, in part, to having different boundaries than others.
Tayeba explains, “When I talk about boundaries, I’m referring to our personal limits of what is and isn’t acceptable to us. When burnout happens, it’s because we either forget or don’t feel strong enough to reinforce the boundaries that we are comfortable with. We allow others to impinge on our space, our energy resources, and our time when we don’t follow through with what we say we want or believe.”
Tayeba also explains that what we really want, are often things that we can’t, or won’t admit to others, or even ourselves! For example, we may say we want to be helpful and ease others burdens, but what we really want is to feel valued and significant. In cases like that, we find ourselves saying yes to more work or responsibilities when we’re actually struggling with what we already have!
“The more we take on without the emotional and physical resources, the more burnt out we get,” Tayeba explains, “The cycle repeats as long as we seek to find our own value and significance in others. Often that’s because deep down what we say we want is not actually what we really want.”
The Link Between Burnout and Trauma
In The Brink of Burnout, Tayeba also made an observation that for those who experienced emotional trauma at an early age, “burning out” can be a byproduct of a deep compulsion to prove themselves.
This is because we are at our most vulnerable and impressionable in childhood: it’s where we first experience the world and how actions and reactions work.
“Our parents smile at us when we make a cute noise, so soon we associate making that cute noise with pleasing our parents. As we got older, the same compulsion to prove that we are significant and worthy of love gets ingrained in us.”
“After all,” Tayeba explains, “We’ve learned that safety and security are in belonging to the group, and that stays with us throughout our lives. Sometimes there is no big traumatic event in childhood, but rather it’s the culmination of years of trying to please or impress a parent, caregiver or sibling, that creates that deep compulsion.”
“In my case,” Tayeba shares, “it was always stressed by my parents that I should study hard, get into uni and become a professional of some sort. I used to love watching ‘Casualty’ when us kids were allowed to watch tv on Saturday and actually did want to become a doctor – but my parents latched onto that and it became set in stone.”
“I was to become a doctor.”
“Not to mention that I was around 10 at the time and also wanted to be a paramedic, a journalist and a writer! Thus, almost every interaction or decision at school was based on will this help me to become a doctor and make my parents happy!”
“Like many kids, I didn’t think to question it or express my other interests,” Tayeba shares. “But I didn’t make it into Medicine or Dentistry. I honestly didn’t want it badly enough to do the work required (not to mention the 7+ years of study no-one told me about!), but the compulsion was still there to make mum and dad happy. I thought the only way to do that would be to do a related degree, hence the Medical Biochemistry and Medical Anthropology I went on to study later.”
On the Self-Publishing Process
“I loved the total freedom you get with deciding to write a book,” Tayeba shares. “For once there wasn’t anyone telling me I needed to do this or that. I could explore what I wanted to explore and include or discard the parts that didn’t excite me.”
For example, there is a whole chapter on Anthropology in there that Tayeba geeked out researching, fully in her flow and loving it.
Writing and publishing a book has a very steep learning curve, but learning is one of Tayeba’s strengths. For her, self-publishing was a positive and fulfilling challenge.
“Because it was all new to me and outside of my comfort zone, I felt stretched and challenged in a positive way,” Tayeba shares. “I was working towards something that I’d dreamed about.”
Tayeba found an excellent editor and he really tightened up her writing and flow, without losing her voice and tone. She also self-published on the Amazon platform which she feels has the power to open many doors and conversations.
“There are no more gatekeepers and hoops to jump through when you self-publish,” Tayeba shares. “Knowing this valuable book was getting into the hands of the women I wanted to support was the cake, but hitting #1 on several international Amazon bestseller lists was really the icing on the cake!”
But there were a few challenges as well. Perfectionism and self-judgment crept in.
“I completed the book quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed much of the research and writing phase. But when the time came to hit ‘publish’ I chickened out! Releasing my book baby to the world for others to consume was difficult,” Tayeba shares. “But for every potential critique, there’s a potential life-changing transformation. The message was bigger than my feelings of judgment, so getting over that hump was necessary.”
Her only regret is not doing it sooner!
“That’s probably the hardest lesson, procrastinating on writing a book in the first place. I realized that once I got started and committed to the process, I learned valuable lessons about who I am and what I’m capable of and I also inspired other women who have powerful messages to share.”
Tayeba’s advice to everyone: If you have a message you want to share with others, don’t keep it to yourself!
Tayeba’s Work Coaching and Training Others
In her coaching, Tayeba helps burnt out women transform from powerless to empowered and beautifully thriving at work. Tayeba aims to be a catalyst for people to make their own transformations. As a burnout coach, she provides the context and the parameters for her coachees to explore the issues that are most pressing for them.
“It’s less training, and more co-creation,” Tayeba shares. “They realize, through my guidance, that they have more control and strength than they think they do.”
Tayeba focuses on this transformation because once a woman recognizes just how powerful she is, she can change her world in an instant.
“It’s so worth it when I see a woman who previously thought something was beyond her, get that ‘aha’ moment when she realizes that she can do it,” Tayeba shares.
How to Beat Burnout
Tayeba’s concise advice on beating burnout for good is twofold:
1 – “Remember, you are people too! Treat yourself with as much respect, care and attention as you give to others. You’ll find that you are supported, no matter what is going on around you.”
2 – “People can only push you as far as you’re willing to let them. You are a lot stronger than you think you are. Respect your boundaries, care for your body and mind, and pay attention to what you surround yourself with.”
On the Horizon!
The remainder of 2018 for Tayeba will be dedicated to working with burnt out professionals through her coaching program, Renew You. It’s a four-week online course consisting of:
- Three weeks of in-depth personalized training on discovering one’s true identity.
- Uncovering and rewiring any non-supportive mindsets and burnout recognition with group coaching support.
- A one-day intense virtual workshop on recovering and preventing burnout.
To join her, visit https://thebrinkofburnout.com/renewyou/
You can also pick up a copy of her new book On the Brink of Burnout, on Amazon. Early 2019 looks like another burnout book to be published as well – this time for the entrepreneurs!
Thank you for sitting down with me Tayeba! It was lovely to get to know you better!
Do you have any questions about burnout for Tayeba? Let us know in the comments below!