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There’s Nothing Nice About Burning Out — Three Ways to Overcome it Now

There’s Nothing Nice About Burning Out — Three Ways to Overcome it Now

Secure your oxygen mask before helping others.

How many times have you heard this simple instruction? Even if you aren’t on an airplane very often, I bet you know it well. And yet, something happens when you step off the plane and into everyday life. Somehow the meaning behind the instruction get’s reversed, and before you know it you’re helping everyone else secure their masks before you even think to look for yours.

The oxygen mask metaphor brilliantly uncovers why this is particularly true for women, our desire to serve, to be helpful, but most of all to be nice. In an effort to do all of these things throughout every aspect of life, women aren’t securing their oxygen masks and there is a steep price to pay. Burn out. Of the fifty percent of the American workforce that is burnt out, women make up the majority. If one of those women is you, it’s time to reevaluate how the desire to be nice is driving you to burn out.

[Related: Derail Your Burnout Before it Derails You]

So, why aren’t putting your mask on first?

Nice girls are rewarded. Selfish girls aren’t.

The nice girl upbringing comes with a very different message than that of the FAA. Nice girls are brought up to put everyone else’s mask on first. To take care of others before they take care of themselves. To serve others. To help others. To sacrifice.

You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself first.

You can’t give if you have nothing to give. The nice girl tendency is to give at the detriment of your well being. This pattern comes with incredibly high costs. Working to live up to the expectations of others instead of figuring out what you really want. Lifting others up, leaving little energy to lift yourself up. Helping others meet their needs, without properly voicing your own. Putting your dreams on hold to support someone else in achieving their dream.

Being too “nice” puts you at risk for burning out.

While niceness isn’t a cause of burnout, there is a correlation between how “nice” you are and your likelihood of burning out. This correlation lies in the misconception that taking care of yourself isn’t nice. That somehow depleting yourself while serving others is virtuous.

If you’ve burnt out, you’ve learned the hard way that there is no glory, reward or virtue in having your light go out. Just as there is no reward for helping others get their oxygen masks on only for you to expire.

Here are three steps you can take to reverse burnout and ditch the nice girl tendencies that led you there.

1. Learn what is oxygen to you.

Beyond actual air, the answer is different for each of us. Spend dedicated time observing what people, places and things in your life are as vital as the air you breathe.

What happens to your energy and emotional state of being when you are deprived of them?

[Related: Beyond Diets, Supplements, and Cleanses: The Business Woman's Guide to Healthy Living]

2. Prioritize your oxygen over everything else.

If your needs have fallen to the bottom of the list, this might be really tricky. Try scheduling daily appointments to engage in the activities or interact with the people who are vital to your wellbeing. Honor the time you set aside as you would if you had a meeting with the CEO of your organization.

3. Practice getting comfortable with disappointing others.

Nice girls love to please people, and as a reward are often asked to do more and more. The world doesn’t need more people pleasers. It especially doesn’t need a hoard of burnt out people pleasers.

So please, actively learn to start saying no to anything and everything that gets in the way of you putting your oxygen mask on. Flirt with becoming comfortable with letting people down, and start to recognize that it probably wasn’t your job anyway. 


Dana Campbell is a New York-based career strategy and burnout coach, yogi and stress resiliency expert. She inspires her clients to say no to stress, get unstuck and find work that is deeply fulfilling. Learn how to prevent and manage burnout  at

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.