What I Learned About What Caused My Burnouts

Even after the flame is doused, they leave a mark

Nicole Sudjono
8 min readJul 7, 2023
Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

In 2022, I admitted to being burned out bad from the hustle culture, and recovering from it is still not easy. Even to this day, I’m still somewhat recovering.

As time flies, all the things that carried me away that led me to burnout just became wind to me.

Most are not authentic or long-term achievements that I needed in my life and career, and most are not how I picture myself to be. It’s not to say I don’t follow trends anymore, it’s more to see what’s going on and then I left.

As I’m writing this, I’m still somewhat exhausted from nearly everything and it actually caused one of my passion projects to just burst into flames and I abandoned it in the end. I feel bad about it, but what can I do?

Even I find myself being a lot more introverted than I used to be. Friends begin to notice that I stayed at home way more often.

“You used to get out, Nicole. What’s going on?”

“I’m just exhausted,” I’d reply.

Because I am.

It’s exhausting when your expectation did not meet reality. It’s exhausting that some of your work just didn’t work out. It’s exhausting that people don’t understand your situation. It’s exhausting that you need more breaks after being emotionally and physically drained.

But life goes on. Time waits for no men.

While recovering, I wrote in my diary the way I feel and my remorse about how I failed and what I should’ve done. It sounds pathetic, but I really needed it. It was a balm to help me think better and accept that I had done my best.

And while reflecting on my post-burnouts, there are several things I learned that caused me to burn out.

Trends — the free ticket to non-stop rides

I used to be a die-hard FOMO fan. Any trends that show up on social media, I’d eat them up.

I did this because I wanted to make my mark in the world. I was young and trying to find my way in the job market. It’s not easy with high competition, but what else can I do? So I did what I had to do.

When I joined trend after trend, they just keep coming. I was so invested to learn more about it that I would blindly just follow anything that shows up without thinking, in this case, I joined the hustle culture trend.

I kept going until I was mentally and physically drained and my plans were all down the drain.

And that’s when I decided to call it quits when my physical and mental health were rotting.

As I let the trends slip by and let the words be wind, I noticed something about trends.

And that is, trends come and go.

New ones will always replace the old ones, they go viral real quick and just die fast too.

This was how I managed to stay off the trend. I still follow them, but it’s only to know what’s been going on. I just let the hype train miss me.

The Creeping Voices of Self-Doubt

Our best and worst judge is ourselves. Who better know you than yourself?

“You’re not good enough.” Who says this better than yourself?

I used to do this too. It was hard to just let words be words when I was fresh out of college, I’m guilty of punishing myself by working harder if I haven’t finish something. I never really rewarded myself except for sleep. I just want to make my mark in the world, but it’s a lot harder than expected with all the responsibilities piling up and following the advice of amateur online gurus.

And before I knew it, I was already in a rabbit hole of self-help. Blindly following their ‘rules’ of success until I get what I wanted, even though I didn’t really understand what I really wanted.

If I haven’t gotten what I wanted, I’d always criticize myself to work harder and find another way.

It’s draining to do this for two years straight and with little or vague guidance online, doing this by yourself is hard. Even when I ask for assistance, people didn’t really understand what I was doing or their advice was pretty much the same: “Work harder”.

Well, that’s helpful, I thought to myself.

And when things got toxic in the world of ‘always stay positive’, I had to step out of the acid and re-evaluate.

It took me a long time to not be too harsh to myself and reduce the punishment of working harder. It wasn’t doing me any good to work on something without a better strategy.

That’s when I also had to step away from the self-help.

Most self-help books are basically project papers

Don’t get me wrong, this is not to acknowledge how hard people work on writing a book. Heck, writing an article takes a while. I’m still grateful for all the books I’ve read so far to let me re-think about my life.

But I can’t help but feel that most of these books are better off written here than to book. Most are really just pointers and bullet points written by authors you don’t really know.

Self-help is a big industry. People dig up anything to be someone better, and some unknown writer can write a self-help book and spew the same thing that other authors wrote, and publish them online.

I began to resent self-help books when most turned toxic to me. They are the reason why I charged blindly without thinking. All these fake gurus on social media giving false hope and constant motivation they found online have irked me a lot to the point I took a break from social media.

When self-help began to irk me, that’s when I turned to people who actually wrote a book through their experience and shared their wisdom with them.

I find all the famous and successful people who wrote their experiences in their books to know that not all advice works. And that we are not living in a black-and-white world.

At the moment, I’m reading fiction books. I find them a lot more realistic about life lessons. I suppose the authors placed pieces of their experience in their books.

A fantastical goal

Just like everyone else, I used to be sucked into the rabbit hole of being my own boss at a young age.

I mean come on, when you got the media presenting to you about 30 under 30, you can’t help but think that you want to be part of the party too.

And that’s the other thing that caused my burnout, by setting up a fantasy that I thought I could get: Get rich quickly.

The goals are the ones you’d hear a lot:

“I want to be rich!”
“I want to be my own boss!”
“I want unlimited vacations and do whatever I want!”

Yea, I was that naive. And even this platform pushes this kind of topic too, and many authors wrote articles “How I got $5000 in a month by just writing” “How to get Rich”, and so on and so forth.

If someone can do it fast, why can’t you?

That’s what I thought too.

And their formulas were always the same:

  1. Work Hard
  2. Write everyday

It’s not wrong though. During the grinds, I was writing every day and thanks to that, I had enough portfolio for me to move my career.

But back then, my goal was to make enough money so I can ‘be my own boss’ kind of thing. That didn’t work out, but it got me to switch careers.

Was I devastated? Of course! Because I wanted to achieve that unrealistic goal, and when I realized I couldn’t, I was upset.

It took me a while to finally accept that that kind of get-rich-quick stuff is unrealistic, and that was in the midst of burnout.

Beware of the snake charm online

“Everyone’s a wh*re, Grace. We just sell different parts of ourselves.” — Thomas Shelby, Peaky Blinders

First of all, I do not hate everything on social media. In fact, it’s thanks to social media that I was able to get the opportunity to switch careers and obtain better advice after asking the right questions.

But other than that, everything else is marketing.

Somewhere out there, there’s a company that approached an influencer asking them to market their products. The influencer said ‘yes’, said a couple of things on their social media, and earned a couple hundred dollars, and that’s it.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong. It’s not wrong. That’s how to get brand awareness, to get people to know about you. That’s advertising, it’s been around for decades.

What I’m saying is that I’ve come to a point where I’m not under the spell of the charms of sweet words of influencers.

This is not to say that I’m dissing the influencers, I applaud them for being able to get those followers (assuming they didn’t buy bots to boost their accounts).

But I’m just at a point where I won’t buy the materials unless I really need them.

I used to be influenced to buy certain crypto coins or affiliate marketing products to the point that I nearly emptied my wallet. Thank God I was able to stop myself from going down that path.

So now, every time I see advertisements, I’d scroll away fast. At least I know its name, and that’s it.

My go-to now is word of mouth and checking other people’s reviews when I’m comparing products.

And I checked my wallet if I still have available cash for the money.

And whether I really need the product.

Thanks to that, I was able to spend less than I wanted to this year.

Dousing the flames

I feel like I’m still somewhat recovering from all these burnouts.

Thankfully my job didn’t require me to stay up all night. There were times I had to work at night, but there was a good cause behind which I’m happy to accomplish it.

When I put meaning to it, I felt a lot more satisfied to work on it rather than just blindly working on them without thinking.

Giving reasons to rest is a lot easier now. I used to criticize myself for resting when I could’ve used my time to do something. But I find that when I rest, I got better ideas to work on too.

So all in all, I’m less harsh on myself. There are still the reins to make me work, but I’m glad the whip is somewhat not in the picture as often as before.

So what now?

Honestly, I don’t really know what lies ahead of me. I’m still, in my own way, recovering from burnout, balancing work and rest.

There’s still so much I want to accomplish. Industries I want to try working at, learning new things, and exploring what I’m capable of. I’m still open to new ideas while still making money.

The ‘getting rich’ part is still subjectable to be discussed, but I’m still doing what I can to make a decent amount of money too. Enough to survive, enough for leisure, and enough for my future and family.

I’m still doing what I can to make a living. But one thing for sure is that I’m not going to blindly put both feet into something random again.