Opt-Out of Hard Work

May 2, 2022

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I'm Kelley — licensed therapist, burnout expert, and host of the Black Girl Burnout podcast. I encourage black women to opt out of struggle and opt into our legacy of joy and accomplishment. Join me!

Meet Kelley


Today, we are going to talk about opting out of hard work. Specifically, we are going to talk about what I mean when I say “hard work”. We are also going to cover why some types of hard work can be considered toxic. Our goal is to align with doing things that in a manner that flow and bring ease into your daily life. In the past we have discussed toxic hustle culture, which is the belief that you’ve got to grind, you’ve got to push, you’ve got to force yourself to do things. Unfortunately, so much of that messaging keeps us opting into struggle, right? It keeps us always pushing ourselves, not feeling like we are doing something meaningful unless it is difficult, while not feeling like there’s any reward. I feel like this toxic hustle myth is slowly killing our culture, particularly killing black women. We are some of the hardest-working people on the planet. We’re over-educated compared to other demographics, and we have strong entrepreneurial skills. Many of us have a main hustle and three side hustles or two main hustles. We go, go, go, and we work hard, hard, hard. But not every type of hard work is healthy. It’s time to transition into a healthy work mindset. Let’s talk about it.


Welcome to the Black Girl Burnout Podcast, Kelly here.

I am going to start off with a small little announcement, which is that you may have noticed that my voice sounds a little bit different in the last couple episodes, and it’s gonna sound a little bit different in the next couple episodes because I have been fighting allergies that have turned into a minor sinus infection. So bear with me if you like, grab a cup of tea with me as we talk today about opting out of hard work. I love this podcast. So for me, it feels effortless to do this. I don’t feel like it’s hard work. So sitting here with a cup of tea while a little under the weather is not a difficulty.

But I would like to ask the question to all of you. How often do you think you are engaging in hard work? Today we’re gonna talk about what I mean when I say hard work and why I think there’s some types of hard work that are toxic. And then talk about ways to opt out of that and opt into doing things that flow and bring ease into your life.

We’ve talked about before on the podcast, toxic hustle culture, this belief that you’ve gotta grind, you’ve gotta push, you’ve gotta force yourself to do things. And unfortunately, so much of that messaging keeps us opting into struggle, right? It keeps us always pushing ourselves, not feeling like we’re doing something meaningful unless it is difficult, not feeling like there’s any reward in taking an easy way out.

And I feel like that myth is slowly killing our culture and particularly killing black women. We are some of the hardest working people on the planet. We are overeducated compared to other demographics, we are entrepreneurial. Many of us have a main hustle and three side hustles, or two main hustles and one side hustle.

We go, go, go, and we work hard, hard, hard. But not every type of hard work is healthy work, and that’s what I want to really have us opt into healthy work, not hard work. There’s nothing wrong with maybe pushing yourself a little to get a project accomplished or to reach a goal, but when it becomes a lifestyle, it’s just a recipe for burnout.

It’s a recipe for dissatisfaction. It’s a recipe for missing out. On the beautiful things in life and missing out on our legacy and our inheritance. It’s hard to have joy when you’re in the midst of hard, toxic work. I had this powerful conversation with someone where they said that one of the things that they were really wrestling with was the fact that they had chose social work and that so much of social work was associated with struggle.

That succeeding in mental health was really measured by how much you struggled in the field, and the phrase floored me because it was so true, so much of my career. I valued myself and saw my value through the lens of how hard I was working. And when I say hard work, I don’t mean hard to improve my life.

I mean hard for my clients taking on their emotional burdens in a very unhealthy way. I meant depriving myself of breaks of vacation, of even food, going whole days without eating anything, going an obscene amount of hours without even stopping to go to the bathroom. And so much of my peers were doing the same and we reinforced in each other.

This belief that hard work struggle in our field was the norm, and there was something heroic. Now on the other side of that, I realize there’s nothing heroic about struggle. There’s nothing heroic about martyrdom, and I’ve talked about this before. Being a martyr does not make you a hero. It means that you have an unhealthy relationship with yourself and that you don’t value yourself the way you should.

And so when I talk about hard work, I’m really talking. The type of work that we are doing that is aimless or depleting, that’s destructive in our lives.

Relationships take work. They’re not easy, but they’re not supposed to be really hard either. Healthy relationships have hard times. They have difficult conversations. There’s no doubt about that. But you don’t ever see a healthy couple that characterizes their entire relationship as hard. They may say it takes hard work, but I would argue that when you love someone, when you’re communicating in a healthy way, there may be difficulties for sure, but it shouldn’t ever be hard.

It shouldn’t ever deplete you. The relationship should be an exchange of up building each other and connection, and yet how many times we find ourselves doing hard work in a relationship, in relationships that are imbalanced and uneven, we are working harder than our romantic partner to keep a conversation going.

Accountability, showing up in the relationship to keep ourselves attractive to our partner, and maybe they’re not really giving us much of anything in those areas, or how much of our lives is hard work. When we think about our families, we’re carrying them financially. We’re stepping into situations we probably shouldn’t be.

That deplete us, that causes anxiety, that trigger old trauma from years past.

I’m here to tell you that despite the circumstances of your life, it doesn’t have to be hard. Love in all its forms shouldn’t be hard work. It should be work. It can be difficult at.

But it’s healthy work. When you’re in healthy partnerships and have healthy relationships with family and friends, it’s putting in the work. But honestly, when you love your best friend and she needs you to come grab her at 2:00 AM on a true emergency, it may be difficult. It requires some sacrifice, but you are the first person to say, oh, forget it.

Don’t worry. Worry about it. I’m happy to help.

Healthy work requires us to have the B word that I say all the time, boundaries. In order to opt into healthy work and opt into working with ease and having a flow state, it requires first a perception shift and then appropriate boundaries to reinforce the way we’ve changed our mind Literal.

We have to shift our perception as a culture that we were made to live hard lives. That’s the foundation of this podcast is opting outta struggle, that there are so many myths around being a black woman that are tied up into this false narrative that we are tough and we are hard because life is hard.

And we are always fighting. That is a lie. I will take that to my grave, how much of a lie that is and how it’s really a culturally and socially constructed lie that goes all the way back to slavery.

It requires that we let go of and heal those parts of ourselves and the parts of our culture Historically, that. Continued to push that myth forward has worn it as a badge of honor. And instead, I want you to ask the question of yourself. When’s the last time you felt ease? When’s the last time you were doing an activity, whether it’s professional or personal or familial, that felt like you were just in the flow?

You weren’t putting a ton of thought into it. You weren’t having anxiety or worry. You were just doing and you were happy to do it.

If you don’t have a lot of ease in your life, it’s time to ask the question, where is the hard work coming from? What areas of your. And start to evaluate if those areas need some serious fine tuning and some serious work. Not hard work, but work to reestablish a different dynamic in your life. Once you can imagine yourself in a flow state or confine areas of your life with ease, part of achieving that requires that you have.

I made a decision for myself. I no longer am interested in hard work. Let me be very clear. I’m not a lazy person. If anything, people would describe me as a workaholic. I think of myself as a workaholic in recovery, and let me tell you something, slowing down and switching over to ease and getting into a flow state, it feels.

And also initially extremely uncomfortable. I really had a lot to unpack with my thoughts about myself and my value being so tied up in how busy I was, how hard I was working a k a code. Four, how depleted I was, how exhausted I felt all the time, and when I just got to be healthy. I got really scared and really, It meant that I was somehow not working hard, and then I had to force myself to, to remember why I’m choosing ease and why I am opted out of hard work, because it means I opted out of medical bills, which I was paying for stress related illnesses from a worn down body that just said, you know what?

We’re quitting you because you won’t quit this.

What it was costing me with having unfulfilling relationships with others, romantic or platonic, what it was costing me to feel like I wasn’t in control of my life. I was doing hard work, but not ever feeling like I truly had mastery or control.

Setting boundaries became essential. And we’ve talked about boundaries at length in this podcast. It’s a running theme. It’s gonna stay a running theme, but remembering that having an idea is great, having an insight, I wanna change, I’m going to opt into ease is wonderful. But if you don’t have the skills and tools around that thought and that insight, you’re not gonna get there.

And boundaries helps you get there. Being able to say no to things. And say yes to yourself is is critical. Being able to have conversations with the people in your life where you reset dynamics. I know it’s always been this way. I know I’ve always financially supported you, but I need to change this because I’m taking care of myself so that I can show up as the best.

Insert your I can be the best daughter, the best mother, the best friend I can be. It means having deal breakers in relationships and in partnership romantically and enforcing those boundaries so that you don’t have to work so hard. The best relationships every time they will tell you, I can’t believe how easy it was.

All of those relationships have something in common. They don’t view their love life as hard. They view it as work. They view it as sometimes compromise and there are difficulties, but they don’t see it as hard work. Trying to figure out are we a situation ship or a relationship? They don’t do any of that.

They talk about the ease and the flow with which they found their partner not accepting anything less than that and setting boundaries around it is what’s gonna get you there.

We’re not made for hard work. You were made for joy. You were made for meaningful and healthy work. You are meant for meaningful and healthy connection.

Do not allow yourself to be tricked by the lies that we have been told in our culture.

See them for what they are and opt out of hard work and opt into healthy work and ease. So for your healing practice today, I mentioned some ways to start on this journey and I wanna encourage you to think about where in your life is there. Start there. If you can find a place, maybe it’s your family, maybe it’s your job, maybe it’s your partner, maybe it’s a hobby you have that just brings you joy.

Start there and I want you to reinforce the ease. I want you to find ways to better protect the areas of your life that feel easy and bring ease into your life. If you can’t think of any I want you to do the reverse then, and think about where in your life is there the hardest type of work? Where do you feel like you’re depleted and giving?

And giving? And then I want you to think about what’s one boundary, one small boundary you can set for yourself. Maybe it’s, I’m going to leave one day a week from work on time. Maybe it’s, I’m going to have a conversation with my partner about how to make our life together. With filled with more ease.

What would make them feel, ease and what would make you feel ease? Maybe it’s reestablishing some boundaries with our family and telling your family that you are off to go pursue ease for yourself and you want the same for them. So you’re gonna be working on that and you’ll get back to them with the tips and the tools once you.

Either way. Ask yourself those questions today and start yourself on this journey. Again, you were not made for hard work. So that’s it for this episode of the podcast. As always, you can find the podcast across all major platforms. Please feel free to subscribe and rate the podcast. Spotify and Apple Podcasts have places for you to rate and review.

It’d be wonderful if you dropped one and share this podcast with anyone you feel may benefit from the messaging. We are a growing community, as I keep saying we’re international. So hello to folks who are not US based. And hello to my dear us folks, we are building something here and I am so excited.

So until we speak next, take care of yourself and take care of each other.


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Are you a black woman who has been feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and confined to the struggle? If so, the Black Girl Burnout podcast is here for you. Journey along with host Kelley Bonner as she interviews guests and shares personal anecdotes about productive ways to opt-out of struggle and opt into happiness,  while navigating the unique challenges and joys of being a black woman in today’s world. From work and relationships to self-care and mental health, this podcast is a safe space to explore and find support along the journey towards your goals. Join our community and start feeling more connected and less burnt out.

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Special thanks and appreciation to the team for all that you do! 🧡

Producer  – Wendye Walter

Creative Director – William Cornell

Associate Producer – Amanda St. Maur

Cover Art – Reignland Creatives