Achievement: But at what price?
You can do that? "Honestly, I do not know, no, more honestly, I'm afraid no, so I can not do it as well as you need, let alone as good as I like it I can only do it if I push myself to the limit, only if I try so hard until I feel helpless, overwhelmed and left alone - in other words, I'll get it.
Somehow, that's the black box of the overworked employees, the exhausted parents and grandparents, the exhausted friends: No one knows what's going on in this black box, what happens when this "somehow" unfolds its somber magic. All I know about this "somehow" is that I whisper it myself every time, inaudible, when someone asks me if I can do it. Somehow, I think then, somehow I'll probably manage that.
"Can you do that?" The others ask, and I see that flicker in their eyes, that touch of fear that I could say "no." Afraid, because then you have to talk about alternatives and about reasons. Even harder: ways to help each other, with somebody in the room somehow leaving someone else behind and disappointing everyone involved.
"Can you do it?"
"Yes, yes, of course," I say casually, because that's the best way to pack the lie: by the way, lightly. Especially if you do not want to see them yourself.
Nothing is harder to read than a lie that you tell yourself.
It would not be unthinkable.
There she was again: the performance lie. Nobody who tells them will know they feel they are lying. On the contrary, we always talk to ourselves: Of course I can do it. I have to. It is required of me. It would not be unthinkable, because that would mean: I can not do anything or not enough; I'm not really resilient; I have no discipline. Failure to do so would mean that I would never get recognition again. And if I ever got any, then I obviously do not deserve it. Unthinkable, as I said.
It does not matter what you have to do. No matter if it is about more responsibility "in the team". Or another batch of operations that nobody else can "so well estimate". Or the two cakes, which one should bring the daughter-in-law yet to the children's birthday, "if it does not make any effort".
Or to give a speech at the birthday party of the father, which one can "also write on the train, that you do with left". Wherever performance is required of us, we react after a moment of horror with the lie put forward with equanimity: Sure, it works. Good, I like to do. Yes, mother, rely on me. It may be that we sometimes perform the performance lie with gritting teeth; may be that we roast them with an ironic undertone, passive-aggressive: "Only two cakes, are you sure? All right!" But in the vast majority of cases, we would not say, "No, no way, that's too much for me, I'm sorry." Why? I believe that I can do it myself. I think nobody wants to hear when I'm exhausted. Because if I do not want to hear it from myself, why would someone else care about it? Why should the others be more gracious with me than myself?
Achievement - without recognition
When someone breaks down and "fails" for a few days, weeks or even months, it is always said, "Why did not you say anything? I would have taken something from you." Let's put the second part aside, because we probably have to assume that nobody can really "lose weight". Because everyone is too exhausted and too busy hiding this condition from themselves and others. Let's try to answer the first part: Why did not you say anything? Yes, why did not I say anything? Why do not we say anything? That we are exhausted and overwhelmed, we can not hide in truth. At least not if we consider ourselves as a society. In a world that measures performance and failures in numbers, it is clear that the number of those who no longer enjoy their work is increasing. The depressed and burned out become more. In the media, experts, stakeholders and stakeholders discuss "exhaustion syndromes" and the lack of recognition in our working world. But are these spectacular discussions and prominent failures encouraging me or anyone to turn off the TV and think, "See, the others are not better off than you, you're not alone, and now you're kicking." ?
On the contrary. It remains much more the diffuse feeling: who fails, perhaps was not resilient enough.Instead of a warning signal for a short tricks we hear one to grab: The more people weaken or fail, the more stuck to me, but: Somehow I'll get it already.
And anyway, "shorter", "decelerate", "stop the hamster wheel": these have long since become their own performance categories. Can I go to yoga once a week? Do I manage to do more sport, less work to take home? Was I going to do that? Can I afford that? Yes. Somehow that will work.
Nothing is told more easily than a lie everyone wants to hear.
Everything is always hanging by a thread.
Many families and many working relationships now have a great deal in common: they are organized in such a way that under ideal conditions everything always works out. We have so many different tasks, we have to do so much in so many areas that nothing is allowed to interfere. When a colleague is tired, takes a day off and leaves work, either complicated processes break down or she has twice as much to do the day after. When a granny falls ill and can not pick up the children in the afternoon, the first domino falls with it, until the whole finely balanced construction of the family week collapses. We organized our lives according to the principle that everything is always hanging by the thread. This thread runs through each and every one of us, it must not tear, and if it does, we must find a way to hold the loose ends together. Somehow. So that everything continues.
That's why we are so relieved when everyone else signals that they are "getting on" their part. That's why nobody questions the achievement lie. We also tell them because others seem to like them so much: if we somehow manage to do it, then we will not get the others into trouble doing their jobs. Then the silk thread stops. The result is: We have become a collective delusion, we have all gone crazy together. Because what do we achieve with the performance lie? Nothing at all, we support only the overstrained and overstretched life that forces us to tell this lie in the first place.
In fact, in most cases, we do not even get credit for what we do, for what we have somehow still managed to do. The lack of recognition, say sociologists, is a major reason for the many burnouts, for exhaustion and the sense of meaninglessness.
But where should the recognition come from in the system performance lie? Your boss, that egocentrist who's so busy filling the demands from above and fending them down from the bottom that she has no strength left to spread appreciation to others? From your boss, this anxious choleric, who has only found a way to cope with the pressure from all sides: to pass it on to you. In the system performance lie, we are like over-bred racing dogs chasing a fur rag pulled by a machine in front of them on the edge of the racetrack to bring them to peak performance: chasing after a chimera, a thing we can never get.
Achieving performance: We feel guilty
Let's stay with the world of work. In addition to the fear for the job and the futile pursuit of recognition drives us a diffused guilt feeling in the performance lie. Sure, we do not want to get the others into trouble by making us feel guilty about them. But the feeling of guilt goes on, it feels like we owe something to the company, to the state, to the social system, to the whole world. There are many theories about where this permanent guilt comes from. Most great religions live on the idea that we are born with a kind of mortgage such as original sin. We get our lives as a gift, and somebody is always giving us something in advance: The state gives us security and democracy, parents give life, education and training, and in the workplace for some years now, in most industries, it's more or less said openly. how "grateful" one might be to have found a job here in these difficult times, how great the "efforts of the management" had been to keep the jobs. And now it's our turn to do something for the company. Work more, with less money. Less criticize, with objectively worse working conditions. Do not get sick of any crap. But tell the performance lie: I can do it.
We feel like a failure.
Perhaps the feeling of guilt also comes from the fact that we are all invited to feel permanently a loser. Never before have there been so many freedoms, so many opportunities to develop and realize oneself.Our personal freedom is theoretically immeasurable, inexhaustible, but in practical terms this means that every opportunity used means hundreds of unused opportunities, each decision could just as well have turned out quite differently. Philosophers say that our society is therefore exhausted, addicted and depressed: because our individual freedom means that everything we fail to achieve is our own individual failure. No matter what we do - if it goes wrong, it's our fault, because we could have behaved differently.
I am tired? You can not anymore? Then we both seem to have failed. The wrong job, the wrong company chosen, the wrong marriage closed. Not the right relaxation techniques learned, not enough hobbies or friends, not enough courage to go to the therapist. Oh, you already have one? And you still feel bad? Well, then you obviously did not search long enough and decided on the wrong one.
So we tell the others and ourselves the performance lie because we are scared. Fear that every change of plan, every problem and every problem that could arise if we can no longer do it, is our fault. We are lying because we are exhausted, and we are exhausted because we are lying. We lie because we feel guilty. But could our only guilt be that we have consistently abandoned ourselves and our needs?
Nothing gives more power and freedom than the end of a lie.
What kind of world is it that makes us feel guilty and forces us to lie? Let's be honest: Who wants to live in this world? I do not anymore. I built it myself, in my own little way, by telling a hundred times the performance lie. And others inspired by the flicker in my eyes to tell them to me. I have continued to build the world of achievement lie for my children, for I realize how hard it has always been for me to admit that they are tired and exhausted. The world of achievement lies in my world, but I do not want to live in it anymore. I have long been one of those who have worked with pleasure, and much, too much. Then at some point to confuse the work with enjoyment. Until finally I did not feel any more.
Work as sex, as drug, as rock'n'roll.
In the past, it was mostly men who plunged into the world of performance because they could push their limits because it was the opposite of being boring: work as sex, as drug, as rock'n'roll. However, the principle has long since transcended gender boundaries, and sometimes I have the impression that a large part of what women have achieved in recent decades is simply to be allowed to and must tell the achievement lie on an equal footing.
Achievement: We suffer from it
So it's about time we changed this world together. Honestly, I did not think I would ever write such a sentence in life. I come from a generation for whom great sentences can only be endured with great irony. But in this case humorous distance does not help, it would simply be another lubricant for the world of performance lie. Let's face it: The world of achievement lies in the world of limitless growth, greed and profit-making in all areas of life. It's a world we all suffer from, but it keeps working because everyone in their place does everything humanly possible to keep them going. In truth, we will not let each other down when we fail or say no. In truth, we fail each other every time we say, "Yes, I can do it," even though we can not. Because every time we tell the performance lie, we take someone else's chance to say, "Real, are you so exhausted, I would not have thought, I'm completely through and done." The performance lie prevents us from talking to each other. It prevents us from helping each other. It prevents us from being many who want to change something. The opposite of the performance lie would be: solidarity.
And what would happen to this merciless, over-strained world if we would gradually tear the silken threads that hold them together? It would have to change, and there would be only one direction. Where? For the better. Because when you finally say, "I can not do more, and I do not want more", then the next question really exciting: What can I actually? And what do I want in truth? And when so many ask these questions, we have no choice but to invent a world more just than the one we live in today.
And let's not say this time: Yes, we can do it somehow. Let's say, maybe we can do it. But only when we have properly rested.
- Svenja Flaßpöhler: "We Profiters - About Freedom and Coercion in the Performance Society".In her current book, the philosopher shows how self-defeating our "relentless struggle for recognition" is and that our performance idea is basically "a desperate fight against depression." Smart, stimulating and startling (204 p., 17.99 euros, DVA).
- Alain Ehrenberg: "The exhausted self - depression and society in the present". In his classic of 1998, the French philosopher describes how the pressure for autonomous self-realization drives us into addiction and exhaustion (334 pages, 13 euros, Suhrkamp).
- David Graeber: "Debts - the first 5,000 years". On the history of debt, the English anthropologist explains why our social system has developed so destructively and what alternatives could be (600 p., 26.95 euros, Klett-Cotta).