Recently, I was fascinated – and troubled – by an article from Polygon about burnout among high-profile YouTube creators. Dozens of YouTube stars in the last few months have posted about their choices to take a break from YouTube for mental health reasons.
In one emotionally charged video, YouTuber Elle Mills told her fans:
This is all I ever wanted. And why the fuck am I so unfucking unhappy? It – It doesn’t make any sense.
This narrative of “why am I deeply unhappy with getting exactly what I wanted” is one that is achingly familiar to me. I suspect it’s familiar for many highly ambitious people. According to the Polygon article, the YouTubers were driven towards burnout by “unhealthy obsessions with remaining relevant […] and social media pressures.”
But in my experience, the core cause of burnout isn’t working too many hours or having external pressures (though these can certainly be contributing factors). Consider the fact that many prolific folks throughout history have been able to work long hours without crashing and burning. Likewise, many people have been able withstand the social pressures around them and hold onto their beliefs with ease.