In Depth: Seriously, Stop
This is a series on Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection.” For more on that, check out this post.
Guidepost 7: Cultivating Play and Rest (Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth)
Um, excuse me what now? Let…go…of productivity as self worth? I can tell you right now my first reaction to this was yeah, pass. If I let go of productivity as self worth then how on earth do I know I’m worthy? If I’m not doing anything, what am I?
I joined a book club recently. Some amazing women are a part of this transformative space and I’m very lucky to be a part of it. They are driven, intelligent, goal-oriented and vulnerable in all the best ways. One of the members at our last meeting bravely spoke up and said something along the lines of, “I resent the idea that I have to do so much–eat the right smoothie and get up at six and hustle all day for my work and never stop working. I don’t know if that’s how I will feel fulfilled.” I nearly gave her a standing ovation (might have, if I hadn’t been too shy lol). To be the one who says, “hey guys, doing stuff isn’t the only way to be of value in this world,” is to be incredibly vulnerable. Especially in a room full of go-getters.
She’s right, though, this rad book club friend of mine. We cannot tie our value to self worth. There is value in doing things and there is also deep value in pausing, resting, and doing stuff that has no practical, productive, or purposeful value other than fun. Fun, it turns out, is a real necessary part of a wholehearted life. Without play and rest, we are driving ourselves with the misguided belief that we can earn our worthiness, joy, love and belonging if we just work hard enough. If I eat the right food, wear the right clothes, know the right people, and live in the right home, surely I’ll eventually feel like I belong, right?
That has not been my experience. When I found worthiness, it came from absolutely nothing on the outside of me. My entire path to feeling like I am enough as I am has come from within.
Let’s talk about worthiness. If I do not get my worthiness from what I produce–what I do, how good I am, how kind I am, how much I make, how I look, how I parent, or any other achievement-oriented way, then how do I get my worthiness? The way Dr. Brown defines it, worthiness is a sense of being worthy of love and belonging in this world, the simple fact that yes, we deserve love and we deserve to feel we belong here on this planet. And, in her framework, you are already worthy. You don’t have to earn it because it is already yours. Another way to put it that I particularly like comes from Unitarian Universalism. Our first principle is that we believe in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
How do you know if you are enough? If you are worthy of love and belonging? It’s so hard to believe this is true in the absence of evidence and a culture utterly designed to teach you the opposite. You’re not worthy! You’re not enough! You need to buy this book/planner/lifestyle/face cream/superfood/car/house… and then you’ll be enough, we swear. Well except also buy this other thing, and this one. Eventually you’ll feel like you’re enough, if you just hustle hard enough and long enough to have all the things a capitalist society tells you that you need.
I’m not trying to say I never shop, heh. I do. But I know now that my worthiness doesn’t come from what I do, what I own, or even who I am in relation to other people (a good friend, partner, or mom for example). My worthiness comes from… well, it was already in me. I don’t know where it comes from. I just know it exists. It exists on my darkest day, in my shameful mistakes, and in my emptiest, most lonely moments. I know this, partly, due to this guidepost. When I make time to play and rest my worthiness does not diminish. I am able to be more present and work harder when needed if I balance that work with rest.
So where are you finding your worthiness now? And can you shift to feeling a sense of worthiness within you, apart from all that you have to do? Go play, and rest, and see what’s inside besides the hustle.