When we knock out the to-do list, wrangle an emotional preschooler, comfort the grocery store cashier who’s having a bad day, and complete the big project all in 24 hours, we feel like a million bucks. We have the feel-good hormones released by getting it all done because we live in a society where productivity is queen — idolized, rewarded, expected, celebrated.
It’s easy to look to our outrageous productivity to make us feel worthy. CPAs at tax season, school teachers, nurses working a double shift, all work until midnight and get up at 4:00 AM to start again. Not only do we expect it of them, they expect it of themselves. It’s the standard. It’s applauded. We start to feel we must perform at this inhumane level all the time. Worthiness becomes dependent on constantly tackling the next accomplishment and never feeling like we are attaining “it” — whatever “it” is.
The email dinged my in box at 10:41 PM with an apology for arriving so late. Why did this young professional mother feel she needed to return emails after the rest of the world was in bed (and apologize for it)? Because we, the people, have demanded she tie her self-worth to her productivity.
HUMAN BEINGS, NOT HUMAN DOINGS
We’re humans, not to be confused with machines. Hard work and giving it our all are solid practices. Knowing our limitations and creating boundaries for ourselves are also fantastic practices. Somewhere in the hustle we lost track of doing both.
If you’re lying on your yoga mat, berating yourself for not getting your breathing right, you have equated your production with your worthiness. If you’re embracing your teenage daughter in the middle of a complete meltdown, condemning yourself for not saying the right thing, you have equated your production with your worthiness. If you’re boss is telling you what a great job you’ve done while you’re pointing out all the ways you could have done it better, you have equated your production with your worthiness. You will continually hustle for your worth because production is not a good measure for worth. The productivity pandemic is so ingrained in our minds we are unable to recognize where DOING ends and BEING begins.
Because we’ve adopted this productivity standard, we’ve lost track of how to simply be. Here are three of the best ways to re-discover our own being apart from the doing.
People who practice silence 20 minutes twice a day find it much easier to see their value apart from their production. This is not a silence where you sit and think or even ask God for things. It’s a place where you get beyond words, beyond thoughts and simply be in the stillness.
I know what you’re thinking, 40 minutes of silence will likely kill you. Or perhaps, you’re thinking you will have to kill someone else to get 40 minutes of silence. So start small. Pick two times a day where you can get 5 minutes of silence. Arrive early and sit in the car for 5 minutes. Linger in the bathroom for 5 extra minutes. The point is to practice getting beyond words and thoughts in order to BE, not DO.
PLAY WITH NO PURPOSE
People who understand they are not equal to their productive results spend a large amount of time simply clowning around. Remember the phrase your grandfather used to say to you — “Don’t dilly dally!” These people literally dilly dally. They dance for no reason — not because they need the exercise. They go to the park and swing for no reason — not because the kids need to get out of the house. They go canoeing, hiking, out with friends. They throw parties with no purpose. It’s an outlandish idea to simply play in a way that doesn’t produce anything.
I know the productive side of you is thinking there is no time for play. And yet, if we are going to embrace the idea that we are not the sum total of what we produce, we have to go play in a way that produces no measurable results. The point is to find out we are valuable apart from production.
LEARN TO REST
Brene Brown says, “We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising over scheduled children.” Exhaustion has become our measuring stick. If we’ve exhausted ourselves to a point beyond any hope of returning from, then we’ve made it. We are surely doing it all right. We are definitely getting it all done. Because being rested can’t be a measure of accomplishment, right?
Rest is not only sleep although that is a great place to start. Most Americans are not getting the necessary sleep to be in optimal health — mental, emotional, and physical. Beyond sleep, we need meaningful moments of calm, unhurried joy — this is rest. It’s time to shift our own family culture to include space for refueling. The point is to honor our value and rest in it.
Worthiness is a value. It’s not based on results or production. It’s time for us to start valuing ourselves and each other.
*This blog by Michele Gooch was first published at plaidforwomen.com.