A question of self-worth (the elephant in the room)


As we enter the new year, you may be expecting me to share a productivity hack to help get your 2018 off to a flying start.  Never fear - I have loads of tips and new resources up my sleeve to share with you this year! But right now, I'd like to take advantage of this time of reflection and go a little deeper.

This is a challenging subject for me to write about as it’s something I’m still grappling with. I can’t pretend to have all the answers, but it’s time to confront the elephant in the room.

Let me ask you a question:

Why is it important for you to be productive?

(This is a very different question to ‘why is it important to be organised?’)

Actually, I’m going to stop beating around the bush and ask the real question:

Is your self-worth tied up in how productive you are?

How did that one land? Slightly uncomfortable perhaps? It’s certainly a question that makes me squirm.

You see, I know what the ‘right’ answer is. The right answer is, ‘no, my self-worth is about who I am, not what I do.’

But do I really feel that?

I've come a very long way over the last few years, but the uncomfortable truth is no. At least not all the time, and not as securely as I’d like.

For a very long time my identity has been tied up in the grades I got at school, how efficient I was at work and the fact that I could always be relied upon to get things done. Rightly or wrongly, those are the things I prided myself on.

But if you follow that thinking through to its natural conclusion, it also means that if I make a mistake or fall short of my own (very high) expectations, I believe that I’m failing or lacking in some way.

Well, can I say right here and now: Down with that sort of thing.

If our sense of self-worth is tied up in how much we’re able to get done, we’re never going to stop. We’ll have to keep doing more, more, more. Going faster and saying yes and striving to meet expectations day in day out. Because if we don’t, that makes us a Bad Person.

If we choose to sit on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon to watch movies with our family, we’re lazy. If we choose to sit and read for 15 minutes even though there’s a pile of ironing to do, we’re wasting our time.

How about we reframe that?

If we choose to sit on the sofa and watch movies with our family, that makes us a loving parent who wants to just ‘be’ with our partner and kids, sharing an experience and getting some rest.

If we sit and read for 15 minutes, that means we’re listening to what we need and enjoying a space in our day without cramming it full of more stuff.

Which feels more like a waste of precious time to you: ironing, or taking a moment to sit and read? I know which I’d choose.

So let’s start to think differently during 2018. Let’s flip things on their head and see if we can’t just sever the connection between our self-worth and how productive we are.

We are not machines. We’re human beings and we’re here to experience life to the full. So put down your to-do list, reconnect with your values and go and do something just ‘because’.

Who’s with me? I can’t promise it’ll be easy, but I’m game if you are!

If this one hits home for you, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

And of course, I’d love you to pass this on if you know someone who might find it useful.

Louise Miller2 Comments