When did being busy become a badge of honour?
When’s the last time you asked someone “how are you?” and the first answer wasn’t, “busy”. That was standard response when I was actually taking an elevator to the office.
Think about it…before there was such a thing as a lockdown, did you ever have an open social calendar?
And when you did, how did it make you feel when someone asked you what you were doing that weekend? Did you rush to tell them that you’re happy to have nothing to do because you need a break from all the busy-ness? To make sure they knew you normally have many social engagements? Or were you able to simply stand strongly and own that gap in your calendar?
As a childless woman, I used to schedule myself to the hilt. In my early days, I used to work A LOT. I sat on a volunteer board. I kept my social calendar filled up. I worked out. I ran half-marathons. I did all the things.
To me, having children meant you were busy. And that meant you were worthy. So I made myself busy, in an effort to build my worth. And you know what? I felt worse than ever.
I was exhausted, overworked, I never had any honest-to-goodness fun. At least not without feeling guilty about it. And I still didn’t feel like I was good enough. I still didn’t feel like I belonged.
I finally realized that busy does not equal worthy.
And you know what? I think most women are keeping themselves busy in an effort to feel good enough. Mothers, childless women, you name it. We are all trying to measure up. To feel important.
- Having a full social calendar must make you well liked
- Working over time at work must mean you’re needed
- Checking things off on a to-do list, makes you accomplished.
- Volunteering means you’re a good citizen, you’re not selfish
But do any of these things really ring true? Do any of them actually help you build your self-worth?
- Going out when you really don’t feel up to it? That makes you feel resentful, not empowered.
- Working overtime at work, even when you do it voluntarily? Burns you out. Leads to resentment.
- Creating to-do lists that never end, even if you’re checking things off? It gives you a momentary hit of dopamine but then you feel overwhelmed at what’s still left on the list. And resentful that you have so many things to do.
- Volunteering when you don’t want to? Resentful.
Notice a pattern?
Instead, I have three ways to reframe this.
1. Reframe stillness as productive time: look at quiet time as productive time. It’s time to allow space for creative ideas to drop in. It’s time to release emotions. To notice what you’re grateful for. To process your day.
2. Reframe your boundaries: it doesn’t do anyone any good if you are showing up to events, social circles, family gatherings if you can’t show up fully. People can feel your energy and it will bring down the whole room. The energy you walk in there with is what they’ll all feel. They won’t necessarily pin down what it is, but they’ll feel it and it’s uncomfortable. Say no when you can’t show up fully.
3. Reframe how you view play time. Most of us feel like play time is a wasted time. It’s time that you spend feeling guilty that you’re not being productive. And what I see often and what I often do myself, is fill my “play time” with multi-tasking. I’ll listen to a business podcast while I hike. Do laundry while I watch tv. Instead, schedule time for uninterrupted play: unstructured play time is crucial for your happiness. It creates space for creativity.
Now that you know that busy does not equal worthy and you have a few strategies for reframing your thinking, what’s your next step? Will you put one or more of these into action? Or will you continue to fill your schedule hoping you’ll eventually feel like you measure up to the moms? Tell me in the comments!
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