Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.– Max Ehrmann
When I was a child, my mom used to recite the Desiderata to us. While hearing it so often seemed like it would desensitize me from its message, it’s surprising how random parts of it come to mind at different points in my life. Last year, when we were just going into pandemic mode, I remember being in conversation with my mom and sister and I took notes. While thinking about what I wanted to share this week, I went back to those notes. I remember she pointed out that line of the Desiderata and it felt so necessary then, even now. If you’ve been around the blog for a while now, you’re well aware of my struggles around finding balance, questioning whether it even exists and the consistent over exertion of myself that has led to very elaborate care practices when I eventually burnout.
A number of factors all coming together at once changed this last year making this regulation of my life, especially my work and how I value(d) myself around it, necessary. Earlier today in conversation with my twynndyllyng, Sharon, this came up. We spoke about the ways in which self- worth is often tied to our output. In my experience, I can’t pinpoint any patterns in my childhood that might have suggested that this is how I would get attention or love and so, contrary to online therapists relation of these two things, this doesn’t at least consciously apply to me. However, Sharon mentioned that this relation between your worth and productivity/ performance is not only about an inherent inability to love (value) the self without justification but also because when something is important to you then it is just as important that the response you get from those you share this with, matches. So when the response matches your expected excitement, which stems from your internal tie of this achievement to your worth, this cements that correlation. What often follows is the continued performance or seeking out of these ‘traditional’ or ‘capitalistic’ markers of success to validate yourself and others.
While I’ve had time to sit and interrogate my own views of my value and how they are influenced by my ability to be productive and achieve, I hadn’t actively consider how others’ placing importance on these ‘achievements’ affected me. Sharon’s suggestion was that the matching of value by an external voice, reinforces this internal conviction of relation. I think that for me, even and maybe especially when I said something I thought as ‘usual’ to the people in life, they have often acknowledged my effort and these things as important or successful in ways that I do not and have not considered. Consciously then, I have questioned my inability to gravitate to immediately celebrating things, all of them, as milestones that matter. I hadn’t however considered the possibility that this reinforcement of the idea that these things I’ve done and will continue to do, as worthy of celebration and in some cases necessary to celebrate, significantly contributes to this idea that I am only as valuable as I am useful. This then un- or sub- consciously leads to cycles of fixation and overworking that may be the impossible standards that I consider a ‘wholesome discipline’.
I suppose this understanding of another way in which my tying of my worth and output is created and maintained, is a step closer in me figuring out how to be gentler with myself. How much more conscious I can be about what and how I feel about myself, rid of and immediately around what I and the world considers worth rewarding.