Here are two stories you might relate to.
1. Beating yourself up too hard when you didn’t work as hard as you needed
I love working, and I’m generally productive, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I only cross off half of the things on my to-do list.
Usually, during these off-days, my mind is foggy, I get distracted easily, and I avoid most of my work.
Most people get disappointed by the time they’re about to head to bed because they didn’t get much done, but they let themselves off the hook. They decide they’ll do those things tomorrow, after a good night’s sleep.
Easy and done.
I wish I did that. I don’t let myself off the hook as easily as that. (Or at all, most of the time.)
When I have an off-day, and by ten o’ clock I’ve realized that I only worked on a couple of things, I become a bully and think things I shouldn’t think about myself.
You’re useless! You wasted your entire day doing shit that didn’t even matter. You’re so stupid. You better do better tomorrow, or I swear…
I’m disappointed in myself to the max, and I go to bed feeling angry. I beat myself up harder than I have to. (Or should I be beating myself up at all?)
2. Feeling like you should work more (even after you’ve done everything you said you would)
I don’t beat myself up when I have a good day.
A good day for me means that I worked hard and crossed everything off my to-do list.
But that doesn’t stop the guilt from settling in.
I don’t like working at night. From eight and onwards, that’s my time to watch the shows I avoid during the day, read, or talk to my sisters about random crap.
I wake up at seven to work, and throughout the day, I can get a lot done. So, I shouldn’t feel guilty for letting myself take a break before I go to sleep.
But that’s not the case.
After I’ve crossed everything off, I’ll hesitate before walking away. I wonder if I should do an item on tomorrow’s list.
I wonder if I should write another article or make more social media posts even though I don’t want to.
Nights are for me, for spending time how I want to spend it freely. But I can’t help but feel guilty for doing that. For not working even more.
Can you relate to this?
Do you feel guilty because you think you should work more or harder? Do you beat yourself up when you have an off-day and aren’t productive?
This happens for one reason: You’re obsessed with productivity, and along the way, your worth was tied to how productive you are.
You define a good or bad day by how much work you got done that day.
If you did well, it was a good day. If you screwed up, it was a bad day. Even if you didn’t work, but you genuinely enjoyed your day, it was still a bad day because you weren’t productive.
You love yourself when you work hard, and you’re angry with yourself when you slack.
You’re either worth it or not.
Is this who you are? If it is, that needs to change.
Why is measuring your worth by how productive you are a bad thing?
Measuring your worth by how productive you are is a terrible thing to do because you’ve subconsciously decided that work is the only thing that matters in life.
Work is important. You spend most of your life working to build a better life for yourself or your family, to earn money, and to generally enjoy your time.
But work isn’t the only thing that matters.
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
— Dolly Parton
Time spent working on a hobby, on one that you don’t share with anyone or try to monetize, matters too. Talking with your family for hours in the living room matters.
Playing three games of bowling with your friends matters. Taking a walk outside every day because you enjoy it matters.
Everything you enjoy to do matters. If love doing it, it’s not a waste of time.
But you forget to take that into account.
When you measure your worth by how productive you are, everything else you love to do loses its significance.
People who work hard often work too hard… May we learn to honor the hammock, the siesta, the nap and the pause in all its forms.
— Alice Walkers
You don’t use those moments to measure how much you love yourself or your life. The only measure you use is work.
Does everything else you love not matter to you? Is that how you want to live?
Well, it’s how you’ll continue to live if you continue to only focus on how hard you did or didn’t work.
Sometimes you’re going to kill it in your job. You might write three articles in a day or score a client after years of trying.
But other times, you’re going to mess up. You might lounge on the couch all day reading. You’ll get nothing you’re proud of done.
Your work isn’t a perfect constant. If your worth is tied to it, you’ll feel good about yourself by the end of one day, and hate yourself another.
You should never hate yourself for anything.
How do you cut ties between your worth and productivity?
The number one thing I do is let myself off the hook.
By the end of the day, when the negative thoughts or the guilt try to settle in their usual spots in my chest, I stop them in their tracks with a few words.
You did the best you could today, and I’m proud of you for that. If you didn’t get everything done, just try again tomorrow. If you did, you deserve a break. Enjoy it. I am proud of myself.
This simple statement changes everything. I repeat them until I can feel any anger that had already claimed it’s spot quickly dissipate. I take deep breaths.
This is self-love and self-care. These words may not sound like much, but try saying them for a week, and see how much different you feel.
If you’re doubtful, think of it this way:
If negative thoughts can affect you, why can’t positive words affect you? It wouldn’t make sense that one could do damage and the other couldn’t heal.
You slowly cut ties between your worth and productivity by being loving and kind to yourself.
You can also do so by taking in and appreciating everything that made today a good day. Not just your work.
Work a little, small rewards. Work a lot, greater rewards. Work too hard, nobody likes you except your employer!
You can appreciate yourself for writing a one-thousand-word article without getting distracted, but enjoy the coffee you had with it too. Be grateful for the lunch you had with your partner afterward. Or for the journaling you got done before getting up from bed.
Love the moments in between, the ones before and after work, because that matter too — not just work.
Work is not the only thing that matters. Cut ties with it before it kills your self-worth even more.
A simple reminder
You are worthy by nature.
“You exist, and therefore, you matter.”
— Daniell Koepke