Where do you find your self-worth?
And no, I don’t mean in the “God loves me and that’s all the self-worth I need” way. Whether you identify as a religious/spiritual person or not, we all look for our self-worth in ways that are decidedly material.
Do you find it at the bottom of a pile of clean laundry? In the glowing grades of your kids’ report cards? In a perfectly coordinated and occasion-appropriate outfit? In the number of workouts you did that week?
Or are you like me? Kids’ outfits, clean house, fashion — I can’t worry about those things. I’m too busy trying to accomplish the next big project. Why? Because I find my self-worth in accomplishment. Achievement. Tangible success. And if it doesn’t come fast enough, I get antsy.
I haven’t worked a paid job in 12 years. Sometimes I wish I could work. While we would have chosen for me to stay home with the kids during the formative years of their lives, they’re older now and could handle me heading off to a part-time job. Heck, it might even force them to do more chores around the house (and perhaps appreciate me more!) since I wouldn’t be always home to take care of those things.
But as a Canadian living in the US, on a very specific NAFTA Visa, I’m not permitted to be an employee. No one is allowed to hire me, and I’m not eligible for a Social Security Number.
I will surely write more posts about what it’s like to be a Canadian living in Southern California (there’s so much material to choose from!) but I’ll try to maintain my focus right now.
For someone like me who can’t work a regular job, I add lots of things to my plate to fill the need for tangible success. I feel a tightness in my chest when I picture what I want to accomplish, if I am not currently working toward it. The Internet browser tabs are a perfect analogy — for me it’s both literal and figurative. I always have several browser tabs open at once — I jump from one project to the next to the next, for fear that I am missing out on getting something done.
I can’t just sit and watch television with my family at night. Sure, I am sitting on the sofa with them. But I have to be working on my web sites, jotting down ideas for my next blog posts, reading up on essential oils information, creating items for my Etsy shop, plotting a short story, etc.. Some people might call it adult-onset ADD. I prefer to call it being efficient (my family may disagree with me here).
Quotes like this are not helpful to me.
They add to the pressure I already feel.
Have you read the book The Five Love Languages? Neither have I. Who has the time? But I took the couples quiz. And it’s no surprise, my primary love language is Words of Affirmation.
The other four — acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch — are fine and all, but what I really want is to hear:
- you threw a fantastic party
- your blog post cracked me up
- your suggestion for (a restaurant, hair stylist, book) was spot-on
- I love the story you wrote
- you made those curtains/halloween costume/sweater? You are so talented
Or my all-time favorite, hearing someone say, “Ask Michelle. She’ll know what to do.”
And you only get words of affirmation if you do something other than clean the house, do the laundry, get the kids to school on time. These things are important and necessary, but for people like me, they are not enough.
Which is why, too many times, I lose myself in a day of jumping from project to project, sustaining myself with cold tea and handfuls of chocolate chips. On a good day, I have something to show for it at the end. Other days, I’ve just spun my wheels. But my head is full of wonderful things left to do and new ideas bubbling in my brain. What if I opened a cozy bookstore with a coffee shop and a meeting room (with comfy chairs!) for writers groups, and it also had a yarn shop and an annex for handcrafted items, and we hosted workshops and fairs and authors’ readings? And we invited pets to join their owners? And we had sheep and goats and chickens around back so kids could see where eggs, milk and wool came from?
As with any addiction, the stakes are always higher, the bar keeps getting raised, and the threshold becomes higher and higher. Abandoned dogs need a loving family. I can do that! Abandoned kids need foster parents. I can do that!
I can do anything! I can do everything!
There is a fine line between nurturing your self-worth
and feeding your ego.
Thankfully, I have a very patient but rational husband who brings me back to reality. And tells me that despite the dropped balls and the unfinished chores, I have done a great job.
So many more things to say. But I have to go now. I have some research to do on opening a bookstore.
** I am genuinely interested in where you find your self-worth. Post a comment below and let’s how alike and how different we all are 🙂