Our value is not in our DOING. It is in our BEING.
Up until last spring, I was working at a before and after school care centre. I really enjoyed the work but often found I had little energy left for myself. At the same time, my husband had started up a company. I contemplated the idea of quitting my job to join him in this project full-time and at first I was not keen on the idea; sitting at a computer, making phone calls, sending emails, doing paperwork and other non-exciting business stuff.
But as time went on and a summer of full-time days with the kids approached, I made the rather sudden decision to leave the daycare centre. I thought to myself, I don’t exactly know where I’m going yet but I think this is the route to take. On a day later that week, I was supervising some children and two girls starting singing a song. This musical message made it very clear to me that I was making the right choice. The song was ” Break Free!” (by Ariana Grande) “This is the part where I break free, ’cause I can’t resist it no more.”
I will tell you a little about the discoveries I have made about self-worth through building a business, what steers us away from believing in our inherent goodness and how can we begin to see our value as a human BEING rather than a human DOING.
So over a year after taking that leap of faith–what have I learned? how have I grown? I’ve certainly learned a lot of new skills but more evident to me is what I have discovered about myself and how my mind works. Having a business sounds like a dream for some people–imagining the freedom of it all. Having a business means there is no one telling you what to do, no one checking your work, no one overseeing your choices, no performance reviews. Sounds like heaven right? But there is something that I have noticed; one pattern that has kept repeating over and over in my head. The questions of doubt– “Am I doing this right? What should I do next? What’s more important–A or B? How should I approach this phone call? Was that the right decision?
There have been many days where I don’t feel like I am doing enough. Days where I looked at the clock mid-day and said to myself–You haven’t done anything! You are not accomplishing anything! Lots of days when I have turned to my husband hoping that his confirmation would make me feel that I was doing it right. Countless days of having the sinking feeling of the possibility of failure. And days when I just freaked out thinking that everything was going wrong.
Honestly, I used to think that I was the only person on the planet who felt inadequate or unsure of myself at times. But I’ve realized in the last few years, that we all occasionally have a sense that we are not enough in some way, that perhaps we are not quite measuring up somehow. What a relief to know that I wasn’t the only person who has struggled with their ‘okayness’ or self-worth. Even the Buddha, sitting under the Bodhi tree, had to face the demon of self-doubt.
More and more I am feeling that my value as a human being doesn’t depend on how much I get done, or my husband’s approval of me, or getting it all perfect or achieving some acceptable form of “success”. More and more I am seeing that I am valuable simply by existing and being me.
So when do we start feeling that we are not okay? What gets us to start thinking that there is something wrong with us? How do we get steered away from believing that we have a unique contribution to make to the world? Perhaps you can pinpoint a time in your life when your image of yourself started to diminish. Maybe it’s more of a vague slide into the murky waters of self-doubt.
One thing that leads to this less-than feeling, is judging. We naturally do this as and it can serve us but much of the judging that goes on unnecessarily causes suffering to ourselves or to someone else. The minute we start comparing ourselves to someone else and thinking that we are in some way inferior or superior, we lose that sense of our innate equality as humans. The second we start judging someone for being less than perfect, we not only send them a bad vibe but we set impossible standards for ourselves as well.
Unfortunately we are continuously judged throughout our lives, judged for the grades we get in school, the kind of work we do, the clothes we wear, how we do our hair, how much money we have, how many cool gadgets we own, how well-behaved our children are. The tally of all the judgements gives us a score on how well we are doing in life. A low score means we are not doing enough, not doing it right and therefore we, too, are flawed and lacking.
Another way we lose our own sense of self-worth is in the rush of life. In our society, we are in a constant race against time. If we don’t cross off everything on our to-do list, if we don’t accomplish several tasks each day, if we don’t beat the clock, we are not doing enough. In our society, the message is, do more, do it better, do it faster.
How often in our day are we thinking,”I need to do this and this, and then this and oh, I don’t know if I’ll have time for that.” We are expected to work full-time, have interesting hobbies, take care of our family, and squeeze in a yoga class or two. How can anyone possibly ever live up to such high standards? How can we feel good about ourselves when we have this sense that there just will never be enough time to get it all done?
So what can we do to get out of the trap of self-doubt and start believing in our innate value once again? We can begin to see how we might be judging ourselves and change that voice of criticism to the voice of self-compassion. We can encourage and support each other and be more understanding and kind. We can begin to slow down. We can remember to take a few breaths between racing home from work and running out to get groceries. We can start to think about what is really important to us. Do we want to spend an hour on a social media site or do we want to spend that hour having conversation over tea with a friend?
I know for me, sharing my feelings and seeing that others have similar thoughts, feelings, and problems has made me see the truth that we are all really in the same boat. When I see these similarities, the separation that is caused by judging and comparing is reduced. Also, becoming aware of the bigger picture makes me realize that I am not the star of this show but merely an equal player, doing her small yet important part. As I start to see through the veil of the false belief of “not enough”, I notice I begin to shift from what can I get to what can I give. A shift from what will they think of me to what wisdom can I share. A shift from the small self who is mostly concerned with maintaining an certain image to a larger sense of self who is an interconnected piece of this mysterious web of life.
Paradoxically, as with many of life’s truths, it is when we return to our “being” that we will receive inspiration for our “doing”. Not a kind of doing that is rushed or confused or worried about performance but a kind of doing that is calm, focused, energized, creative. It is the kind of doing that will naturally generate everything we need. It is a kind of doing that is solidly based in the feeling of our value. For when we value ourselves, we can uncover the opportunities to use our gifts and talents to create abundance in our life. Then our actions and our service to the world will undoubtedly be… enough.