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Productivity as Self Worth

LJ linked me to a quote the other day which I felt summed up the crux of what so many of us battle with in modern times:

“If we want to live a Wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating rest and play, and we must work to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth.” – Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection

In a society largely built on productivity and usefulness as societal units, it’s easy to get caught up in the belief that our value lies in how much we produce, our output, how much we *do* in a day.

Does *A* have more value as a being because s/he runs a multi-million dollar business, wrangles the kids, cleans the house from top to bottom and bakes 10 cakes all in the course of 24 hours compared to *B* who might do some or none of those things in the same 24 hours? The answer should of course be a resounding *no of course not* but more often than not it doesn’t *feel* that way.


There can be something rather smugly satisfying about being very productive, dare I say that it can make one feel superior and possibly even judgemental of others who we deem less productive and therein lies the problem – self worth linked to productivity is a double-edged sword. It may feel great when your output is high but conversely you can be left feeling low and lacking if your output falls below your perceived value threshold. It’s much like walking on sand, it feels great between your toes when it’s soft and light but you never know when you’ll get to a soft, squidgy bit and start to sink!

I’ve battled with this very issue for a large part of my adult life and at times the feelings of lack of self worth have been crippling because I felt I wasn’t *doing* enough. For me, that word *doing* is loaded because it can take on so many guises:

  • not contributing to society enough,
  • not helping others enough,
  • not earning enough,
  • not looking after myself enough……the list goes on.

As you can imagine, freeing oneself from this trap can be a difficult process where, at times, it feels like taking one step forward only to take two back. The process of weaning oneself off this definition of self worth can be complicated by the fact that *productivity = good = valuable* is constantly reinforced by outside influences: comments from well meaning friends and family *isn’t A wonderful, she’s working and raising the kids and making home cooked meals from scratch and studying and……* , media role models, our employers and colleagues. This, coupled with the fact that being praised for being productive generally doesn’t *feel* horrible and may come with some sort of monetary bonus, makes this idea of productivity as self worth tricky to ditch.

BUT as the quote above so succinctly states, to live a truly happy and mindful life, I believe one MUST ditch this idea and redefine value for oneself. For me, I have chosen to believe that I am a valuable being because I am simply here in the world and I choose to interact with others by sharing my energy, love, experiences in (hopefully) a positive manner. To me, value is linked with being here…sharing my happiness and love with others but to do that I must ensure that I give myself time and space to be happy myself which means I must create space to *be* and not *do*. After all, true happiness radiates from the inside out and not the other way around.

And so, my journey continues towards a better understanding of myself so that I can lead a truly wholehearted life (^_^)

Anna xx


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