If Simone Biles can prioritize her mental and emotional well-being so can I, and so can you.
There is a mantra within our culture that idolizes a push through, get the job done at all costs kind of attitude. Don’t slow down, don’t pause, keep moving forward, sacrifice everything. We attribute success to specific results, rewards, and oftentimes recognition. We glorify stories of success and accomplishment achieved through hard work, personal sacrifice, grit, and sheer determination. Don’t get me wrong, I get caught up in those stories just as much as the next person. Yet I’m not sure this mantra serves us well, all the time; especially when it does not permit us to take the breaks we need.
COVID-19 has offered us an opportunity to challenge this mantra. In the midst of the shutdown, productivity slowed down not just because people weren’t able to show up physically to work but the mental energy it took to cope with the uncertainty made it harder to work. Many of us just weren’t able to be at full capacity. Most of the collective culture had to slow down, had to pause.
Even with concerns over COVID lingering, there’s definitely a collective push to get back to productivity. We’re hearing concerns being raised that if Americans don’t get back to work fully we will all be in financial ruin. I’m not here to discuss the economics of that specific point at the moment. What I don’t like is the fear this messaging plays on. For all too long productivity and accomplishment in this country have been too closely tied with worth. I see this measure of “worth” show up not just in concerns over how much one has in personal resources but as an indication of the value of one’s very being.
I’ve been rethinking these messages in my own life. In my early adulthood, I had just come out of some intense trauma. Once I began to make money I began to feel stronger and worthy. Having my own money meant I had choices which helped me build my own autonomy. The feedback loop created was; I show up for work, I get paid. I work harder, I get paid more, giving me the resources I need to create my own life.
Yet as a result of that experience and some cultural messaging, that subconscious message morphed into, “If I don’t work hard, push through and meet others’ expectations, I won’t have enough.” For me, the fear of not having enough evolves into the fear of losing freedom and my ability to make my own choices. And if I’m being really honest, when I’m not driving hard I often fear being seen as “not enough”. My response when those fears are evoked is to drive harder. And that’s what I’ve done for 20 plus years. Until I couldn’t.
The trauma I came out of twenty years ago resurfaced in 2019 leaving me no other option but to address my mental health needs. Even if I had wanted to (and I did) I could NOT keep up what I considered, and most in the corporate world would consider, a productive pace. Thankfully I was self-employed so I didn’t risk losing my job but the flip side to that is when you’re self-employed if you’re not actively building your business it’s not growing. So it’s not like I didn’t feel the pressure. I did.
Yet, my fears weren’t realized. Taking the time to attend to my emotional and mental well-being did not result in more feelings of worthlessness. In fact, the opposite occurred it allowed me to strengthen my own self-worth. Opportunities and resources didn’t disappear, I probably have more now because of where my journey has taken me. Pausing, slowing down, and prioritizing my mental and emotional well-being has not cost me success, maybe changed the definition a little, and it hasn’t cost me freedom or safety. I’ve found I have enough.
Looking back, I wish I had more permission to do what I needed to do to take care of myself. Thankfully I had a few friends and life coaches that reminded me that there would be a time again where I could run hard but for now take the time to heal. (And they still remind me of this when I have a hard day or series of hard days.) Perhaps you need some permission to take care of yourself, to slow down, to pause for a moment, to do whatever you may need in order to prioritize your own well-being, I hereby grant it.
I’m hopeful that as a culture we’ll all start granting each other more permissions and that we’ll re-examine and re-write the scripts that keep us from seeing that we are more than what we accomplish.
“The outpouring of love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”
In this post, I shared an example of examining one of my own beliefs or what I refer to as a script. In Money Made Meaningful’s debut BookChat we are reading “Wire For Wealth” which explores the various beliefs we’ve developed around money and they may impact our overall financial well-being. If you’re interested in reading along with us and joining our discussion, we’d love to have you. Visit Money Made Meaningful for more details and to register for the Zoom event.