This first post of 2017 is coming straight from my heart.
In effort to practice what I preach, I’m embracing vulnerability and sharing with you a truth I recently uncovered the hard way. In thinking more holistically about how I want to live and work in 2017, I know one thing for sure: I’m ready to let go of the hustle for worthiness.
As 2016 wrapped up, I found myself saying the same thing over and over: I’m exhausted. I need a break. I just want to shut off for a while. I wish I could climb into bed and hibernate for a week.
This was particularly alarming for me because 1) I love my work, 2) I love being social and connecting with people and 3) I love feeling productive. And yet, I was not feeling energized by any of those things. Instead, I was flat out depleted.
After a bit of soul searching, I came to an important conclusion that I think you might be able to relate to:
Busyness and exhaustion had become my status symbols.
There was a time not too long ago when leisure-as-status ruled supreme: if you had time to play or simply lounge, it meant you were living the good life. But these days, given our extreme over-achievement culture, down time is often perceived as wasteful or lazy.
The overarching message is this: if you aren’t overbooked or overworked, you’re falling behind.
So we push. We hustle harder for worthiness. We fill our calendars to the brink with work, school, travel, and activities so that when someone asks what we’ve been doing, we’re armed with an impressive list of engagements that defends our exhaustion and garners the praise we crave to validate that we are finally enough.
And then, when we receive positive reinforcement about how hard we’re working or how successful we’ve become, we are forced to start one-upping ourselves (and each other) to sustain our status.
The hustle for worthiness is real and I know it’s not just me– I see this struggle at every age and every stage:
*Teens who feel obligated to pile on excessive AP classes and extracurricular activities
*College kids who fill every moment of their holiday breaks with grand resumé-builders
*Parents who commit themselves (and their kids) to a different group, team or activity every day of the week
*Adults who work around the clock and never take vacation…
Hustle. HARDER. Do. MORE. NO REST FOR THE WEARY!
It’s a rat race and I’m ready to tap out.
But where does this hustle for worthiness come from, anyway? What’s underneath this incessant need to prove our worth instead of simply believing that we’re enough just as we are?
Two words: scarcity culture.
“We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want and don’t have, and how much everyone else has, needs and wants,” says shame/vulnerability expert Dr. Brené Brown. “…We are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven versions of perfection, or we’re holding up our reality against our own fictional account of how great someone else has it.”
The core message of our scarcity culture is this: “Never _______ enough.”
And we all have a personal narrative that automatically fills that blank:
- Never good enough
- Never thin enough
- Never powerful enough
- Never successful enough
- Never smart enough
- Never strong enough
- Never extraordinary enough
- Never wealthy enough
- Never working enough
- Never popular enough
“Before we even sit up in bed,” says author Lynn Twist, “before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack.
What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life.”
WHOAH. Chew on that for a second… Here we are, running as fast as we can on the hedonic hamster wheel, thinking that doing so will fill us with a sense of fulfillment and worthiness– but in reality, we find ourselves pointing to that exact same pattern as the very excuse for why we don’t feel the way we want to.
When we buy into the scarcity culture message that we are never _______ enough, we wind up taking actions that are out of alignment with our values. (Take me for example: Balance is one of my core values. It’s posted on the wall of my office so I can see it every single day, yet I ran myself into the ground by saying yes to everything and everyone because busyness and exhaustion had become my symbols of worthiness… And the reason I felt so shattered had everything to do with the fact that I was not honoring my core value through my actions.)
And because we believe (incorrectly) that the opposite of scarcity is abundance, we assume that “more” will solve our feelings of “never ____ enough.”
“I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin,” says Brown. “The opposite of ‘never enough’ isn’t abundance or ‘more than you could ever imagine.’”
As it turns out, the opposite of scarcity is sufficiency.
Sufficiency?!? Yep. You read that right. Twist explains,
“We each have the choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mindset of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.
Sufficiency resides inside of each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances… Sufficiency is not a message about simplicity or about cutting back and lowering expectations. Sufficiency doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive or aspire . . . sufficiency is a context we bring forth from within that reminds us that if we look around us and within ourselves, we will find what we need. There is always enough.”
In other words, we don’t have to hustle for our worthiness because it is inherent. Worthiness is our birthright, and we must work every day to remember the truth: we don’t need to be ______ enough to be worthy of love, connection and belonging. We already are.
At the core, this is a mindset issue. To shift out of scarcity mentality, we must first deepen our self-awareness to become more cognizant of when we fall prey to it. This means practicing a deep and alert mindfulness; paying close attention to your thoughts in order to identify scarcity thinking.
(FOR THE RECORD: this has been one of the most significant shifts I’ve been practicing myself, and I can tell you first hand it’s astounding how quickly and easily I get wrapped up in scarcity thinking if I’m not paying attention! We’re hard-wired with a negativity bias so our default thinking style is to hunt for where we’re not ______ enough. It takes real, intentional effort to practice otherwise.)
Once we become adept at simply noticing (without judgment!) how often we get caught up in scarcity mentality, we can be intentional with our thinking to craft a new script that simply reads:
“You are enough.”
If this topic resonates with you, let me know in the comments below! Let’s support each other in the process of letting go of the hustle for good.