“A life’s worth, in the end, isn’t measured in hours or money. It’s measured by the amount of love exchanged along the way.” ~Unknown
I’ve had a go-go-go personality for as long as I can remember. I think I was born with it.
Both of my parents were small business owners who truly believed that with enough hard work and heart-and-soul dedication, you can accomplish anything.
By the age of three, I was a gymnast; by early elementary school, a competitive one, with a coach who was constantly (and sometimes aggressively) pushing me to the next level.
Therein began the scheduling of every minute of my time: from school, to two-hour practices, to homework on the road, to weekend competitions, to girls’ slumber and birthday parties.
I wanted to do it all, and to be the best at all I did. I hadn’t even reached high school and had already joined the universal struggle for work/life balance!
The especially vicious part of this cycle was that, when I found myself falling short in any one area (for example, not being quite “good enough” for the popular group of girls in school), I would drive my energy fiercely into other areas, such as academic success, which my teachers noticed and encouraged.
I graduated from high school at the top of my class, and Suma Cum Laude in my Bachelors and Masters degrees. (Both programs were in Psychology, by the way—even then, I tried to understand and connect more deeply with myself and others).
Following grad school, I continued the fast-paced life and entered my first corporate career as a wellness facilitator.
I traveled all over the U.S. and internationally too, to deliver a workshop that was, ironically, based in self-care and listening to your body. I certainly wasn’t practicing either of those things, but I was receiving praise from my bosses and respected colleagues.
One of my more memorable breakdowns came toward the end of the first year on the job. Sitting in yet another airport, for yet another delayed flight home, I’d just had it. I was chronically stressed and exhausted; pale, thin, and fragile; and physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually spent.
It terrified me to imagine living life another year at this pace; it was equally terrifying to listen to what my heart was and had been calling for, for some time: to slow down.
The Universe had been gently coaxing me toward this moment for a few years by introducing a yoga practice, essential oil use, acupuncture, and many healing modalities and healers into my life. But rather than embracing the healing fully, I turned each experience into an opportunity to do yet another thing.
Yoga? I became an instructor. Essential oil use? I became a distributor. Acupuncture? I turned it into a working relationship and an opportunity to build my network for my healing business.
It’s as if my ego simply wouldn’t accept or allow such radical acts of self-care without some sort of business case outside of my being.
Deep, deep down, at my very core, I didn’t believe I was worthy of slowing down, of being taken care of, of feeling good.
I, by myself, unattached from all the things that I did, wasn’t good enough. And how could I be? I’d built my life, my whole identity, on doing a lot, being good at all that I did, and looking for approval outside of myself.
I was the one that took on the world, the one that could clean, cook, be a great girlfriend, friend, sister, daughter, and thrive in a successful career. And to anyone outside of myself, that is what it looked like—that I had it all, and had it all together.
According to my boss and the corporate world, I was a “high potential”; according to societal standards, I should’ve been on top of the world happy.
But guess what? I was massively broken, empty, and unhappy. And that’s part of what kept me looped in, continually striving for the next thing; unfortunately, because I’d learned to search solely outside of myself, that is where my worth delicately hung as well.
Throughout life, I’d also caught glimpses of my true and inherent worth.
I saw it in giving—sharing a special connection with a yogi during one of my classes; hearing feedback from a participant in one of my workshops that they would finally commit to taking care of themselves. And I also found it in receiving—hugs and thoughtful gestures from my boyfriend (now fiancé, whom I rarely saw at the time); an especially connected meditation or journaling session; a deeply meaningful conversation.
And the connection that exists within each of those acts is embracing love, wholeheartedly. Believing that what we have to offer is enough, without condition, and that we are worthy of receiving such love the same way that we give it—freely.
The truth is, our worthiness doesn’t reside in doing; it lies within our very being. It’s unchanging, unwavering, and infinite. But we can certainly convince ourselves of the former and spend our lives hustling for the worthiness that we’ll never find in doing.
So how do we get there? How do we shift from identifying ourselves with what we do to who we are?
For me, understanding this truth didn’t come with one massive blow to the ego; it happened in gradual shifts. Here are the practices that help me remember my unconditional worth and live a beautifully fulfilled and blessed life:
Be willing to accept and embrace what comes, believing that it is for your own and the collective highest good.
This really helped me release my urge to control, to come back to my inner truth, and to focus on being versus doing.
Remember that in any given situation or experience, you have the choice to see through the eyes of fear or love.
We are often faced with this one when we are putting our full selves out there in our careers, our relationships, and even our passions and hobbies.
A fear mindset might keep us stuck in self-limiting beliefs, such as:
- I really want the job, but there’s no way I’m qualified.
- He/she is so great, but would never notice me.
- I love to paint/sing/dance, but there’s no way I could ever do anything with it.
A loving mindset encourages us to remain open and curious, without attaching our worth to the outcome:
- I can’t ignore this job opportunity; I’m smart, experienced, and I owe it to myself to explore the possibility.
- I really feel a connection with him/her; I should at least explore a conversation and see where it takes us.
- I really feel the best of my energy comes out when I paint/sing/dance, and I’d like to share that energy with the world in a way that makes sense for me.
3. Asking for what you need.
Know that it is okay and necessary to say “no” sometimes, and to ask for help! And know that this doesn’t make you any less of a person; in fact, it creates space for you to keep your light shining and for others to step into their own light, as well. (This one is still an ongoing struggle for me).
4. Surrender vs. striving.
We are creatures of habit, and though I am totally and intentionally committed to slowing down and embracing self-care, I still find myself unnecessarily filling my time and getting dragged back into the worthiness hustle.
Rather than beating yourself up further and digging the hole deeper, take a deep breath and surrender. Ask for guidance from the Universe and then listen and try to honor and trust what comes.
When I fully commit to this, I usually feel a wave of calm wash over me almost instantly.
So please, stop the chaotic and fruitless search for worthiness outside of yourself. Slow down, listen, and honor your body and soul’s cravings. Commit to embracing all that you are, and come back to your true nature—peace and happiness.
Carefree man image via Shutterstock