I had a journaling prompt once to consider how my life will be summed up after I’m gone.  In just a few quick paragraphs, how will the entirety of Rosemary Clark be described?  The obvious point of the exercise is to identify what deeply matters to you.
Let’s see…. The people I love and call family will be identified.  Maybe the work I do will be mentioned, but that’s not a guarantee.  I hope qualities like my love of all people, my ability to find joy in small moments, and my deep love for the people in my life will be talked about.  I’m pretty certain the fact that I knocked out 20 unrelated errands last weekend won’t come up.  The 430 tasks I do on a daily basis to maximize my time at work are also doubtful.  And yet… when I am facing my daily to do list I attack it as if there has never been anything more important.  I analyze what must be done, and with military precision consider the most effective way to move to the very end, the only possible place of success, in order to fall exhausted into bed at the end of the day.  For the briefest of moments I’m satisfied I have made a difference and yet all I have really done is wear myself out.  I didn’t take time to call my kid, slow down and get present with a neighbor, move my body, or even take time for a healthy meal because I had “important” things to do.
Been there with me?
How about this scenario….
Abby knows what success looks like.  It has two luxury cars parked in front of a four bedroom home occupied by a wildly successful power couple and their 2.7 kids.  Weekends are full of adventure in picturesque locations (shared on social media, of course) and financed by her recent promotion to Senior VP at the company where she has lovingly worked for her entire career.  She is certain happiness and self-worth are realized only when these accomplishments are achieved.  And by the way, her life doesn’t have these markers, so she’s quite dissatisfied and exhausted by the effort of chronically comparing her life to this idealized picture.
Too much?
How about this….
Timmy has his own successful business as well as a beautiful family with three kids.  He loves what he does as much as he loves spending time with his children.  His job is demanding though, as is raising three active teenagers, and he can often get overwhelmed by all that he wants and needs to do in a day.  Timmy has been known to get so stressed by it all that he gets quite grumpy and just wants the week to be over.  He sometimes hears himself complaining that he has to attend his daughter’s soccer game, or his son’s oboe solo.  He feels guilty and certain he’s a bad father for not loving every second, but he doesn’t see another way out and he endures the list of activities because it is simply what he must do.
Sounds exhausting.
And oh so common.
Somewhere along the way we decided that being busy = value.  Being overbooked and tired are status symbols as we are ever marching toward the accomplishments that will finally give us enough value aka being a good enough father, competent and trustworthy person, or desirable partner and friend.  The doing becomes so critical to self worth that the idea of being as a counter measure sounds ludicrous.
Hold on a second.  This is the exact opposite of what strong self esteem looks like.
Complete opposite.
Renowned social worker and author, Brene Brown, calls this hustling for our value.  We are so busy living in what life “should” look like that who we are and what we believe becomes secondary.  Cal Newport, computer programming professor at Georgetown University looks at this same concept in business.  He says this idea of being so constantly busy is using an outdated industrial model where doing lots of stuff in a visible manner is a measure of progress.  His point would be that putting out more emails doesn’t serve as a measurement for productivity like it does when a factory actually puts out more products.  Meaningful contributions to society come as a results of deep thought and not from a flurry of electronic communication.
Then what do we need to consider when talking about our worth?  How does someone with a strong sense of self know they have value?
They accept that they do.
When hearing they have value there is no arguing.  They don’t insist that they are flawed, broken, unlovable, and horrifyingly different.  There is no doing as a mode of earning value and no achievement necessary to acknowledge what is already present.
When speaking with someone who knows who they are I am always wowed when I see this next quality.  There is an ability to see a deficit in themselves without letting that become a huge deal.  They see it.  They know it’s there.  They also know there’s more to them than what is wrong or missing.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  They know who they are.  Really know.
In the deep knowing and being we are able to tap into our value and understand what really matters.  I wish I had a how to manual I could give you, but it doesn’t exist.  This knowing is a journey and not a quick fix. Consider that the journey is possible.  If you had a deeper rooted sense of self what would you do today?  Start there.

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