I made a resolution a few years back to not be “busy”. I decided I wasn’t going to use the word and I wasn’t going to seek out the security that came with it.
When You’re Left Feeling Unworthy
When I first made this resolution, I was coming out of a period of my life that was utterly unbusy. There’s no need to go into details; suffice it say, I was a first-time mom in the midst of frequent moves, a tight budget and an unreliable car often out of service. I was at home. A lot. Like, almost all of the time.
Along with those homebound days came feelings I couldn’t seem to shake. I felt lonely and isolated. I loved my baby and knew taking care of him was important, but I struggled with feeling inadequate in a world that idolizes productivity and busyness. My worries or my desire to find friendship were difficult to express. Who had time to make for me, and why should someone like me ask for it?
There are specific circumstances that make up my personal story. But when we’re honest with one another, most of us face these same fears of inadequacy. We live in a society that equates busyness with value. Who we are is often synonymous with how much we do.
When we’re asked how we are doing, or what we do “for a living”, there’s that lingering pressure to prove our worth to others – to spout off a long list of responsibilities or achievements. We worry that if we don’t appear to be adequately performing in life we may be judged as unworthy.
Our children often have this same weight on their shoulders. They’re told to be “over-achievers” (whatever that means). Those who are recognized as “good” students must perform well at school, seek out extra-curricular activities, and promote how much they volunteer (which, let’s face it, sends conflicting messages on why we should be helping others).
In the pressure to achieve, it’s no wonder that in almost every basic interaction we have the following exchange:
“How have you been?”
It’s a reply that is almost as safe to say as that other go-to response, “fine”. Fine and busy make up our safety net. They are socially acceptable. They also do not reveal how we’re actually doing. It is an odd kind of game, where we all must be busy to be fine and fine if we’re feeling busy.
Saying No To the Busy Game
After a few years, circumstances made it possible for me to have a fuller schedule. I relished the activity and the ability to form community. But I found my heart still ached over those dark insecurities. And there was a growing awareness that others around me were going unnoticed in their struggle to feel worthwhile.
I also started wondering how to best help my children form healthy self-images. Was there something I could do to relay to them that they should be seeking an authentic life, not necessarily a busy one? Could they value what they did as an extension of who they were, but not let it define them?
I made a resolution to just say no to being “busy”. And it’s one I renew each year. Life certainly gets chaotic, messy and overwhelming, but the “b” word is not a part of my family’s culture. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way:
You Realize That Being Busy Doesn’t Add Value to Your Life
When you opt-out of the busy game, quantity doesn’t determine quality of life. You’re not trying to be the busiest or most important person in the room. Your kids do not have to be the busiest kids in the room. Your family’s activities are extensions of the people who make it up, but you value those around you for being who they are more than what they do. And you become proud of the time you’ve carved out to not be busy. It’s liberating and gratifying to reinforce a mentality that values people both big and small as human beings, not human doers.
You Become a Better Listener
I learned first-hand that when you don’t have a lot to say about your life, you use your time to better listen to others. That’s not something that has to stop with having a full schedule. When you take the pressure to appear busy or impressive off the table, you can be more present to others. The word “busy” can at times come across as too busy to be present. But there’s a way to merge the relaying of your life with others in compassionate listening.
We Are All Worthy
Let’s face it, most of our lives are made up with the things that just need to get done. We do our best to pay the bills and put food on the table. We all have hopes and dreams and are doing what we can to make our lives happy and meaningful.
We’re also all different. We have different things that make us stressed or proud, excited or overwhelmed. Our differences make comparisons or the need to out-busy or out-perform one another futile. I want my children to pursue their interests and work hard in life. But it would break my heart to hear they are doing things to escape feelings of insecurity. I want them to know that no matter what they do, they always have value. It doesn’t matter how much they achieve – they will always be worthwhile people.
In all sincerity, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty for being “busy”. It’s often our reality. But for anyone struggling with “keeping up” with it all, and especially for those who are feeling less than adequate, this is a reminder that you are worth more than a busy schedule.