I enter my apartment; it’s after 9:00 p.m. I have been up since 6:00am and haven’t stopped. I pour myself a full glass of wine, put a bag of popcorn in the microwave because I can’t be bothered cooking, and turn on the TV. My phone is still buzzing with emails and to do lists. I think, “I’m not getting paid enough to put up with this!” Frustration sets in. I’m disappointed with myself that I haven’t gone to the gym in a month or called back my best friend or even had the energy to clean my house. Gradually the wine and the TV begin to numb out the nagging thoughts. Then 6:00 a.m. rolls around again and I am hurled into another day of people demanding my attention. I would sleep but I wouldn’t rest. I would check out but I wouldn’t fill up.
I have always had a high value for working hard. I had my own car washing business when I was 10 and worked in my Aunty’s take away shop when I was 13. Working hard is something I find purpose in and thrive on. I was really good at working hard for other people but would sacrifice myself over and over again to meet the needs of someone else.
If I did take a break, like a long weekend, I would get extremely sick! My body was screaming at me to stop. Survival mode told me I didn’t have a choice. I had bills to pay, and I was determined to be seen as responsible. I wanted to live up to other people’s expectations of me. I had become a victim of work, a slave to what people think. I subconsciously thought performing to everyone’s expectations of me would give me acceptance and love.
I was constantly running in circles trying to figure out how to do life well. How do I serve my community, love people, show up for them, be generous and take care of me? Is taking care of me selfish? How do I work hard, but not burn out? Can I say no to my leader or boss? Is sacrifice as a lifestyle the most commendable life?
Love is the key
The game changer for me was learning how to love myself. Our culture might say the problem is we love ourselves too much, meaning self-love is selfish. But I don’t agree. In the Bible it says, “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” The hidden wisdom is you will be a good lover of others when you know how to love yourself. I lived my life mostly frustrated at other people’s incompetency, but then I realized my frustration was holding a mirror up to my frustration at myself in areas I felt incompetent.
September 2014 was when everything changed. My life was turned upside down and inside out. I took a risk in moving to another country and became a student. I was literally forced to not work. This was not easy for me, a recovering workaholic. Subconsciously all my worth was wrapped up in how I performed and what people thought of me. These past couple of years I’ve been unwrapping the beliefs that have kept me locked in a prison of hustling for self-worth. I have been navigating the tension of when to work and when to rest. Does rest mean doing nothing? Or is it an emotional state? What is excellence? How can I be excellent at what I do without sacrificing myself, and those around me? What am I actually good at? How do I respect someone’s opinion but not sacrifice my own? Is it ok to disappoint people? What makes me come alive? Is it ok to do the thing I love? What do I love? Life is full of tension, come join me as I navigate the tricky tensions of life!
This post is the start of a series about my journey on living a life of emotional rest. I want to unpack further what loving yourself looks like. To get regular updates in your inbox feel free to subscribe!
Questions to ponder…
When was the first time you felt like you needed to perform for love?
What parts of your life do you feel robbed of choice?