Updated: Oct 1, 2019
Do you struggle with "shutting off" from work mode? Are you antsy when you aren't tasking? Is it hard for you to truly take a day off? Me. Freaking. Too. Read on, friend. Let's nip this in the bud together.
I was sitting here this morning (okay, so, LATE morning, because I allowed myself to sleep in on my day off, which of course sends off alarm signals of shame that I'm not successful enough to get up early on a day off because the story I've created is that successful people never sleep in), and I thought, Elizabeth, you need to have a lazy Sunday.
And then I promptly shuddered.
Elizabeth, you need to be okay with the word lazy. Truly embrace it if you want to work on giving yourself permission to relax.
Okay. I can do this. I'm sitting there, thinking about how I need to love the word lazy, you know, just stare at it in the face. I'm like, sweating over my cup of coffee, trying to relax, coaching myself to be brave and whole hearted in my quest for "laziness".
It was pathetic. Like running a bumper car into a wall over and over again. I was totally squirmy, and getting nowhere. I simply couldn't do it.
Then, I had an a-ha moment! Wait a minute, I don't need to embrace the word lazy, I thought. That's my whole freaking problem! I need to reframe what a day off from work means to me.
Identifying my shame triggers
I have obviously been stuck in a mindset that "not working = lazy". Maybe you can relate: you find it hard to "shut down" from work mode, you hoard your vacation days for some apocalyptic vacation or you simply struggle being present with anything other than productive tasks. I realized that any moment I took time off, I was secretly and silently judging myself for it, because lazy is a shame trigger for me. AHA!!!
A shame-trigger as coined by researcher, author and public speaker Brené Brown is anything that elicits feelings of "not enough-ness" in your life, or an apparent lack of worthiness.
I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote the word LAZY in bold on my page. Then around it, I started scribbling how that word made me feel: ashamed, unproductive, unsuccessful, struggling, gross, can't relax, lack of inner peace... and then BOOM...
World of scarcity
We live in a world of scarcity, and Brené Brown speaks about this often. We are never rich enough, successful enough, thin enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, perfect enough.
We are not enough.
And we hear this message through media, our workplace, and even sometimes our friends and family. Our culture is rooted in scarcity, and because of that, we continue falling forward into mountains of busy-ness, because why?
We are a culture that rewards work and shames relaxation.
So what in the hell do we do about it?
Digging yourself out
If you are like me, and "lack of productivity" is a shame trigger for you, here are ways to grow out of that shame spiral.
1) Reframe the "not working" mode. Instead of calling it lazy, idle or even dare I say leisure, what if we reframe it? Ideas that I came up with when I was scribbling were "at peace", "at ease", "re-fillment". I really like the last one. I can prioritize the notion of taking time off to refill my cup. It is actionable and serves my future self, and others, as well.
2) Schedule yourself. "Refillment" is totally something to budget for in your planner. I bet you have a million and one lines filled in for appointments, clients, work hours, kid's activities, meetings, but how many of those lines are dedicated to refillment? SCHEDULE THAT SH*T! Start by taking your off day, drawing a big bright square around that day and scheduling the nice/fun/fulfilling things you will do for yourself that will lead to refillment.
What if my shame trigger is something else?
If your shame trigger comes in the form of appearance, motherhood, work performance, you are not alone. We all have multiple shame triggers, and identifying them is the first step. You can easily apply these bullets below as outlined by Brené in this interview by Oprah (watch it here!) to get yourself out of that negative self-talk that holds us back from being the BEST versions of ourselves.
1) Talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love.
Shame does not do well with empathy. How would you talk to a spouse or a sibling if they were being hard on themselves about, let's say, not being fit enough? What would your conversation look like? Then think about what that same conversation would look like with yourself? Are you more likely to approach the third party with compassion? Probably. So give yourself that same grace.
2) Reach out to someone you trust.
Shame thrives in an environment of judgment. To combat that, reach out to someone you trust. Tell them about your feelings of self doubt. Open yourself up to that vulnerability, and let in empathy. You will feel less alone in your struggles just airing things out.
3) Tell your story.
Shame also lives on in silence. So tell your story! Just as I am doing here, facing your feeling of unworthiness could be not only therapeutic to you, but to someone around you. The more we close ourselves off from sharing our stories, the more alienated we become. We feel alone in our struggles, but what if we didn't? It can all change with you, sharing one of your inner demons of "not enoughness" to help dig someone else out of their own.
Putting it into action
Yesterday, I dedicated myself to "refillment". I took the day to focus on my marriage, and we went exploring to a beautiful garden in Central Florida. We spent time in nature, laughing, talking, playing. And I never once thought "I shouldn't be doing this, I have so much to do." I allowed myself to be truly present.
“The highest goal of spirituality is Self-realization, but what does that mean? It means to feel your Self as a living reality in this moment, and there is always only this moment.” ― Gay Hendricks, Already Home
Finally, for those of you who may still struggle through this, know that some days you'll get it right, and other days you won't. For those striving for more refillment days, I give you this: PERMISSION TO TAKE THEM.
After all, it is not the falling that defines us, but how we get back up that counts.