I grew up with three siblings and four double cousins. Our moms are sisters and our dads are brothers, which means we have the same extended family on both sides. On one side of the family, we often heard the words “Williams are workers.” On the other side, we come from a long line of incredible hostesses.
Gathering after family gathering, year after year, we watched our moms and aunts and grandma cook dinner, serve dinner, and clean up dinner.
They are the kind of women who offer you a drink the moment you come in and offer you candy or pie — or the seat closest to the fire — until the moment you leave.
They think of it all.
By extension, that desire to keep moving and tending and serving is in my blood.
Sometimes when my husband comes home from work to find me lying down on the job (probably with three wild banshees whooping and hollering around me), I feel this deeply-held impulse to jump up and look busy.
I fight it, because I believe in rest.
I’m coming to believe that my worth isn’t based on my productivity.
My worth just is. It’s inherent.
Here are three dangers of valuing productivity over everything else:
1. It doesn’t satisfy. At least not for long.
Productivity is an endless loop. A to-do list grows as fast as it shrinks. I absolutely believe in the value of hard work — as long as it’s tempered by the knowledge that there will always be more work to do.
2. It inhibits your engagement with your life.
The first thing to fly out the window when I become hyper-focused on productivity is my ability to engage at a heart level with my husband and kids, neighbors and friends. The to-do’s feel too large and looming; pausing long enough to live in the moment seems like a luxury I can’t afford.
On my better days, I know this isn’t true and that living in the moment is, in reality, exactly what I want to make time for.
3. Lapses in your productivity may trigger shame.
Brene Brown calls it shame. Elle Luna calls them stumbling blocks. Whatever you call it, when you’re disappointed in yourself and feel like you’re not measuring up to the standard in your head, it’s damaging. And for many of us, lapses in our productivity (whether by choice or by force) send us down that slippery slope.
Here are three values you may choose to hold up instead:
1. Hard work.
In my mind, there’s a subtle but significant difference between hard work and productivity. Hard work doesn’t come with a stipulation of continuance. You can work hard — and then relax in a job well done.
2. Whimsy & wonder.
Or in other words, engagement with your life. In my opinion, living with your heart and eyes wide open — looking for wonder wherever you can find it — is one of the greatest benefits of not overvaluing productivity.
3. Your self-worth.
The other day, I sat on a sofa across from my therapist. (I prefer to call her my “life guide.”) She hugged a cup of steaming coffee with her hands and probed my soul with her eyes. (If you’ve ever been there, you understand what I mean.)
“It’s hard for me to play,” I said. “It’s hard for me to let go.”
It’s hard for me to let go of my control over a clean house, polite children, homework that is fully filled out and lovingly corrected by yours truly.
But I know, when I pull back a few layers, that my worth isn’t based on results. It isn’t based on how efficiently I can write a blog post or make dinner for five. It’s not based on how quickly I can move or how thoroughly I can wear myself out.
My worth just is — and yours is too.