You Are Not What You Do

I’ve heard this repeated through numerous people, in a number of different ways, over the last few days:

When it comes to producing work, take your self-worth is off the table.

By work, I mean a book or screenplay that you’ve written, a painting you’ve painted or presentation performed. Maybe it’s a party that you host, a birthday present for someone you don’t know very well, or the way your house looks after a mornings’ cleaning when it still won’t satisfy your overly judgemental parents.

Whatever it is, separate your output – what you do –  from your self-worth.

I’ve always struggled with this.

As a self-confessed workaholic, I’m definitely prone to over-identifying with my work. It’s incredibly destructive, especially when people aren’t appreciative of what you do. 

You don’t like my article? That means you don’t like me. That means, as I always thought, I’d not good enough to be doing this. That means I’m a failure and I should just give up.

Throughout my life, I’ve over-identified with my output and as such I’ve tied up far too much of my own self-esteem in what I do. And it’s so limiting. It’s so clear that this feeds my self-doubt and anxiety. It causes me to care far too much about what others think. It blocks me from truly listening to and acting on constructive feedback. And often, it stops creative momentum in its tracks… leading to numbing feelings and procrastination.

I find a whole lot of fulfilment in what I do. Creativity is really important to me. My career is incredibly important to me.

But it isn’t who I am, it’s just what I do.

And I need to know – like we all do – that even if someone doesn’t like something that I’ve written. Or that a party, I host, is dull; that I’m still enough, just as I am.



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