The Problem With Basing Self Worth On Productivity – Guest Post by Christina Wiebe

Today I’m thrilled to share with you a post from a dear friend of mine, Christina Wiebe. I met Christina a few years ago while we were both contributing to a Chronic Pain and Illness Photo Project on Facebook. She is an amazing woman who happens to have Central Sensitivity Syndrome, and was just recently crowned Mrs, Vancouver Island 2019 – 2020. A few days ago she posted something on Instagram I wanted to share with all of you, so without further ado, I had this over to her. You can find Christina on Instagram @phoenixrisingstories.

“How do you know that you have self worth?”

When a solid thirty seconds elapsed and still no coherent answer came to my mind, I knew that I had work to do. Whether or not this was going to be a potential interview question asked of me as a contestant in the 2019 Miss BC Pageant (hosted in British Columbia, Canada), it was clear to me that beyond being able to confidently answer an interview question, I needed to be able to answer this question for myself. Why? Because I knew that for the rest of my life, it would be impossible for me to feel confident, empowered, and like I have the right to use my voice to effect meaningful change if I did not believe that I was worthy of being there in the first place.

As I approached what would be the most challenging, terrifying, intense, and overwhelming weekend of my life as someone who has been very sick and debilitated by Central Sensitivity Syndrome for many years, it dawned on me that after years of isolation, being predominantly housebound, and not doing anything our society sees to be traditionally productive and valuable (like pursuing a successful career, traveling around the world and doing volunteer work, raising a family, achieving higher education and so on) I was suddenly going to be in a room with 50+ women who were all doing these amazing things while I was lying in bed contending with symptoms. (Yes, I know I should not compare but I am human and the thought naturally crossed my mind. The point is not that I compared, the point is the action I chose to take as a result of it).

It brought to the forefront this concept and question of Self Worth. How did I know that I still have self worth? How could I possibly stand beside these women and still feel like I was enough? What is self worth? Where does it come from? How does our society, environment, upbringing, and social conditioning all influence how we perceive our self worth and value as human beings?

I had to look back on my life and where it seemed like I was deriving my self worth from and what that moment of my 2014 Big Crash (becoming fully debilitated by the chronic disease and losing everything that I was working for in my life) taught me. I remembered the identity crises I went through when I lost my ability to work, take care of myself, take care of others, volunteer, and simply be a productive member of society. I felt WORTHLESS. In the eyes of what this world had taught me, I had no value. My life had no value. I could do nothing and so I was worth nothing. That feeling threatened my life many times over.

And that is when I realized – so many of us tie our SELF WORTH and VALUE to our level of PRODUCTIVITY. We internalize this message that to be deemed as worthy, we must DO THINGS in order to feel like we are worth something. We must achieve enough in order to feel like we are enough. And the fallacy of this is that if our self worth and value depends on being productive, we will NEVER feel enough and thus we will never feel fully worthy. 

Allow me to share with you the rapid, unedited stream of thoughts that flowed out of me one morning:

June 13, 2019

So the logic behind it is…by definition, productivity requires continuous action in order to achieve an even better and even better and even better result. To stop altogether would be considered zero productivity. I think as we grow up, the true meaning of self worth is obscured. We grow to associate self worth with productivity. Being better, doing better, having more. Which is the foundation for why there’s even the phenomenon of the rat race that we’re all trapped in. 

To break free from that rat race requires understanding that self worth doesn’t come from anything that we’re striving for or have set as goals. When we’re born, we’re born worthy. We’re already born with intrinsic self worth.

When a baby is born, we don’t see it as worthless. We innately feel like this newborn is precious and of immense, immeasurable value to us. Why? It’s literally not doing anything that we as older human beings consider to be necessary for feeling valued and worthy. The baby does nothing but exist and yet it’s of value. 

We all start out like that. We are all born worthy and valuable. The only difference is that this knowledge is obscured by social conditioning and thinking patterns that have been passed down but not questioned and therefore not dismantled as they need to be. 

The baby has infinite potential, that’s why we as adults value it so much. In that pure, untouched state, we can see that boundless potential. And then we forget and it gets obscured the older the baby (and thus ourselves) gets. But that infinite potential and value we’re born with doesn’t go anywhere as we get older; it doesn’t lessen, it doesn’t increase. It’s constant in its infinity. But like I said, it becomes obscured by all the distractions and false truths that this world inundates us with the more we’re exposed to it.

And going back to the question of “how do you know you’re enough?” – I said that when we’re born, we’re born already enough. But it’s profitable in a capitalist society to feed people the lie that they are not enough in some way. Creating this feeling of lack generates this need to then fill ourselves so we don’t feel like we’re lacking something. So we pursue things, we aim to be productive, we buy things, we pay for services that make us feel like we’re moving forward and getting closer to making ourselves feel like we’re enough. 

We’re in this world that’s telling us we’re not enough. We’re believing we’re not enough. We’re acting in ways to remedy this feeling of not being enough. And if we believe we’re not enough, then we believe we’re not fully self worthy. Because at the foundation of feeling like you lack self worth is the belief that in some way, you’re not enough.

All this to say, imagine what this world could be if we never forgot that from the moment we’re born, we’re born worthy, we’re born being enough, we’re born with endless potential? We then wouldn’t fall into the traps of doing things that keep us thinking and being smaller than we intrinsically are. We wouldn’t care so much or be motivated so much about the grades, the resume, the job, the salary. We would be free to really live out our higher purposes, to not act in order to obtain wealth and material things. We wouldn’t act because we feel the need to in order to prove ourselves (eg, feel the need to work so hard and appear so busy to gain respect in the community). We’d already know that we are enough just as we are, which then frees us to act simply because it creates joy. 

Any resistance we feel to fully accepting this truth is a result of our human nature. We don’t like change, accepting this requires us changing our whole belief system and how we view life, the purpose of life, and how our world has been constructed. 

It creates a subconscious fear: to fathom that we are infinite potential makes us fearful because we then have to let go of everything we know and every way we’ve been operating up to this point. And it’s kind of like what was said in the movie The Matrix: most people wouldn’t leave the Matrix if they had a choice. It’s comfortable being in the rat race because it’s what we know. 

But what we know is wrong. It’s time to change this mindset. It’s time to reclaim the truth that we are ENOUGH right now. We are WORTHY right now. Period. 

Christina Wiebe Mrs. Vancouver Island 2019
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11 thoughts on “The Problem With Basing Self Worth On Productivity – Guest Post by Christina Wiebe

  1. I like you, Wendy; I like the things you have to say.

    Yes, it’s difficult to get your head around feeling worthy when your previous self-identity has been ripped away from you.

    Also, aside from social conditioning and self criticism, we humans are made to be active: we feel better after even short exercise or when a simple task is completed. It’s the endorphins and the feeling of accomplishment. Part and parcel of being human.

    T’is very frustrating when unable to do the simplest of things when chronically ill. Still, those who know me the best, who live in the same house as I, do not quite grasp that…will they ever? And, despite what I tell myself to the contrary, I do feel like a burden. It is a strange situation to suddenly be plunged into when having been active most of your life. 12 years this October and I still can’t get properly used to it. I would say most people find it humiliating having to live off financial aid due to illness, especially when those in charge question your sincerity. And there is the fear of present and future financial worries. Some of those related to health bills. This all impacts mental health. The mind, body and spirit. Our very core, striking at our worthiness.

    I suppose we need to find something, however small that we are able to busy ourselves and delight in. I find that with container gardening. (A proper big flowerbed, alone, would be intimidating and unfeasible – for my small veg patch, started this year, I had John do most of the clearing and preparation). This is freeing, natural and joyful. And the plus of connecting with Nature.

    Yes, we are worthy. We do what we can and we have to remind ourselves to be gentle to ourselves.

    Thank you Wendy for a thought provoking post. I hope my comment isn’t too long!

    xoxo (((big hugs))) Faith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. your comments are never too long. I’m sorry I’m late in replying to your comments.
      I’m so glad that this post spoke to you as it did me. I do struggle to not feel like a burden, and I struggle to find something that I delight in that brings me something more…something…I lack the words right now, my head is once again pounding.
      I love that you have container gardening! I love that so much! I used to love my little herb garden in NC, but I’m not sure how to garden here in the desert, when we get our house I plan to try to learn….at least a little. But I often do let fear get the better of me, afraid to start things to just let them die.
      Today I need to remind myself to be gentle.
      We are worthy. You are worthy.
      Thank you for a very special comment. xo

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh yes Faith! It is cacti heaven here! That’s about all we have! I know how you love succulents and often when I see especially beautiful ones, I think of you. I’d love to share the botanical garden here with you, so many different succulents and cacti!
          We are looking for our forever home now, as soon as we are settled I am going to start exploring desert gardening. Thank you for the share and encouragement. xoxo

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hehe, I can imagine. Cacti and cowboys right? 😀

            I sigh in awe, Wendy, when I see the botanical garden posts from you. How wonderful to have that paradise nearby.

            Succulents aren’t fussy plants regarding regular watering because they store all their water in their fat leaves, of which I’m sure you’re already aware. When I’ve bouts of depression and inactivity I find this works out well. So I don’t have to worry about killing them. Some go a little pinky or red colour when stressed through lack of water. And some have the most beautiful flowers.

            I’d joined the British Cactus and Succulent Society last year – and they’re a friendly bunch – but the chronic pain makes a fuss with the fair bit of travelling. The city where the headquarters is, is a 2 hour round trip. Too much strain usually. A drawback of living out in the sticks!

            All the best with finding your forever home. Any ideas of what kind of house you’re looking for?

            Thank you for the friendship xoxo

            Like

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