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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I Give Myself Permission to …

I’ve been participating in a Chronic Pain and Illness photo project.  I participated in the same group last year, you can see those photos on these posts: Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project, Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 2 , and Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 3.  This year I’m sharing a few photos here and there, not the whole project.

I’d love to hear your take on this topic.  What do you give yourself permission to???

Today – I give myself permission to Cry.

My x-rays showed more degeneration in my neck. C5-C6
The pain is intense. It just hit me that this is only going to get worse. The pain will always be there.

My father is in the hospital. I can’t go. I can’t ever go.

Today I give myself permission to cry.

(photo taken today, I manipulated it with photoshop, but the tear is real.)

crying

Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project

Starting on April 26th, I’ve been participating in a Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project on Facebook.  It is a closed group, but I wanted to share my photos here.  By the way, if anyone wants to join the group, you can enter at any time.  You can complete the previous projects if you would like, or you can start of where we are now.  So far, it’s been a lot of fun, and a lot of support and camaraderie between between people who “get it”.

Many of these photos my long time readers may have seen.  Some are photos of my artwork.  (I can’t really get out and create many new photos right now since I’m recovering from hip replacement surgery.)

Day 1 – Hope

I made this for one of my doctors. She gives a lot of people hope. Unfortunately her treatment didn’t help me for long, but I always have hope, not necessarily for a cure…..Hope springs eternal.

Hope... for Dr. Gray by w. holcombe copywrite 2014
Hope… for Dr. Gray
by w. holcombe copywrite 2014

Day 2 – Loss

This photo represents losing my hearing, and much of my balance due to one of my illnesses, Meniere’s Disease.

 Fractured Ear manipulated photo -  by w. holcombe

Fractured Ear
manipulated photo –
by w. holcombe

Day 3…Today.

Today I got my bandage off from my hip replacement, all looks good there! You can’t tell in the picture, but I have 6 stitches you can see, but mostly I’ve been glued together, it looks pretty cool.
I haven’t felt good today. The nerve in my back is acting up and my leg is in a lot of pain. I didn’t sleep much last night.
My monkey is guarding my hip that was just operated on so my dog or cat can sit on my lap. In this photo, Kiki is keeping me company. We rescued Kiki right when my hip/back started hurting. The doctors thought I’d just strained it when we moved. I had no idea I’d be hip replacement surgery just 7 months later because my femur head was collapsing because it was dying. Avascular Necrosis sucks. and mine was caused because of over use of prednisone. Doctors caused this disease by treating other diseases I have with too many steroids. If I’m lucky it won’t attack my other large joints. I’m 51, in the last 3 years, I’ve gotten 2 artificial ears (Cochlear Implants) and an artificial hip….no metal detectors for me!! haha.

I’m not complaining, honestly….it’s just the way it is.

and when my hip heals I’ll be able to walk!!
Woo Hoo!!

Wendy Hip Replacement Recovery - April 2015 photos by w holcombe
Wendy Hip Replacement Recovery – April 2015
photos by w holcombe

Day 4 – Self Portrait.
This looks a little depressing, but I’m not..not today. I just like this self portrait of me. I took the photo in the bathroom mirror, and manipulated it on Photoshop. It shows part of my cochlear implant.
Some days are better than others….this day was a rough day. Taking the photo helped me get part of those feeling out, and helped me explain them to others.
I still have a hard time with my cochlear implants at the time. My hearing isn’t supposed to fluctuate with them, but it does…a lot! I’m lost, often. People don’t understand why I can’t hear when I have these devices. For those who don’t know, when someone has a hearing aid or other hearing device, it does NOT allow you to hear like a normal person. We often miss a lot. Often HOH/Deaf people won’t tell you they are having a hard time hearing.
I speak up, but it’s amazing how many hearing people don’t hear me. 🙂

Wendy charcoalwithCI
Wendy with CI – manipulated photo  –                     by w holcombe

Day 5…Tool Kit.

(sorry I’m a day late, yesterday I had a 12 hour vertigo attack…yuck….happy I wasn’t alone, and the violent spinning didn’t last long, I spent most of the time in slow spins…it’s still miserable, but it could have been much worse!) I have a few tool kits, emergency kits…..I believe in being prepared. smile emoticon This is my medication kit.
Top left – all closed up and ready to go. Top right – top part is open, this is where we store my shots and things that are needed for that, and other little things. Plus my med list, with all meds I take listed, pharmacy, prescribing doctor…ect. I also have this list with me in my wallet too. (this includes supplements and everything) Bottom left – bottom part of container is open and top of pill bottles showing…..the “A”s stand for A.M. or Morning, “P” is P.M. or Evening, AP are pills to be taken in the Morning and Evening. If there is a number on the top then I take more than one. I line all of these up and fill up my pill boxes…you can see those on top of my medicine box Bottom Left. I have two morning boxes because I have to take 2 pills before breakfast and the rest after breakfast.

There’s more to keeping up with my meds, but that’s my medicine box. If I’m going out of town for more than a couple of days, I just grab my box. It really has helped me to stay on track, and know when I need to refill my meds, to buy more supplements….ect. It also helps me keep everything in one place. I love my medication kit.
So this is ONE of my tool kits.

medicine box
Medication Toolkit photos – by w. holcombe

Day 6….Acceptance.

One day after hearing me talk about how hard I had been fighting, a fellow Meniere’s patient told me that perhaps I should learn to walk with old Mr. Meniere’s instead of fighting him so much all the time. I had never even thought of that. I knew this disease had no cure, but it never occurred to me to not fight it tooth and nail. Suddenly it hit me, I had to accept it as part of me. I can’t get rid of it, some days may be better, but it will always be there. I accepted it. Once I did, things got much easier. I have a number of other illnesses, I’ve accepted them all. Meniere’s Disease was the hardest to accept….it comes packed with a lot of stuff….and mine is a very complicated case. (my doctors at Duke now say I have “more than Meniere’s”, they have no idea exactly what I have. I have a several complicated vestibular disorders.)

I drew this little doodle one day to show I think I’m perfect just the way I am.

I am (imperfectly) perfect - by w. holcombe
I am (imperfectly) perfect – by w. holcombe

Day 7 – Grieving:

This was a hard subject for me to figure out a photo for. I kept thinking of things more suited for loss. I wanted to show something that worked more for my grief over all the things I’ve lost…. I came across this entry in my journal, and a photo of a flower I took that I think work fairly well.

Here are the words on the journal page, I’m sure you can’t read them….
The tears have been shed.
The lines have been drawn.
Do we dare to cross.
Do we dare to dream again.
The tears have flowed line rivers down our face.
The mourning continues.
How do we hope again.
How do we believe?

journal entry w. holcombe
journal entry
w. holcombe

by w holcombe
by w holcombe

I hope you enjoyed my photo journey so far….you may have learned a little about me along the way.

There are more to come!

Remember, if you would like to join me in this photography journey, come join the Facebook group, there’s a great group of people putting out some great work.