The Pressure to be Productive.
As an anxious, over-achieving perfectionist, I honestly think that there is no better feeling than feeling productive.
Since leaving my job in Paris sooner than I had planned, I have found myself living in my family home once again, with no job lined up. For some people, this sounds like the dream. It’s basically a holiday with no end in sight! However, for a person who doesn’t want, but needs some sort of work in order to feel productive and therefore happy, it has been rather difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, the first couple of weeks were great. I had no alarms to set in the morning, was able to spend my days reading in cafes and could drink a bottle of wine on a Wednesday night with no real worries about the looming hangover the next day – I have no work to go to, so cheers!
This was all happy days, until my inner anxious monster piped up and said, “Hey, don’t you feel bad about not contributing to society? You’re so lazy not going to work; all your friends have jobs and you’re doing nothing. You should feel so embarrassed about being unemployed at this age…Stop living in denial!”
My inner anxious monster is such a killjoy, appearing in the moments I am actually enjoying life, poised and ready with their pin to pop my bubble.
So, I changed my habits in order to try and feel more productive. I set alarms for 7am everyday and carried out a typical morning routine (journalling, yoga, meditation, the usual stuff), even though I have nowhere to be after completing said morning routine. Reading in cafes is now a weekly treat, not an everyday occurrence. The wine only appears at the weekend now, even though there is absolutely no reason not to drink it mid-week - every day is practically the weekend when you don’t have a job.
I have always associated my strong desire to be ‘productive’ with my perfectionist nature, but perhaps that isn’t the case. Is my sheer inability to relax and just go with the flow as a result of how I feel, or as a result of how I think people will view me?
There is no doubt that I have always been concerned with what other people think of me. No matter how much I told myself that the opinions of others don’t matter, I couldn’t help but wonder what people think of me as I pass by them, or what friends and family members think of me after having a conversation with them.
I have always been the over-achiever in my family and social circle, working hard, getting good results and always reaching for the stars. I therefore suppose that there is a part of me that is ashamed of how the achievements in my life have suddenly stopped. The girl that worked so hard in school and got that degree has ended up back home, teaching English lessons online for a few pounds an hour in order to stay sane. That’s where a huge amount of pressure comes from: not me, but the thoughts of others.
This is madness, because no one has in fact said how disappointed, or shocked, or horrified they are at the fact that I have left my career and moved back in with my parents.
Rather, they have said the opposite. They have expressed admiration for the fact that I realised I was unhappy and unwell in my job and was courageous enough to pack it all in. They are impressed at my optimism when I tell them that I don’t know what is next in store for me, but that I’m sure something great will come along in no time. They reminisce about previous jobs they had stayed in for way too long, acknowledging how difficult it must have been to leave and respecting the fact that I did.
So, this pressure that is driving me to insanity, is it coming from other people? No. Is it coming from me? Sort of, but not exactly. Rather, it is coming from my totally unjustified and incorrect view of how other people will perceive me. Although it’s easier said than done, I really need to STOP concerning myself with other people and just live my life the way I want to.
I am my priority. My energy, my happiness and my health are the most important things right now (the wealth will come along later). Uninvited pressure is being shown the door and politely being asked to leave, as they have long overstayed their welcome.
Furthermore, I feel it is important to recognise that productivity can come in many forms. Of course, working hard at work from 9am-5pm is considered productive, but that is not the only way of being productive. For example:
· Getting up in the morning and feeling thankful is productive – you are setting up your mind for a great day.
· Making yourself breakfast is productive – you are taking care of your body and your health (depends on what the breakfast is of course, as overnight oats may be better than a pain au chocolat, but either way your tummy will welcome the food and energy).
· Exercising is productive - whether going a walk, practising yoga or taking a spin class, you are looking after your physical health, which can be a difficult thing to do at times.
· Reading a book is productive – you are expanding your mind, broadening your opinions, and escaping to a new reality (bonus points if you read in a café – you will look super cool and intellectual).
· Being kind to others is productive – you have no idea the huge difference you may make in someone’s day, simply by smiling at them or starting up a short conversation about the weather when you’re standing in a queue.
You see? Being productive isn’t all about boardroom meetings and signing business deals (cue the Suits theme song), but it’s about the small victories and doing things that you know will make a positive difference in both the short and long-term.
Let’s recognise that some slight pressure to be productive can actually be a good thing, as it kicks our butts into gear and ensures that we don’t waste our lives, but instead we make the most of each day, celebrating both the big and the small victories.