Ok. Here’s something I’ve been afraid to share. There’s this stereotype about business owners. They’re type A, detail-obsessed, high energy, high performing 24/7, insane hustle machines. I believed all of these traits were necessary to make it as a self-made businesswoman. I was proud of my grit, proud of the fact I had the endurance to work longer hours than others, and I wore my sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. The truth is…there isn’t one part of that statement that reflects who I am at my most authentic self— who I am and what I do when no one is watching.
When no one is watching I wonder why I feel so busy even on the days when I get nothing done.
We are living in a culture that glorifies hustle, and in this predominantly female community interested in “lifestyle and wellness,” we cheer each other on as we make room for our dreams, run towards risk, and get back up when failure after failure knocks us down. One could say many of us inherited a subconscious can-do belief that in this “land of opportunity” we must always be living up to our potential. It is here, in this duty to live up to the best versions of our self, that we cannot escape the damage hustle culture does to understanding who we are at our core. To constantly be focused on improvement, we avoid the stillness and truth that is revealed in the present. We stay busy to avoid going inward and truly asking ourselves what we want out of our lives.
As I’ve been prepping to write this essay, I went inward to work through what it meant to me to be busy all the time, and how it was tied to my self-worth, ego, and identity. Who am I without all the doing? Who am I if I don’t have my work? Minorities, especially WOC grow up realizing they have to hustle that much harder, be that much better, for the same opportunities. If busy is a badge of honor in American culture, who are we without all the doing?
Much to my dismay… I draw a blank when I ask myself who I am without all the doing. I feel emptiness… then a sense of honor when a voice inside my head says “you are a mother who shows strength through embracing her shortcomings.” Then, “your drive comes from curiosity.” This was new. When you remove what your work reflects to OTHERS, you have more room to explore the why behind the doing.
And then, I started to explore why pain was required for achievement. Perhaps it was years of dancing on bloody, fractured feet, but everything I had ever worked for had pain associated with it. I realized I looked at those long hours, the anxiety, the physical wear, and tears as a sign that things were going right… that if I just keep going I’d reach my goals. I have a lot of work to do to uncouple my self-worth from these associations but I know the answer is exploring what drives me towards my curiosity in the human experience and exploring creative mediums like writing, design, and art. I know I’m interested in people, in helping people find peace and acceptance inside themselves. Instead of looking for the pain in hard work, I’m looking for opportunities where the act of doing flows like water, to find the path of least resistance in each day.
As I get older, I get more comfortable with ambiguous endings. In unanswered prayers, the lessons in failure, the complexity of our collective human experience and the constructs that divide and separate. In understanding that beneath the shiny veneer of success can live an emptiness that money, power, and prestige cannot fill. Breaking up with being busy gave me a new perspective for those driven by knowing who they are, who live by rules governed by their authentic selves, not ego. I’ve also uncovered a deeper empathy for the shy girl inside of me who wishes I hadn’t founded a business on social media. I have a new understanding of the strength it takes to advocate for life choices that are not glorified in a capitalist culture. More than anything, I want all of us to know, in a heart, that we are so much more than the labels we are given.
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.
BY Kate Arends - November 20, 2018
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
[…] Busy is Not a Badge of Honor […]
“When you remove what your work reflects to OTHERS, you have more room to explore the why behind the doing.” – Now that was a powerful statement! As an introvert, there’s always something firing in my brain. Even if I don’t outwardly look like it, I’m usually quite busy overthinking and over-planning things that, honestly, probably don’t require all that much thought. Meditation has helped me learn to slow down and just breathe – in all areas of my life. I’ve come to relish the stillness that comes with it, the ability to simply be in that moment and let… Read more »
I love being busy, it gives me energy. But being busy for the sake of being busy is a concept I hadn’t even realized until I moved to London. There everybody seemed to be so busy 24/7… And not in a good way: looking haggered af while running around like headless chicken, and jumping and shouting in their expensive suits on the metro platform when they missed a train when the next one’s 2 minutes away. When it came to the point that I found myself running for no reason – I wasn’t late or anything, but everybody around me… Read more »
Very much enjoyed this essay. I can relate. Thank you for writing it!
Why was “no pain no gain” ever a mantra to success?? The battle for who’s first in the all in game is exhausting. I’ve been a willing participant all my life. Missed birthdays and weddings, too busy. Actually, I never married as I was too busy to bother with that! Would I have done it differently? I don’t know. Being older is a horse halter with a big WHOA Girrrl! You’re not going to take me that fast and hard down this path again. But then I’m bored…..I started playing a game app of Wordscapes. Must. Keep. Mind. Racing. I’m… Read more »
I love this! When I look at my life – I see that it is busy – work, husband, daughter, dogs, workout, girlfriends, home, cook, bathe. The days are full – with good things. I know that I enjoy all of it. Productivity and accomplishment feel good to me. But I also crave simplicity. To find that simplicity, I’ve focused on a few things: 1. Get up early and take it slow. First, coffee. Make a real breakfast. Get dressed last. I used to love to worry about every detail of my outfit but now my priority is actually enjoying… Read more »
“Who are you without the doing?” A powerful and brave question! A few years ago after my daughter was born, my manager at the time asked me what my passions were. And I couldn’t answer her because I didn’t have any. I was droning and hustling at my corporate job, going home and going through the motions. I wasn’t very passionate about any of it. It took a lot of time with myself and introspecting, and I revisited things that used to give me joy when I was a kid, like writing, poetry, history, music, and embracing curiousity. And to… Read more »
who I am without the doing? There are so many things that lie beyond the surface, at least I like to think there are, of what I do. I’ve always thought the actions and the busy work were something that made me who I am. I guess I am still trying to figure that out everyday. In short, I like to believe I am someone that tries, that cares deeply, that has had a lot of failures, I am someone, who is growing still.
I loved this article— Thank you!
I make sure one Saturday a month I don’t do anything. I tell myself whatever is pending can wait, it’s hard & takes practice but it’s worth It. I’ve learned that I am capable of surviving even though everything isn’t complete.
Beautiful essay and message, Kate. Thank you for sharing! Practicing self-care, particularly as a woman of color and as a new working mother, is now an essential priority for me. I’m interested in self-care that goes beyond the commercialized and shallow definitions of self-care (i.e. massages, manicures, a yoga class, etc), but exploring a more nuanced and transformative type of self-care. Some of those practices include learning how to say no and redefining the boundaries of my relationships to others, learning how to give from a place of abundance and joy and not from a “should.” For me, self-care has… Read more »
Thank you for sharing this piece and your introspection. I’ve learned that underneath the glorification of “being busy”, I am a human who loves spending hours alone in nature, who can enjoy my own company and that of others, and exactly how empty my life feels while being “busy”. I was in a career and job that worshiped this-it took the clarity of chronic fatigue and my health starting to suffer in order to wake up. I quit my job and realize I will have to incorporate boundaries and be honest with myself and others with whatever is next-it’s really… Read more »