It’s interesting how our self-awareness can sometimes lead us nowhere. We can look within and see our unhealthy habits, and yet we accept them. These unhealthy habits can lead us down a rabbit hole toward depression, and still, we admit our fault of not nourishing our self worth, but do little to shift our worlds.
But is it that simple to just … change?
Many of us can likely relate to the feeling of being trapped in a detrimental capitalist dichotomy in which using our work to measure of our self worth conflicts with our need to express who we are on our own terms and time.
It’s become a societal standard to assume our job is the most important thing in our life. But why? With money being such a driving force for motivation, and employers urging us to think their approval is a key component of our self worth, along with how our family and friends perceive us based on the job we hold, it seems we are pigeonholed into this way of thinking.
Can you make more money than others? Do things more efficiently than others? Have more enthusiasm about doing it all than anyone else? The pressure we put on ourselves is self-inflicted, but socially influenced. But if we were to peel back all these layers of materialism that separate us from who we are, we might just be able to realize that our worth isn’t based on results, or how quickly we can do something, or how late we stay up finishing a project. Our worth just is.
But even if we can come to that realization, how do we practice it? We still wake up every day and have jobs to do. We still have others telling us work is life. Is it easier to just go with the flow?
No. Because work can be depressing, and that is a very unhealthy reality. Research suggests that those working long hours are even twice as likely to experience a major depressive episode. A report published in the journal Plos ONE found that people working over 11 hours a day are at greatest risk. So while we tie our hard work to self-worth, we’re letting our mental health fall by the wayside.
We must start making a distinction between work and self worth. To help us realize the importance of this goal, autobiographical cartoonist Shing Yin Khor put together a comic that would expose her own struggles with doing just that.
“I wanted to write about how I’ve somehow managed to root my identity in productivity and the corresponding depression that comes when I do not feel I am being productive,” she said.
“I’ve tied my own worth and dignity to my ability to produce work,” one of the comics reads. “It’s not healthy, but there it is.”
It’s a double-edged sword, because when we tie our happiness to something external, we risk something so impermanent controlling our happiness. The good days at work can make you feel so good, but that only means the bad days at work make you feel so worthless. Neither should have such power.
Check out Khor’s website here.
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