I’ve been digging, digging so deep there is dirt in my hair and mud on my face. I’ve been digging through the soft and hard layers of myself looking for rock.
I have anxiety so I asked my anxiety what I needed to do to make myself feel safe enough that my anxiety could stand down – my answer was simply heal the original fear. So dug down further to find this original fear. I dug through webbed pain and trauma and looked under each fear I found – fear of failure, fear of not being enough, fear of letting people down…and finally, I struck something solid.
I have a core belief that my value and worth is based on my performance.
That’s my original fear.
That’s a foundational part of my anxiety. I’m operating on a belief system where my value and worth is based on my performance.
I’m a little bit disappointed by this because this is what Brene Brown is talking about when she describes ‘hustling for your worthiness’.
It’s disappointing because I have to acknowledge that I am not a unique snowflake.
I’m dealing with a stock-standard core belief that’s as old as the hills.
A tough blow for my ego but a win for my healing – there’s so much material and resources around reframing this belief system I’ve actually hit a jackpot.
I’ve discovered I’m operating on an original fear I can, with hard work, shift and reboot.
It’s scary digging down into my soul – coming face to face with fear and not backing down. Wading through shame, so.much.shame. Swallowing dose after dose of reality each time I have to acknowledge that I am not perfect, I don’t have things together. I am broken. I am messy, I am unsure, I am painfully human.
My instant reaction is to get frustrated at myself for not figuring all of this out earlier, suddenly it’s so obvious, of course I have an issue with performance, of course that’s where I’m getting my value and worth from, no wonder I have anxiety – it all makes so much sense – how could I not figure this out sooner…
Beside the irony of blaming my performance issue on myself for not performing well enough I do understand that 20 year old Fyona could never have embraced this realisation. She didn’t have the life experience, or the courage, to hold such a vulnerable and confronting truth in her hands.
I’m holding this now because I went looking for it, for the answer to my anxiety, an answer to my fear. I know this now because I’m ready to hear it. I’m in enough pain I’m ready for the brutality of any remedy prescribed. My desire to move forward has well and truly out weighed my desire to stay safe.
I’ve listened to every Brene Brown book (audiobooks for the win) but I know my first step will be to re-listen to all of them, because she addresses this belief system so well and when I first encountered her work I didn’t resonate with hustling for my worth – I couldn’t see myself in that way. But now I do. Now I really do.
As far as I understand it, I’m looking externally for my worth and value. I perform, I work, I do things for people, I respond to emails quickly, I am reliable, I rescue people, I deliver solutions, I drop everything to rush to someone else’s aid, I do whatever it takes to give people what they need from me…and I am rewarded handsomely for my efforts.
People pay me.
They employ me.
I’m told I’m a lifesaver, a legend, the best, a star.
I’m showered with words of affirmation, public praise and kudos.
The government give me a huge thumbs up, I’m doing it, I’m a functioning member of society, a tax payer, a community minded citizen, I’m contributing to the solution.
I have a good reputation.
I am supported, encouraged, included.
Everyone who loves me is proud of me. I’m doing a good job. I’m rocking this thing called life.
But, without me even knowing it, I’m being sustained externally. I’m cashing in on these interactions – I’m siphoning value and worth from this cycle. People need me, I perform, I receive a gold star, I feel a boost…and so the cycle continues.
I am a dog turning its self inside out for that little, unsustainable, dog treat. Ready to give everything away for that pat on the head and a ‘good boy’ to top it all off.
It works until it doesn’t.
It works until I can’t perform anymore. The anxiety has me in a headlock, I’m burnt out and I have nothing left to give. I stop performing, people stop giving me treats…and I am suddenly bankrupt. No worth, no value. I’m emotionally homeless…
The thing I need to shift is my source of value and worth. I need to bring it in from something I’m getting from other people to something I’m giving to myself. I need to move to a place where I can still do the things I’m doing – working, helping people, being part of a community, but I’m not doing it for gold stars, I’m not performing for tricks.
I’m doing it as an overflow of the value and worth I have flourishing within my own soul.
I’m living an external life from my inner world…that’s the plan anyway.
[Art by Kathrin Honesta]