Daily we are bombarded with productivity hacks, self-help coaches, and personal growth challenges. We are inundated with ads to lose weight, look younger, and gain more energy. We get on the American Dream Treadmill™ and reach Destination Burnout™.
It’s time to quiet your mind and kindly go inward to tap into your intuitive voice of inner guidance. Wisdom and knowledge are inside you, waiting to be accessed — by you.
As we become adults, at least where I live, in the United States, culturally we are expected to accept the current societal values with no questions or second-guessing. At 17 or 18 years old, we expect our children and young adults to choose their lifelong vocation by knowing what major they’ll declare when they go to college. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing when I was 17.
We are given cultural goals such as buying a home, getting married, having 2.5 children and 1.25 pets, making enough to travel, having two cars in our two-car garage, and growing old while looking young.
Some of these goals were more attainable in 1950s America. As recessions hit, pandemics take hold, and generations redefine cultural values, the goals are shaky, at best, and unattainable, at worst.
James McWhinney of Investopedia states that while there’s no actual definition for the American Middle Class, there are 6 milestones that indicate you’ve made it. It also posits that the middle class is vanishing. My family is part of the many who check some, but not all key points off of the McWhinney list.
Values are changing as the system crumbles. People resist change. Change often puts us in panic mode.
What worked before is no longer working. The system needs an overhaul. I think intuitively we know this, and on a societal level, we are hitting a bright red panic button. Benevolent leaders, coaches, and gurus are trying to ease some of our anxiety by giving us lessons in self-help and personal growth, while malevolent leaders, coaches, and gurus are using us to make themselves rich with their paid courses, books, and subscriptions.
Is the palpable societal panic the reason why productivity and personal growth content are so popular these days? As adults, do we just want some defined goals to climb toward? Do our brains want lists we can easily check off? Do we want to reach the end of a 30-day challenge so we can finally be told we are good enough? When I search “30 Day Personal Growth Challenge” on Google, there are about 1,200,000,000 results (0.63 seconds). Those 1 billion-plus hits tell me that we are searching to fill some perceived gap in our lives.
The problem is it doesn’t feel good when we are constantly being told how to hack our lives and improve our basic existence — when over 1 billion people have an opinion on how we can improve ourselves. We often feel bad when we start these productivity challenges only to fail. Our intentions are good and we just want to feel better, but we often succumb to overwhelm and give up.
What if I told you something you may have never heard before? Simply, you are good enough. Being born onto this earth made you worthy of love and affection. You are sacred. You are creative in your own unique way. You have gifts to give to the people around you and potentially the wider world if that’s your jam. You don’t need to complete a course or challenge to prove this to yourself or anyone else.
Maybe you’re a talented cook, a provocative writer, a mesmerizing performer, a spiritual seeker, or even someone who is perfectly content living an average life. We need more people who are content with average to teach the perfectionists and over-achievers that they also are good enough and aren’t required to hit goalposts to be valuable in our society. We are good enough.
Personal growth, 30-Day challenges, and productivity hacks run the risk of compounding psychological damage. Tread wisely.
We are good enough and we aren’t required to hit goalposts to be valuable in our society. Being human makes us intrinsically worthy.
Maybe you relate to my temperamental combination. I go through spurts of wanting to achieve lots, of being overly ambitious. These spurts are short-lived. When I’m in this phase, I have goals like: publish books, go on talk shows, teach courses, write more books, make thousands of dollars through platform writing, guest on podcasts, become my husband’s “sugar mama,” make enough to hire a housekeeper, churn out content at lightning speed, become a sought-out editor, become an amazing cook, and be the best mom in the entire universe. Oh yeah, and the best wife, daughter, friend, peer, etc.
In one word, when my mind gets caught in this loop, it’s exhausting.
And, exhaustion feeds into my next behavior: giving up. I binge Netflix, take many naps throughout the day, tell myself I’m not good enough and never will be, and eat my emotional exhaustion in dairy-free ice cream and gluten-free chips. Even though I’ve given up all the above goals because “I’m not good enough” anyway, my brain is still doing what it did before — moving at a lightning frenetic pace of fear.
Fear of not being good enough. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Like many Americans, I live with mental health disorders. Mine are: clinical depression + anxiety + OCD. I’m 43 years old and have done a lot of work on myself in this lifetime, including therapy, medication management, and energetic work. So, I’m kinda sorta self-actualized, but I still exist mostly in a state of Fight/Flight/Freeze.
I’ve come to realize that I treat anything with a goal attached — cooking a meal, laundry, writing an article — with panic mode. I don’t get going until I hit the BIG RED PANIC BUTTON which initiates me into “getting off my no-good, lazy butt and doing what a grown-ass woman should’ve been doing all along.”
Yeah. It’s not a nice voice, is it?
I recently confided my struggle with decluttering my home to a friend. Without judgment, he gently offered an exercise that he thought might help. I was open to it. I’m modifying it a bit here, but you’ll get the general idea. I listened to my friend and my own inner guidance to make this work for me. The following example may not be what you need at all. And that’s okay! I suggest chatting with friends, sitting with yourself in a place where you feel peaceful, relaxed, and calm, and allowing your voice of intuition and wisdom to surface and guide you. Trust yourself.
The Exercise That Worked For Me — And Might Work For You Too
- Meditate. You don’t have to empty your mind. You can give yourself mantras. I have trouble sitting still for long. I set my timer for 10 minutes and was happy to make it to about 5 minutes meditating. That was enough. It was good enough. The phrase came to me “I am worthy.” Another phrase might come to you. The idea is you put a positive spin on the task you are about to initiate.
- Complete the task in the meditative mindset. I set a timer for 15 minutes. This was a huge aha moment for me! I decided to declutter our bedroom, which is small, and mostly has my mess in it — not my husband’s mess. Previously, I’d hear voices in my head like, “Clean up your damn mess,” “You’re a slob,” etc. To be clear, those are my voices. My husband prefers a clean environment but he doesn’t talk to me like that. Because I’m not as good as he is at cleaning and decluttering, I put these negative self-talk voices in my head. Surprise: They’re not helpful. This time, I was gentle with myself and remembered I am worthy. I am worthy of a clean environment. I am capable of cleaning my environment. I have the capability and creative skillset to problem solve stacks of clutter.
- My friend suggested that to complete this cycle, there needed to be an immediate reward. I chose to lay in bed, rest, and bask in this feeling of calm for 10 minutes.
It felt amazing! I’d completed a task outside of the Fight/Flight/Freeze continuum. I wasn’t revved up and fearful; frenetic and frenzied for no apparent reason. I wasn’t out to earn external validation. I was calm, content, and confident that I could return to tasks like this in a nurturing mindset. A huge aha moment!
You are worthy and you are good enough.
My wish for you, if you too have fallen into the wheel-spinning, frenetic mindset that you must engage with personal growth, productivity hacks, and self-growth challenges, is that you take a step back and take a break from all the external chatter.
Forget the American Dream™ or whatever unrealistic societal expectations have been burdened onto your shoulders. Find your inner solace, wisdom, creativity, and guidance, and lean into that. You are worthy and you are good enough.
I hope you can find a way to quiet the panic in your mind, find calm, and learn to be still and kind with yourself.
That, my friends, is the foundation of all growth.
Originally printed in Mind Cafe.