Do you do more for yourself or for others?
More is not better.
I am not a good multi-tasker. I prefer quiet workspaces and small groups. When I add more to my metaphorical activity plate, I get stressed but I hide it because I think that multi-tasking is what’s prized in the working world. I say I understand balance, but I don’t. In fact, when a coworker used to tell me “be kind to yourself” during times of stress, I would interpret “kindness” as being lazy and not upholding myself to my standards.
I think this attitude comes from long-held subconscious equating of self-worth with extrinsic rewards: straight A’s, high scores on standardized tests, acceptance to prestigious grad school. That kind of gold star seeking is more for others, not for oneself. That subconscious creeps into the time I do take for myself now, telling me “you’re being lazy” or “why aren’t you accomplishing X, Y, or Z?” I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking myself “why are you writing this blog post instead of going to Pilates at soul.train right now?”
I’m not fully present in that time I take for myself, much as I am not fully present if texting, checking email, or Instagramming. I’m not fully present if I don’t acknowledge that I need to back off from thinking “more is better” or viewing unscheduled time as laziness. I’m not fully present if I let that worrying or concern about gold stars creep into the things that I do for others, especially my teaching. I want to enjoy the time in my classroom without always thinking that there’s something better to be done, or worrying because my lessons or room itself or kids aren’t perfect. Nothing is.