If you’ve been following along you know that my repertoire of titles has recently expanded to include “mother”, and will, before long, also include “working mom”.
In the context of this major life transition, I’ve been contemplating the value that we tend to attach to various titles. I’m talking about both things like parent, sister, and friend but also nurse, volunteer, sales rep, dentist, soccer coach, board chair, etc. The list is really endless.
Like it or not, every title comes with its own set of societal assumptions and expectations. As if it implies certain things about the person carrying the label. The problem is these constructs, and our own interpretations of them, frequently become the benchmark against which we measure ourselves. And can very often play a significant role in our perception of our self-worth.
But I want to raise a novel idea. Or maybe not so novel for those of you who are already intentional about practicing self-compassion – kudos to you.
Your worth is in no way tied to your titles.
Any of them.
I think that bears repeating. Your worth is not dependent on your title(s).
What you DO does not equal who you are.
Be it traditional employment, entrepreneurship, primary parenting/caregiving, or however you’d typically answer the question of “What do you do?”.
We are prone to mentally putting these titles into a kind of hierarchy. As if being a lawyer is somehow more important than being a stay at home dad. For most of us, these judgments are so engrained we aren’t even consciously aware of making them.
I’m privileged to carry the title of physician, but practicing medicine is only one aspect of my life. While it’s true that I carry an MD after my name, that’s just one small piece of my identity. It’s my job, not my life (or at least that’s what I’m aiming for).
Taking maternity leave has further solidified for me that, as much as we may like to think otherwise, we are all replaceable at work. I’m therefore no more or less valuable than anyone in any other vocation. To be clear I’m not talking about dollars here as different jobs obviously carry with them different rates of pay, but moreso your inherent worth as a person.
It doesn’t matter what you “do” you are worthy of love and respect, including, and perhaps most importantly, from yourself.
Your worth does not equal your productivity.
As a type-A personality I’m definitely guilty of succumbing to this one. Generally speaking, I feel good if I have a productive day and cross lots of things off my to-do list. On the flip side, I feel lazy and blah when I don’t. Like somehow the day was wasted and I could have done better.
But not every day can be productive. We are human after all. And if that unproductive day stretches into a week or even a month where you just feel in a funk, it does not make you any less than. We need to remember this when we find ourselves veering into the land of self-criticism.
One of my work colleagues has a tattoo that I love and that I feel really embodies this whole notion to the fullest extent. It reads simply “i am enough”.
So on your next hard day where you feel thoroughly unproductive or like a “bad mom”, or where you find yourself in the comparison trap and think that you should somehow be further ahead in your career or life than you are, consider repeating that phrase to yourself. Make it a mantra.
I am enough.