How many times have you had this conversation?
Them: How’s it going?
You: I’m super busy!
Them: You need a vacation.
You: I haven’t taken a vacation day for a year. Oh wait, that’s not true. I had the flu last month.
Nowadays people wear their busyness like a badge of honor: If I’m busy I’m important, valuable, and in demand. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, I’m worthy and have a life. If I’m not busy, I’m useless—a loser. Sound familiar? Well according to TedTalk powerhouse, Brené Brown, this kind of thinking is not only dangerous, it’s wrong.
In her best-seller, Daring Greatly, Brown writes about our numbing behaviors that we use as “vulnerability armor.” But numbing is more that an alcohol or drug addiction, Brown states: “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
While now it’s commonplace to shame those who addicted to drugs or alcohol (ahem, Gene Simmons), our widespread acceptance of busyness addiction still remains normalized and almost appreciated—not that anyone should be shamed for any addiction—but it should be understood so we can better solve the problem.
So the question is what are we hiding from behind our over busy-fied lives? Usually it’s the things we don’t want to look at in real life:
Being in a flailing marriage.
Being a lack there of any marriage.
Being away from our kids.
Being away from our parents.
Being a good friend.
Being a bad friend.
Being confronted with who I am, what I want, and what I do.
That’s a lot of being only to be replaced with too much doing. And of that doing, one of the things not being done is facing these fears and vulnerabilities head on.
Some tout meditation as the key to mental acceptance—though for those of us who are always busy, we can barely make it through five minutes of meditation without going through the long list of everything we have to do and how soon will this five minutes be over so I can do them? Others claim getting away or vacation allows time for relaxation and ‘me’ time—but how many of us have ever taken an amazing, life-altering trip only to stay burrowed down in work email and keeping up with Facebook posts?
So what’s the cure?! Brown says feeding our spirits and taking active control of our negative self-thoughts when they appear is paramount to accepting who we are AS WE ARE. Instead of fleeing from the things we don’t want to face in real life, we should instead consider what motivates our numbing behaviors. Brown advises we ask ourselves the following questions:
- Are my choices comforting and nourishing my spirit, or are they temporary reprieves from vulnerability and difficult emotions ultimately diminishing my spirit?
- Are my choices leading my Wholeheartedness, or do they leave me feeling empty and searching?
If your answers aren’t in alignment with who you are and strive to be (i.e. you don’t want to feel empty and alone), then it’s up to you to correct your actions by doing things that DO comfort your spirit and make you feel more Wholehearted (i.e. taking yourself out for lunch even though you have to hit a deadline, have a PTO meeting, and an early morning yoga class).
From the words of the great Brené:
“Spirituality emerged as a fundamental guidepost in Wholeheartedness. Not religiosity but the deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to one another by a force greater than ourselves- a force grounded in love and compassion. For some of us, that’s God, for others it’s nature, art, or even human soulfulness. I believe that owning our worthiness is the act of acknowledging that we are sacred. Perhaps embracing vulnerability and overcoming numbing is ultimately about the care and feeding of our spirits.”
To sum it all up, you are not your actions, you are your heart. Be kind to it and it will reflect in everything that you do from a place of appreciation, patience, and above all else—love.