I have spent much of my life trying to achieve a sense of worth and value through performance and approval of others. I could never say no, I volunteered for everything, and I piled tasks on my plate a mile high until I buried myself in social phobias, anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt for not being able to do everything that I said I was going to do…
The thing is though, I was never supposed to have any of that on my To-Do list to begin with. I thought that if I could perform well enough, then someone might initiate a genuine relationship with me where I would then feel like I was worth something, where I would matter to someone important enough to give me that sense of significance I was seeking in life.
Have you ever been looking for glasses and they ended up being on your head the entire time? Or looking for your keys and they were in your pocket? That’s how it is when you look for your own worth and significance through performance. You’re not going to find it there. Why? Because your worth – your very purpose for existing – has been WITH YOU, emanating from you, the entire time!
While I was busy performing, my time was sucked away by added assignments, duties, tasks, volunteering, and trying to get every nick-knack in my house clean and shiny, perfectly symmetrical, and properly spaced that I was just too anxious to accept invitations from people who wanted to include me, get to know me better, have coffee, or lunch with me. And then, when they did, I had no idea how to act or respond unless it revolved around my performance somehow, my new project, my new venture, my new whatever… still trying to seek approval through performance.
They only ask so many times before the invitations stop coming. There are a few people I miss even now where one day the invitation to just hang out, or come over for a BBQ just stopped.
Anxiety robs us of so much – especially that very significance and purpose in life that has been with us, surrounding us, all along.
The thing is – being “performance driven” is a ‘me-centric’ activity that only develops into a black hole that can’t be filled, and it ends up driving everyone away.
The great thing about being led by purpose, is that it is focused on others – and it draws people to us who need our light in their lives.
Are you exhausted? Have you been performing for others for so long that you’ve isolated yourself from the very people and relationships that you were meant to impact and influence?
Maybe you are like I was – like the Martha in the Bible who worked so hard and so long that she couldn’t even see that Jesus – the only one that could bring peace to her mind, heart, body, and soul – was with her the whole time, ready to give his life for her, and offer her everything she could ever possibly need.
For me, my biggest breakthrough came during my pregnancy leave over 8 years ago. I had NO IDEA how much performance-driven tasks I had crammed on my plate until I arrived home from the hospital with my plate clean… I had no idea what to do. My worth was so tied to performing for other people that I almost missed the priceless treasure of allowing myself to sit still and just be a mom to my newborn baby. Maybe that is easy for some… but it was really, really hard for me.
Thankfully, my very loving husband, and a grace-filled God showed me what I had with me and in me the entire time. Step by step, I was able to assess my motives for putting things on my To Do list. I began to rate my anxiety levels and determine what triggered them, and what eased them. I learned to say no to things that did not serve my purpose – so that I could have room for the things that mattered most – my family, my relationships, and sharing my story with others who need help finding their way to a more peace-filled life.
Maybe your next steps are to make the next few days “Yes and No” days. Say no to adding any performance-based tasks to your To-Do list, and say yes to sitting still and discovering who you are, and who you were created to be, and say yes to developing or deepening a life-giving friendship with someone. In the end, you may find your purpose in that they needed you to reach out to them, more than you realized.