I was listening to a podcast interview a couple of weeks ago.
The host decided to switch the conversation to self-worth and asked the guest, “We can’t help but define ourselves by our work…How do we keep sane and productive?”
The guest paused for a moment and replied, “Well, I don’t believe that our work defines us. Because if we were, that would mean we’d be in a hazardous situation.”
I thought about that conversation a lot afterward. How much do I define myself by my work? The honest answer is, of course, too much.
But so does everybody else. We are taught by society that our projects are who we are. Just think about it, the second question you get asked after “How are you?” when you meet a stranger is, “So — what do you do for a living?”
We can’t help but try to impress the person with an exciting answer. And we can’t help but judge others by how they answer this question.
And that’s the biggest problem.
It’s OK to have goals. It’s great to have ambition.
But when you tie your self-worth to particular milestones (money made/followers gained/projects completed/so on), you must try very hard to be perfect at everything. Otherwise, our self-worth suffers.
Of course, it’s impossible to be perfect at everything.
Nobody — not even the geniuses — ever avoid making mistakes. Imperfection is what makes us human and alive.
We need a healthy dose of imperfection to be creative and sane.
In her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown wrote something that I think pretty much sums this up.
She said there’s a big difference between perfection and striving for excellence. When you’re trying to make everything ‘perfect,’ you’re doing it for someone else. You are essentially tying your self-worth to what other people think of you.
But striving for excellence starts within.
It starts with the question, “How do I improve?”. Instead of “What would they think?”
And that makes all the difference.
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