I’ve been sick most of this past week. No doubt the recent emotional stresses have contributed: although mentally I have got much better at dealing with stress, my body has little resilience and it doesn’t take much to tip me over the limit. I’m a lightweight.
Lying in bed gives you a lot of time to think. A curious realisation came to light on day 4: I was starting to feel “left behind” by work. Things move at a hectic pace normally, and it’s particularly busy at the moment. I was fearing that I was becoming more irrelevant by the day.
What surprised me about feeling this was that I thought I didn’t care about it so much any more. With my Grand Plan to build on my land and retire there, I thought work had taken a back seat. And yet that fear of being sidelined reared its head just when I most needed to rest and not stress about work.
I had a boss for several years who was very driven. He had a clear idea of where he wanted to get to, and drove all of us hard in that direction. He valued those who could get him to where he wanted to go, and being a people pleaser, I made myself into a Very Useful Person.
Naturally I burned out. He moved on to others. He’s not cruel, or a bully, he just believes reaching the goal is the most important thing. Another approach would be to believe people’s job satisfaction is the most important thing and reaching the goal is secondary to that. I’m a better fit for the latter type of manager, although I did learn a lot from him and a lot about myself from the whole experience.
The trap that I fell into was understanding my worth in his terms. I was only worthy if I was able to deliver what he wanted. Once I was no longer able, I wasn’t as useful. I wasn’t as valued.
I was primed for this of course. We relive our childhood relationships over and over. My mother had a very utilitarian view of her children: be useful or you are useless to her.
As this fear of uselessness reemerges, it’s helpful to reflect on where it’s come from and remind myself what it’s really about. And not about. I’m not useless. I know that. I’m not going to be fired because I’m home sick for a few days. Sure it might inconvenience some people, but that’s life.
At times like this it’s good to remind myself that a utilitarian view of people is not the only way to view people or to be viewed. And that it’s not the way I want to view or be viewed.