It seems that we have forgotten what it’s like to intentionally choose rest. When we do, we feel as though we are derailing our lives. It plagues us with guilt. I believe that this thinking is rooted in a culture of shame, pride and comparison.
How can shame and pride thrive simultaneously?
If you think about it, one cannot exist without the other. A culture of shame, lurking behind our obsession with productivity, is deeply embedded within society. And I would argue that it affects women more harshly.
One of the greatest threats to our peace of mind and ability to enjoy the present moment is the idea that busyness equates with productivity. We obsessively praise and admire what looks like productivity.
Instagram stories, facebook posts and twitter updates fuel the phenomenon. We see our friends’ elaborately organised desks and cups of coffee as we mindlessly scroll through our feeds, feeling guilty for not doing more ourselves. These constant comparisons and feelings of falling short pose a serious threat to our mental well-being.
When did our mental energy become less important than being recognized as worthy and successful by society?
Picture this: the ideal woman. She is able to multitask at all times, dedicates a perfect amount of time to each task, and always looks flawless. Effortlessly efficient in the workplace, she still makes it home in time to make dinner from scratch. She spends time with her family and gets the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
For real? These are impossible standards to live up to on a good day. More than anything, they set us up for burnout.
The dominant message is that it’s okay to compromise our health and wellness at the expense of appearing successful and gaining praise from others. We are expected to keep it together at every moment of every day, and to carry the emotions of our children and significant others while seamlessly managing our own. We should not express or even identify as feeling any anger or irritation. We are expected to love perfectly.
This is what is implicitly perpetuated by a culture obsessed with productivity and achievement. How busy we are has become an indication of our worthiness.
Busy does not equal productive.
Breaking down, being vulnerable, admitting to sometimes not being able to handle everything: we view these as weaknesses. Can you see it now? Little old pride, rearing its head, spurred on by shame and ready to put up a fight.
It is time for this narrative to change. We need to make a conscious individual and collective effort to fight back against this mentality, especially at a time when mental illness is more prevalent than ever.
Periods of rest should not be scorned and embraced only once we are exhausted beyond recognition. Rest should be an intentional form of self-care to maintain good mental health, not a last-minute strategy to salvage what’s left.