Gah, the feels, dude.
I work here at HeartSupport and can relate on so many levels.
First off man, feeling like your life, your identity has become enmeshed with what you do…that’s a scary place to be…it dehumanizes you, and it becomes easy to dehumanize others…you are what you produce, in this case, you are the number of lives you change, the growth of your org, the impact, the bottomline, etc…and because that becomes the value of your life, what you can produce, you can only treat others as you treat yourself…so they become a means to an end – what can you produce for me? What is it that you can add to my cause? I have limited time, and I can only handle so many relationships in any given unit of time, so I have to maximize my output, and if you don’t hit these particular metrics, you aren’t worth my time…it’s not necessarily about you, in the sense that it’s not that you aren’t worth my time, it doesn’t really have anything to do with you, it has to do with me, I have standards I have to hit, expectations I have to meet, and if I can’t meet them through you, then I have to find another way to do it, because if I don’t hit these, then who am I really? I only am as much as I produce, and if I don’t produce, then I am nothing.
When your performance swallows your identity, your life becomes a game where every person transforms into an NPC, just people you interact with to beat the game. And your reality becomes completely solo-player. There are moments of lucidity where you pull back the VR headset and you “see” these people…they’re really people…but they feel worlds away…like they’re operating on some other plane you can’t even touch if you wanted to…or at least feel terrified that if you were to try to operate there that you’d be rejected…that they’d want you to put the headset back on and keep producing.
The fear of connecting with others is that someone will expose you as the worthless being you fear you are. If they can see you, then you can be cut down. Producing is so much safer, because you can be “too busy” for them to see you…you can be in the process of proving your worth…you have a defense against any potential attack, you are able to shield it with the excuse that “I’m working towards being worthy”.
The brutal part is that this game swallows you…the more you produce, the more expectation you have…you become known as a high producer, and then the game makes you believe that if you produce less, then you are worth less…so you constantly have to put MORE IN in order to get diminishing value of security of your own worth…and it literally squeezes the life out of you over time till you feel so entrapped that you can’t even open up to your own people…you have to find another place to tell people you don’t know I’M DROWNING AND NO ONE KNOWS BUT IF THEY DID THEY WOULDN’T EVEN GIVE A SHIT.
It is a brutal trap, friend.
Not sure if you were at TwitchCon, but we had a booth there and I was running it, and I felt this same trap swallow me…I was constantly looking at peoples’ badges as I’m trying to pitch people about HeartSupport. I knew I had finite time, I know exactly how many people I’m capable of talking to within a given unit of time, so I, like you, am trying to maximize the “impact” I create within the Con…I realized that I stopped seeing “people” and I started focusing on status/badges/“importance”. I started to get down on myself if I was talking to an affiliate as a partner was walking by. I started feeling the competition with other booths. I started feeling small, unimportant…the thoughts devoured me.
On my plane home, I was journaling trying to figure out what the f–k happened. I realized that when I focused on self promotion I ultimately shoved all of my insecurities to the surface and got trapped underneath, fearing what would come of the judgment of others, the brutal evaluation of results.
But when I realized that I was living from this place of falseness…I was able to come out from under that trap. The core of your mission and mine is that people matter…every person we talk to…when we try to control the result and the outcome and measure people’s worth based on their potential value to us, we lose sight of the very reason we do what we do…and we lose ourselves in the process…because we are telling ourselves consequently, we only matter when we produce…we are only loved when we generate results.
I have a sticker on my desk that says, “The most important thing about a man is not what he does but who he becomes.” When I focus on my results, I lose myself and others. But when I focus on who I want to become, and I focus on who I’m showing up as, I am able to find the internal freedom to love myself, love others, be present, connect, and yes, even produce…but it is from an entirely different place…it’s not out of desperation to prove myself…it’s out of honesty, integrity with who I am and who I see others as. It is a much more beautiful place to live from…
And honestly dude, I don’t nail any of this…it’s something that I’m trying to learn, because I noticed my life becoming swallowed with anxiety and medicating that with porn only to have shame spur me into producing more which turned the spiral more and more. But I have found moments of clarity and freedom, and this is something I’m exercising and seeing true fruit from it.
You matter so much more than what you produce. As do I. We matter way more than that. Your heart is much more valuable than your hands.
In it with you.