The idea of productivity and worthiness are intrinsically connected for most of us. Ultimately this can be easily explained by the way our society works: we work aka are productive to gain money - our productive time literally produces worth. However I feel like the mentality, that we need to be productive to be worthy expands outside of the work field. On the one hand our job is no longer just a place, where we spend eight hours a day then clock off and go home, in many instances our job has become our identity, what we define ourselves by and it has intruded deeply into our private lives. With work emails and WhatsApp almost nobody clocks out completely afterhours and at least in Germany I feel like you are somewhat expected to put in overtime every day. With this mentality it can be really difficult to allow yourself time to simply rest, to relax and to refuel, which can make you feel tired and worn out and in the worst cases can lead to burnout.

I base a lot of my self-worth on having a career, on achieving goals and on being active and it is really, really hard for me to not feel useless and lazy when I have a day off or just relax. I have been working in some form or another since I was 13, be it tutoring or later on waitressing, working in a factory or as a student assistant in university. And from a very early age I also struggled with finding balance with work. I am a very ambitious person and if I am doing something I want to do it well, which in many industries or part-time jobs means taking on as many shifts as you possibly can. I worked two nights a week until 1 am plus weekends when I was 18. I was never able to say no until I noticed my grades slipping and had to step back a litle. I have been working two jobs for long periods of my life, in one summer working nights shifts at a conveyor belt from Sunday to Friday to then work at a restaurant on the weekends, working over two weeks straight without a break. I did a full-time internship and simply because so many internships are completely unpaid I had to work an extra job on top of that. I work pretty efficiently and I am quite resistant to stress - which for me meant to push myself to absolute exhaustion, because I "could". Obviously the fact, that I work faster does not mean that I don´t need rest. The fact that I did not break down working around 60 hours a week for months at a time (while in university) does NOT mean it is healthy. I personally have seen what stress can do to people, how sick it can make you and the extreme reaction of our bodies to long-term stress. Just because you personally feel like you can go at twice your capacity does not mean you are not ultimately really hurting yourself.

It has become so romanticised to "hustle", to always be busy, to always be grinding. Not only does everyones seem to have five projects on top of a full-time job, we see hobbies and enjoyments as checklists as well. Even in our free-time we tend to feel pressure to perform. We are meant to work all day, then head to a gym and shred our bodies to perfection while throwing in a Yoga class for mindfulness and flexibility on the weekends. We have to eat perfect meals, healthy, balanced, home-cooked in spotless apartments, we even feel the need to perform while we are on vacation and send the best holiday pictures back to our friends and especially frenemies back home. I personally track my workouts, how often I meditate, how often I do Yoga, hell I even count how many books I read. And sometimes I feel like despite doing all of these things I am never ever doing enough, like I am just the sum of numbers: calories consumed and burned, impressive books read, steps I took a day... I am so obsessed with being productive that I don´t even allow myself actual time off except for when I am on vacation - and even then I sometimes feel pressured to see all the sights possible. We are all so intensely rushed, so busy all the time that we completely lose sight of being okay with not being productive. With being worthy of love and respect outside of our productivity.

But true self love is not based on how well you are doing. It is about being okay with resting. About stopping your ego and drive to always perform and produce and to give yourself time to just breathe. I get that being busy can feel really good and rewarding. That a career you love will sometimes make it hard to not take work home. That if you are passionate about what you do, you want to put in extra hours.
But it is so crucial to sit back and reevaluate: Am I doing this because it makes me happy? Or because I feel worthless if I am not working or hustling or improving myself in some way shape or form? Can I tell when and if I need rest? And am I allowing myself to take it?

This can be especially hard if you are used to pleasing people and to fulfill expectations, if you always want to make everyone around you happy. But it is so crucial to see your own worth and your own needs and put them before anyone elses wishes and expectations. Being productive at all times is not only exhausting, it is also detrimental to your mental and physical health. Taking time off is not a weakness, it is not laziness, it is crucial and necessary. And if you still feel weird about this: SO DO I! It is an idea, that for many of us has been engrained in us from very early on, especially in capitalist societies. It is why for so many of us relaxation is so terrifying, the reaons why when we relax to do so in front of a laptop or a TV with junk food, instead of in nature or with friends, because even relaxation is defined in such strict terms.

I have been out of uni for almost a year now and I am still not working full-time. I struggle heavily with periods like right now, where I am off from work for two weeks and could just enjoy myself - but instead I feel like I am way too lazy and like I don´t deserve to do nothing for a while. It is a constant battle against that voice inside of my head that always says "You need to work to be worthy of love or fun or enjoyment, you need to be at least working out or writing or reading intelligent books". But I logically know that that is bullshit. That my worth is not based on working out four times a week or reading a book a week or making it to two Yoga classes or whatever I have in my mind: I am worthy no matter what. As is every single person. Productivity is a fucked up social construct and it can make you really sick if you do not step out of this idea. A part of me feels guilty for not going to the gym tonight after four hours in a car and in 27 degree heat and it is damn hard to tell that voice to be quiet and enjoy my Sunday. But the more often I am able to do so, to relax for an evening, to not force myself to the gym or to do Yoga, but to do it when I feel like it and when I am ready to do so, the easier it becomes. Discipline is great and important in many ways - but so is having grace for yourself and not pushing you over your personal limits to fulfill an idea that is not realistic.

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Thanks so much for your lovely comments, constructive criticism and suggestions. I will try to answer all of you!