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  • Writer's pictureKailee Place, LPC

You Are More Than What You Can Produce: Productivity Doesn't Equal Self-Worth

A therapist's treasured moment: the "a-ha moment."

Oh it just gives me goose bumps thinking about it. When an "a-ha" moment occurs, it means, a) I clearly am such an amazing therapist and also b) the person across from me is having a great moment of clarity!

Obviously B is the most important. I know that.

Today's "a-ha moment" came from a discussion about why my client was feeling so anxious today. And we went through how his day was going, if anything had triggered it, blah blah, but nothing was really sticking.

And then, after some tangential chatting about how he feels self-loathing after having missing work recently... we mentioned how being productive versus non-productive makes him feel.

And when I talk about "productive," I mean what you can "show for" through work, your income, things you do and show people, and generally what you can "give." Being "non-productive" would be things like lazing on the couch, taking a mental health day, doing absolutely nothing for a few hours, getting your nails done, watching a movie... ya know, that self-care crap.

This particular client had the moment when it all clicked: he blobbed around on the couch for a few hours this weekend and he should have used that time productively and done something. Instead, he took a few hours off from his very productive day for a break. THE NERVE!!

This lack of "doing something productive" triggered guilt and a feeling of disappointment with himself. His personal value and worth comes from him being productive. And his worth and value diminishes when he takes a break. At least that's his perception.

So many of my clients have talked about this. They are only worth as much as they can produce.

The issue with this being the sole source of your self-worth is that it's inevitably inconsistent. We're human. We slack off. We take breaks. We take care of ourselves. We fuck off in our office when we should be writing a report. We will not ALWAYS be productive. We go on vacations. We will retire some day! That lack of productivity does not correlate with your self-worth. AT ALL.

You alone are valuable. The space you take up is special and treasured because you're in it. Not your income. Not your productivity numbers at work. Not how great you can cook dinner. Just you. You and all the wonderfulness of your personality, values, opinions, and quirks.


Until next time,


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