An Unexpected Gift from my Vacation
Hola! I am a little over half way through a three and half week vacation in Peru. It has been amazing so far. I have visited with old friends, made new friends, shared in the experience of a Brazilian wedding, and deepened my connection with my boyfriend. I have seen some of the greatest sights of the world in Machu Pichu, experienced the exotic mix between old and new in Arequipa, tasted the delicious cuisine of Lima, and ran up the winding mountainside roads to breathtaking views in Cuzco.
Surreal. I feel so blessed.
All this vacationing has got me thinking of the reasons we vacation. There are many. Rest, relaxation, exploration, adventure, fun, escape, change of pace, excitement, seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, enjoying exotic food and drink, trying new things, and having no responsibilities come to mind.
Each of these things may be exactly the gift we need, and I have been experiencing many of them. But this trip has also been exactly what I needed in an unexpected way. This gift from my vacation came in the form of a reminder.
My vacation has reminded me that I am not needed. Gulp.
The reminder became front and centre even before I left for Peru. It was 3 pm on my last day of work and I had completed everything I wanted to get done. (Impossible, right?) I told myself this was good, and that I was grateful to not be stressed out and running around until the last minute, but honestly it also felt like a kick in the gut (ahem, ego). In a dark corner of my mind thoughts of “maybe you’re really not needed here” and “if what you do is really important surely you would have more things to do before you left” were stewing.
I hate to admit it, but freedom felt pretty shitty. My ego told me that I was not needed therefore not valuable, worthless even. So I started my vacation worrying that I was worthless. Great place to be on vacation.
I sat with this feeling, while also being ashamed and angry with myself for feeling this way, and I gained new awareness. With the help of my coaching teammates in Seattle over the weekend before I left, I took a deeper look at the cause of my feelings; which turned out to be a look at how I value myself and the way I define value. I realised that I often rate my self-worth based on how much I have to do and how much I believe I am needed by others. In my mind a story was running that to be valuable meant I should have been rushing around until the last second, maybe even continuing to work on a few important things on the first few days of vacation, before finally being able to let go and relax.
This exact story is what played out before and on my Christmas vacation. I can see now that the way my Christmas vacation went was less a product of me being needed, and more a product of me needing to feel needed. Only when there are multiple, and preferably unrealistic (more demands = I’m more needed, right?), demands on my time is my ego satisfied that I am needed and therefore valuable. Having nothing to do exposed this way I value myself.
This is all very hard to admit. Yet admitting it exposes it for what it is: a story; a limiting, disempowering story. Needing to be needed is not a powerful place to live. When my worth is dependent on how much others need me, my own worth is out of my hands. It is dependent on a number of factors outside my control, which are subject to other stories I have about what being needed and providing value looks like. If the story plays out just right can I come to the conclusion I am worthy. In reality, the story rarely plays out just right and I am left constantly striving.
I have believed for some time that external validation of self-worth is chameleon-like and necessarily dissatisfying, yet I can see that I still let it guide my actions in many ways. Being forced to face the fact that I continue to attach so much to feeling I am needed, and that deep down I don’t want everything and everyone to get along just fine without me, has been a powerful reminder.
A few questions have come to mind as I have explored this realization over the past couple weeks. What if I was inherently worthy? What if there is no need to be worthy in the first place? What if things didn’t have to be valuable or not valuable? What if I made choices without considering these things at all?
I have started by practising choosing to come from a place of inherent worth. It has been rewarding, and challenging. I catch myself looking to my email and thinking, “None today! What?”; I catch myself creating in my mind things I have to do, and looking for things I could take on or ways I could provide value. Whenever I catch myself I remind myself, not only that I am not indispensable to what I do, but also that I am not what I do.
I may do great things, make great contributions to the world, and bring great joy to people’s lives, but I am not those things. I may also not do anything, make unhelpful contributions, and bring unhappiness to people’s lives, but I am not those things either. What I am is who I am, and that is the true value.
Choosing without consideration of value has been more challenging still. One way I have found to do this is to choose from values, instead of value. Choosing from what I value, separate from whether it is valuable has been a great place to start. I will continue to explore this and other ways of choosing separate from value and worthiness. I know there is much growth available to me in this area.
These realizations have provided me the opportunity to learn more about myself, to choose from a place of inherent worth more often, and to become more in tune with what I value, rather than what I believe will be valuable to others.
I am most grateful however for the space and lightness these realizations have brought to my vacation. I have been able to let go of stresses and worries about work and other projects way more than I usually do. I have been able to find peace in the freedom of vacation, instead of sitting in the fear that freedom means I am not valuable.
From this place there is a lot more room for fun, adventure, new experiences, relaxation, connection, and all of the other gifts a vacation provides.
Writing with new found freedom from Peru.