Friday, March 20, 2009

Self-Worth, and Guilt

I was raised to believe that in order to have value, I had to produce tangible results every day. Work, food, art, cleaning,  the result wasn't nearly as important as producing a result. One must be able, at the end of the day, to point to one's accomplishments, in order to have "earned" one's rest. This may sound like a positive belief, but for those of us who are co-dependent, (and as a program friend jokes, believe in "everything in excess") this is an exhausting way to live.

We cannot just be.

Even in times of illness, we struggle to achieve daily tasks, in order to waylay the crushing guilt which ensues when we do not. Because that's the other half of this life philosophy - guilt. Guilt is a ferocious taskmaster. Guilt stands at our back and feeds us a steady stream of nasty little insults and comments, telling us we are lazy, worthless, stupid...I don't need to list them off, most of you can recite them right along with me, I'm sure.

Al-Anon was the first place in my life where I encountered the concept that I had worth simply by existing. I didn't see how that was possible - if that were true, I could still be a good person even if my house was a complete mess! What a concept!

I have had to work my program diligently, to achieve some freedom from this incessant measuring of myself. I was invariably coming up short in one area, therefore dismissing myself as generally unworthy, because I strove for perfection.

I can never attain perfection. Admitting that fact, was the dropping of a burden I had carried all my life. I now allow myself to have days in which I announce that I am "doing nothing" that day. I give myself permission to have days to just float around and be myself. I don't accomplish a darn thing, and I'm getting better at shushing the guilt voices. Some days I can shut them up completely, some days I can only get them down to a murmur. I'm working on it.

Progress, not perfection.

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