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For Anyone Who Needs to Hear This: It's OK to Just Exist Right Now

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing and quarantines have become increasingly crucial, resulting in many of us being confined to our homes. During this time, we might be tempted to feel guilty and anxious about not being productive enough. Inner critics may sneakily but consistently tell us we’d be better off doing something else other than what we’re doing right now.

I wish I could tell you there was a remarkable breakthrough moment that completely washes away my shame and guilt about being unproductive. They are still there. However, through several breakdowns and therapy sessions, I’ve come up with the term and action plan of being a “full-time human being,” which could help me take care of myself better and chip away at my guilt and shame associated with doing nothing and taking time for self-care.

What does a “full-time human being” mean?

We often identify ourselves with our roles and responsibilities, such as being a worker, a student, a parent, a spouse or a caregiver, etc. And we often forget that beyond all these tags, we are human beings with our own unique, universal needs. For example, the need for pleasure, fun and connection. Most importantly, we deserve to have our needs met regardless of whether we’ve been productive during the day or not. It is tempting to believe that fun and enjoyment activities should only happen after productivity. However, if we become more aware of the fact that, first and foremost, we are human beings, not our jobs or roles, it would be easier to view self-care as a necessity, not a reward. That awareness could lead to two practical notes:

  • Our worth does not decrease if we don’t accomplish as much as we expect.
  • Doing nothing or taking care of yourself is not self-indulgent, but performing the role of a “full-time human being.”

Bearing these two notes in mind, here is how I apply them in my daily life.

1. Responding to my needs

I choose to tune more into my basic needs which are food, water and exercise. For example, eating when feeling hungry, drinking when thirsty, or standing up and stretching after sitting for too long. Simple as it may sound, there are several times I put off having lunch to finish the next thing on my never-ending to-do list.

When it comes to self-care, I’m always tempted to cut corners if possible. But
this time I start to allow myself to take as much time as I need to sleep, have
breakfast or do some exercise.

2. Scheduling

“Putting myself last” has always been my default living mode. I was dwelling on “responsibility” tasks and at the point when I completed them, I had no energy left to do the small things I enjoy like drawing or watching Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. While the idea of putting myself first is still alien to me, I have made some changes in scheduling to accommodate my needs more than I used to. For example, I prioritize “pleasure” activities in my schedule such as listening to my Spotify playlist, reading something funny or just watching the sky from my window.

This means I will do them at prime time in which I feel the most energetic, not
leaving them till the end of the day, especially after a burnout from finishing
“responsibility” tasks. If having fun triggers my guilt and the echoing inner
critic: “you don’t deserve it,” I would remind myself: “self-care doesn’t require any prerequisites.”

3. Daily decisions and actions

As someone who is quite obsessed with being “right” and overwhelmed by a strong sense of responsibility, without knowing exactly what it entails, I often have a hard time making decisions. To help ease this burden, among various options, I experiment with doing things that “feel” right rather than “seem” right. I would ask myself “what do I want?” instead of “What should I do?” Spoiler: it kinda works so far.

Some final words

While I’m still learning to surf the waves of guilt about being unproductive, as recently as this morning, I would like you to please take this reminder with you: you are not your jobs, roles or productivity. You don’t have to prove your worth by what you have accomplished, because you already are a whole and complete individual, first and foremost.   

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