Last week I went to work with no makeup and “undone” hair. I had been doing computer work all morning and needed to get out the door to see clients in my studio. As I stood looking in the mirror, my thoughts veered towards: “It looks like you’re not putting in any effort”.
I noticed I have an expectation of my appearance; that I need to put in an effort to appear professional and put together before going to work. Will this make me better at my job? Will clients feel more cared for if I show up looking a certain way?
I thought about the expectation of effort that consistently follows me around. If I put in effort into my appearance that morning, I couldn’t have put in as much effort into my computer administrative work.
This applies to so many other areas of my life. Thoughts swirl, like: Why is there still laundry on the floor? Why couldn't I just cook dinner instead of stopping for takeout? Did I do enough to help this client achieve their goals? Have I crafted a good enough response to this email?
And all of these questions take away from the recognition of effort in other places. It is effortful to show up and sit with a client, it is effortful to meal plan, get groceries, chop ingredients and cook, it is effortful to sit on the computer and do the work that often feels hard and unrewarding.
There will always always always be more to do. I know that I cannot put in equal effort for everything that needs to be done. My home will not always been clean. My business will not always be functioning at full capacity. My meals will not always be prepped. My makeup will not always be done. So why does it feel like there is an expectation that I should be able to do it all?
My favourite resource from 2023 is the book How to Keep House While Drowning which approaches cleaning and care tasks from a lens of moral neutrality.
The concept of moral neutrality comes from the understanding that culturally, quite a lot of things are assigned the labels of "good" and "bad". Waking up early is good, drinking soda is bad, tidiness is good, taking a break (aka laziness) is bad. Can you think of any other examples?
All of these cultural or familial expectations seep into our brains and make us think that certain behaviors are morally superior and other behaviours are shameful. This is what leads us to think that we are not good enough.
This book put so many things into perspective for me. If my home, my appearance, my finances, my food choices are morally neutral, I can choose what most aligns with my capacity and my needs, versus what I feel I should do based on external expectations.
In our end-of-the-year recognition workshop, I realized that I wanted to celebrate the thing that I have often avoided: asking for help. This is a task that feels hard for me because I have the expectation that I should be able to do everything for myself. That my effort and abilities are a defining accomplishment in my life. That doing things independently is not only good, but lauded. A+ for effort and anything else is a failure.
I am hoping to ease into the new year with a more compassionate, gentle approach. Just take a look at my 2024 vision board - I can see it all so clearly now. Asking for help. Leaning on community. Spending time with art, being guided by curiosity. Letting myself put in the effort that feels aligned. And I can already feel how that is impacting my business, friendships and home.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you can offer yourself some recognition. Because you are enough, just as you are.