For the past couple of years I have awakened each morning with stomach churning anxiety. There are likely many reasons why this happens but I figured out one of them. I feel that there is no reason for my being on this planet anymore.
Don’t worry, I’m not wanting to end my life. But at the same time I am not happy with what I am doing/not doing.
I know that I did a very good job in my career as a mother but my children are adults and one has a child of her own. So what’s the point of my existence at this time when I’m contributing nothing to better my community and beyond?
It’s true that I have serious physical limitations in the moment and have had for several years. Still it seems that I could be doing something. There are countless stories of people with pretty severe handicaps who are doing great things. Shouldn’t I be as well?
Over the past ten years or so I have read many authors and listened to some very wise people regarding this issue. All of them, and I do mean All, have said that we are each contributing by our very existence. Hmmmm, maybe so but this is not exactly filling the void right now.
I have always been a doer. I cannot remember being otherwise. As I child I set the dinner table, washed dishes, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, bathed the dog, etc., etc.. Though these were assigned chores, like them or not, they set up a pattern with which I felt comfortable. When I was no longer forced to do such jobs, I wanted to contribute, to help, to be of service in whatever way I could no matter the size or type of work.
As a young student I enjoyed staying late to wash the blackboard and to line up the desks in preparation for the next morning. Later, whenever there were picnics or parties, I always helped set up before and cleaned up afterward.
I volunteered in our children’s schools from pre-school until they graduated from high school. I continued being a helper in many other situations until my body didn’t allow me to play that role any longer.
After a life time of doing for myself and others, I feel somehow unworthy. My husband has had to take over most of what I consider my responsibilities like food shopping, dropping off the dry cleaning, picking up prescriptions, emptying the dishwasher, even ironing my clothes.
Now, in addition to doing next to nothing, I feel like a burden as well. So what is the point of my being here at all?
After more research and some counseling along with frank conversations with my wonderful husband, I know now that I am in no way a burden. (Sometimes we get so stuck inside our heads that we need the perspective of both professionals and those who know us well.)
Okay, that was a big relief but what about my reason for being?
Well, I am happy to report that there are many for each of us … in fact, too many to be contained in this post. I promise that we will explore this issue in the near future.
But a very big something needs to be addressed before we get to that … The Comparison Trap. Above I mentioned that there are “countless stories of people with pretty severe handicaps who are doing great things. Shouldn’t I be as well?”
There it is. I am comparing myself to others. Gabrielle Bernstein writes, “When we compare ourselves to another, we get hooked into the belief that we’re better than or less than someone else.” That sounds like judgement … certainly not my intention.
No doubt, like me, you have fallen into the comparison mode a time or two … or fifty. But we needn’t beat up on ourselves. We do it because we are afraid … afraid that we are lacking in some way. Such self-judgement is a trap that keeps us from discovering our real worth.
We need to realize that we do not know how others view their own lives. No matter their contributions and successes, we cannot see their doubts, challenges, and fears.
So, before we can discover our life’s purpose, we need to learn how to appreciate ourselves first … to stop the negative self-judgement. How can we uncover what “work” fulfills us when we focus on what we are not doing or what we think we cannot do as well as someone else?
The next time you feel yourself slipping into the comparison trap, try this:
”Every time a self-critical thought comes to mind, I will forgive the Judge and follow this comment with words of praise, self-acceptance, and love.” — Miguel Ruiz
And remember …
“You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — The Buddha