Meaningful Work & Gremlins

“Yes, you do that well, but that’s not really a gift.  It’s not big enough or important enough to be a real talent.”

~ Brené Brown regarding taunts the self-doubt gremlins throw at us.  (The Gifts of Imperfection)

This taunt is something I’ve bought into over the years and it kept me from pursuing my  writing (and other things in my life as well, but I’ll focus on the writing today).  It kept me beat down and not feeling fulfilled and purposeful.  It kept me from doing something I really love to do because I felt it was not important enough, good enough or worthy.

One of the last chapters in Brené Brown’s book which I’ve been reading is called Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”.  I read this chapter last night and found myself highlighting it and making notes like crazy – and it is only about 6 pages long!

One thing that really hit home for me was that recognizing, embracing and SHARING our talents and gifts with the world gives us a sense of purpose.  Sharing was a key word for me.  I knew I had some talent at writing and I had embraced it to a certain extent.  However, I had never really accepted that sharing my writing could be a way for me to feel fulfilled and could give me a purpose.  I had not pursued writing as meaningful work because a part of me always thought that if I was not able to support myself with writing as my career then it was not meaningful.  It had no purpose other than as a selfish outlet for me.  And therefore, it had no right to take up my precious time.

Brown notes that when we don’t recognize and share our talents with the world we will begin to feel disconnected and weighed down.  Some of the words she uses to describe this and how we may begin to feel are:

  • Emptiness
  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Shame
  • Disappointment
  • Fear
  • Grief

This is EXACTLY where I found myself a couple months ago.  I was having a mini mid-life crisis due to the stress of my job and I was not taking time to do things for myself that made me feel fulfilled and gave me purpose.  I was not doing those things because I did not see them as being legitimate avenues of purpose and I felt I did not have the time for them.  They were not a priority.

My brain had faulty wiring when it came to what gave me purpose and what my priorities should be.  Which in turn was why I was having a mid-life crisis and freaking my poor husband out.  (I think he really thought I might be serious when I told him I wanted to take a 6 -12 month break from work and just stay home and get stuff done that needed to be done.  I told him I would clean the house, take care of projects and I would even have dinner on the table EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for him.  I think that last part is what freaked him out because he knows I don’t like to cook.  In fact, he does most of the cooking in our family.)

It all comes back to those pesky messages we have in our head of what we are “supposed to” be doing or who we are “supposed to” be.  They pop up and tell us lies all the time that we just buy into them without ever questioning their validity.

So, how do we overcome this?  In the past when I did actually recognize them for the lies they were, I would try to shut them down by ignoring them. I figured if I ignored them, they would die off.  But what I’ve found is they are like pesky cockroaches that you just can’t seem to kill or get rid of.  Brown is a bit nicer than me – she compares them to toddlers.  If you ignore them, they just get louder.  (Sounds like my boys – although they are NOT toddlers anymore!)  She suggests the best way to handle them is to actually acknowledge them.  This was another “aha” moment for me because I think in the past I thought acknowledging them meant agreeing with them.  Not So!  (More brain rewiring for me!  I am seriously in need of a talented electrician!)

We need to start owning what Brown calls gremlins – the “Supposed to” messages living in our brain.  Face them and confront them head on.  Write them down and then start dissecting them and asking questions.  This is how we gain power over them.

  • What makes us afraid?
  • What’s on our “supposed to ” list?
  • Who told you that? (Remember this one?!)
  • Why?

So that is what I’m doing today.  I’m starting to write these little gremlins/cockroaches down and I’m confronting them head on.  Here are a couple that I’ve got started with already:

Everything I do should be productive for my work or my family.  I’m not supposed to just do things for ME and if I do I should feel guilty for being selfish (OMG!  How dumb does this sound?  I did not even realize it until I wrote it down.  Sometimes just seeing something in writing can break the spell it has on you.  And who told me doing something for myself that I enjoy is not productive anyway?  Who defined what is or is not productive?)

My fulfilling work has to support my family. If it does not, it is not important or a priority.  It should not be a priority over other things. (Once again – how crazy is that when you see it written down?!  Writing can be fulfilling and meaningful work for me even if it is not bringing in one tiny little dime for my family!  Who says our purpose needs to be tied to money?  Why in the world have I chosen to believe it?)

I KNOW this is not the end of my list.  And I know I will probably continue to add to this list the rest of my life.  Once again, this is something that will be an ongoing lesson for me I’m sure.  However, I do expect it to get easier over time.  In the meantime, I’ve chosen to dive into some meaningful work even if it never brings in any money for my family – my writing (this blog!).  It gives me purpose, it makes me feel fulfilled and it makes me a bit more sane – which is a HUGE benefit to my family!  And I refuse to feel guilty for it anymore!

What are the gremlins that you need to face down?




2 thoughts on “Meaningful Work & Gremlins

  1. If you’re interested in writing, you may want to join a writing club. I did that recently. I’ve also joined Scribophile, which is an online writing club where you critique others and get your own work critiqued — seems pretty cool, and there’s even a free option. If you join it yourself, look me up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I will check that out. I’ve been considering joining something like that. I would like to do an in person one, however my schedule makes that hard to fit in at times. Online may be better for now at least.

      Liked by 1 person

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