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October 18, 2021

What Grief taught Me about my Addiction to Busyness.


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Since I remember, I was always doing something.

I always participated in events, created, worked on a project, or planned the next one. I expected to be in motion. And in motion, I was. I was not a person who could go on holiday and relax. Holidays meant a change of environment, not ceasing of all daily activities for the sake of rest.

When I was at university, I held two jobs, was a party girl, and traveled a lot. Sometimes when I look back at my study years, I don’t know how I was able to fit it all in.

But my adult life was no different. I was climbing the corporate career ladder, running a side hustle, completing a course, renovating a house, and always planning a get-together or the next trip.

The words burnout, busyness, overwhelm, and stress were not part of my vocabulary. I thought that I liked to keep myself busy and could not possibly stop.

I was adding more and more things onto my plate to show that I could do it all.

Our culture supports us in this pursuit, too: to have more, be more, do more means to be successful.

We see it everywhere—how everyone is chasing the next thing, moving faster and faster, accumulating more and more. The airbrushed, perfect image of busyness is the daily fix we need to give us meaning in life.

Every time I got asked how I was, my response was the same: “I’m busy.”

I wore busy like a badge of honor. Because after all, I was worthy, I meant something, I was important. I had a place in this world because I was busy doing it all.

Keeping myself busy was safe. Because you see, when I was busy, I didn’t have to answer why I wanted to have it all and do it all. Or how this showed my worth as a human being. I didn’t have to pause and define what success meant to me, because after all, who’s got the time to do it when you have an assignment to hand in, a performance review meeting with your boss, and picking a new paint for your bedroom?

But most importantly, it helped me hide the truth about my unhappiness, emptiness, and the ever-present signs of depression that I so gracefully masked with signing up for a rock-climbing class, participating in a fundraising walk, or working those extra hours at work.

But this was all about to change.

The phone call saying that my dad was dying of cancer left me motionless. The next few months that followed were a spiral of fear, unknown, anger, and denial. Of course, my default setting was to stay busy. But the busier I was, the less I understood what I was doing.

The process of grief has its own set of rules. But grief is just that—a process—and it takes its own time. I couldn’t fast forward it, put a deadline on it, or mark it as completed.

I was no longer in control. I lacked energy and motivation to do even simple daily tasks, so doing anything more, or doing it all, was out of the question. I had moments when I was sitting on a couch, not being able to cook myself dinner.

I was losing grip on busyness, and that terrified me. I was not “producing” anything—not chasing after the next thing—so how could I show my worth now?

I started to realize that adding more things into my days was just a disguise of the fear of my self-worth. Why was accomplishing one thing, doing one task, going in one direction not good enough for me? Why wasn’t I worthy if I didn’t do it all?

I never considered that by doing one more thing or achieving more, I was not fulfilling a need to accept who I am.

One of the scariest questions I ever asked myself was what would happen in the world if I stayed still for a moment? Who am I if I don’t produce anything? Who would I be if I took this moment and appreciated it for what it is rather than chasing after something else?

Eckhart Tolle says that we either need to accept or let go. I couldn’t accept that my worth came from the expectations that I would always be in motion and avoid the truth of who I was if I stayed still, so I needed to let go of it.

Was it scary? Of course, it was. I was petrified, but in that darkest moment in my life, consumed by grief, I started to redefine my self-worth. I could not mask it anymore, hide behind busyness, or drink another glass of wine. The search for my worth was pulling me into the unknown.

We all have a story of “not good enough,” which we link to our worth. But it’s up to us to own it. Once I accepted that my worth is not defined by how busy I am, what I have, I was ready to change the narrative. I’m good enough just as I am, in this moment, with what I’ve got, without the need of chasing the next thing to be fulfilled. The worthiness is already inside me, with all its beauty.

I’m no longer keeping myself busy to show that I can do it all. Staying still, accepting me as I am in this moment, shows my worth already. I’m no longer scared of not being all to everything and staying with my thoughts in my vulnerability. I’m no longer keeping busy for the sake of being busy. My self-worth story empowers me to show up in the world with all my flaws. I’m not too much or too little. I’m enough as I am, and I’m worthy.

How about you? What is your self-worth story? Who are you if you stay still for a moment?


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