Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Worthiness Wednesday #55 Filling that god-shaped hole
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the feeling of not belonging that was beginning to pervade my work days. I wasn't necessarily sad or afraid of this feeling, just curious about what it meant. It felt good to process it in this space, and I'm grateful to my pals Cathy and Phil for their wisdom and insight in response.
Then yesterday, the penny dropped: I have always felt like I haven't belonged, especially at work.
What's changing is that I no longer care.
For almost all of my adult life, I have worked in the same large and complex organisation, albeit in several roles. It has been where I have spent the majority of my waking hours.
For most of my adult life, my identity, my sense of self, has been inextricably linked to my work.
I know that this is by no means a unique story. But I also know that it hasn't been good for me.
Of course, there were many highlights: achievements I'm proud of, lovely people, memorable experiences, incredible learning curves, recognition and reward. But there were also many pitfalls: burnout and unwellness, toxic politics, competitive environments that brought out the worst in people, unfairness, frustration.
Looking back, I see a girl who was once described as having The Midas Touch. I see her fêted for her awesome organisational skills, her writing flair, her confidence in public speaking, her slightly off-beat dress sense, her crazy irreverent humour, her fierce work ethic. I also see her wound up and sent into battle, only too happy to speak her mind, score sore points, gain approval.
This was all pretty seductive, for a girl whose opinion of herself was always pretty dependent on others' opinion of her.
I see that girl trying to dress like her more glamorous colleagues. I see that girl trying to keep up with the drinking pace. I see that girl dumbing herself down, resenting her errant mind and quicksilver work habits. I see that girl crying with frustration at being sidelined and overlooked. I see that girl nursing wounded feelings, and realising too late that she may have hurt others. I see that girl shopping too much, eating too much, drinking too much, smoking an awful lot. I see that girl lost and lonely and bored. I see that girl assuming without question that all of this was her fault.
Because she was a bad person. Because she didn't fit in. Because she was a bad person.
Because when she looked in the mirror, that work persona was all there was to see.
I recently read a gorgeous tweet by one of my all-time favourite writers Anne Lamott, who clocked her own desperate behaviour at a garage sale: "Fanciest friends brought beautiful things, which I pawed thru, hoping as usual to fill the god-shaped hole".
Reading this, I realised that for many years I had been trying to use work to fill my "god-shaped hole". Unfortunately, all that my work environment really did was reflect back to me the worst bits of myself, like a gloating self-fulfilling prophecy. I was shallow, I was unhappy, I was lost and -- despite the fact that many of my colleagues were also these things -- I sure as hell didn't fit in.
It was like school all over again.
These days, as I plough through this worthiness work, my reflection looks quite different. I see a girl finally giving herself permission to do the things she loves. I see a girl venturing to step outside other people's definitions of her. I see a girl who is filling her "god-shaped hole" with things that signal god to her: exquisite words, kindred spirits, courageous art, soulful music, nourishing food, a healthy body, love despite imperfection, a slow reflective pace.
And in this reflection, suddenly there is very little room for who-is-saying-what and who-didn't-do-what-she-said-she'd-do and who-is-building-empires and who-dresses/looks/eats/sounds-funny.
Ironically, I am still the golden girl at work, for many of the same reasons as when I started. But outside my work life, I am finding that this gives me a little satisfaction... and that's it.
So, this week, I invite you to look in the mirror and think about what is reflected back to you. Is your reflection something of your own cultivation? Where are the blurry bits, where others have attempted to impose their own view? Could it be that you don't necessarily have to accept these bits as they are? Could it be that a little curiosity and a lot of compassion may reveal a "god-shaped hole"?
This week, I invite you to think of how you want to fill that hole... because you really do have a choice. And you can fill it with things so abundantly beautiful and true, that there just won't be any room for anything else.