Updated: Jun 3, 2021
We've all done it. Whether we are ready to admit it or not is a different story. It's true: you have wanted the award, and like it or not you have actively tried to win the award!
What awards am I talking about? The ones that don't exist of course.
But if they don't exist, how am I talking about them, and how have we all worked towards them? Fair question. I'll get straight to it. Below is a list of these awards (that don't exist):
- Functions the best on the least amount of sleep!
- Lifetime of stress award
- Sacrificed for others longer than anyone else
- Never put themselves first
- Always does anything for anyone, anytime, anywhere, no matter what, always.
- Worried always, but still functioning
- Always fine
- Never asked for anything their entire lives!
- Never gave themselves anything their entire lives!
- Never prioritized self-care ever!
- Gave all free time away, because they care the most.
Ohhh yes...now we all know exactly what awards I'm talkin about now! Sure they look ridiculous when written down, and it might be easy to brush them off or laugh them off. But if we take a deep breath. (*insert deep breath*) and really get in touch with ourselves, there's a part of us that completely resonates with a few of these awards.
Not only do we resonate with a few of these, but we have some pretty close ties to them. In fact we know so much about them, because we thought we were on the voting committee! (We were on the committee...but also wanted the award? IDK, seems like a conflict of interest, but I've done it, so that a fun one to think about. The ego really gets creative I suppose). But honestly it made sense for us to think we were on the committee! Because we were very qualified to know who was deserving of the awards. "Sally for the Never Puts Themselves First Award" "Hmm I'm not so sure that's the right fit, sure she did give away her closet to others in need, donate her entire income, and run on very little sleep for a month. But I made every meal for everyone, ran every fundraiser, cancelled my family vacation, blew off my morning workouts and worked almost 24/7, all while helping others start businesses, volunteering at 5 different places, and still heading the charity and taking care of everyone in my family and neighborhood. I haven't taken an hour to myself in over 3 months, so yes, Sally is great, but actually there is no way anyone is actually more deserving or more qualified for the Never Puts Themselves First Award than me!
**Insert straightened back, smile, and a look to the left and the right** And then, can we get a drumroll..ok...druummmmmrrooolll...........nothing.
I was there for the committee meeting, it was a unanimous vote, so what's the hold up? I'm totally ready to receive my award. I've even been getting a little more dressed up each day now that my projects are coming to a close because I want to look good while I act surprised. I'll wait a bit.... nothing.... More fundraisers are coming up, more coworkers need help, my phone won't stop ringing and my inbox is getting flooded. But wait, I didn't get my award!
This is a very rough and general outline of the cycle that will often repeat over, and over, and over. Until we are completely depleted; low on patience, barely functioning without much energy (and without any awards). It starts slow, but then turns into a snowball quickly, and before we know it we are lost in that cycle. Hoping in the back of our minds that someone will recognize our efforts, our sacrifices and reward us with a raise, time off, or even some basic recognition of any kind. But it doesn't happen. And slowly that hope transforms to resentment. Exhausting our bodies and minds even more every day, as our actions are subtly followed with thoughts of "not like anyone notices" or "I'm the only one who really cares around here. This wouldn't get done without me".
Here's the worst part: occasionally someone will throw some recognition your way, and guess what you do?! "Oh it's no big deal, it's just what I do" or "It's part of the job" or better yet, "anyone else would do the same thing". Are you kidding me? Our minds just spent months in the committee meetings sharing what a big deal it is, listing your sacrifices and searching for recognition, waiting for the award to arrive. Meanwhile your body has been drug through sleepless nights, poor nutrition habits, and has been almost completely neglected beyond basic survival. Then when a sliver of recognition is put on the table, you are so quick to slide that right off and dismiss it like it's some bazaar and ridiculous conspiracy theory that you don't want anyone to hear you saying. Therefore, whatever recognition does come your way, it's not welcomed in enough for you to accept it, embody it, feel it, let alone be proud of it and thankful for it.
If this hits home for you: you are not alone. (If it doesn't hit home at all and you're still reading? Well, thanks! I appreciate it). For me, this was an interesting topic to wake up to. And man did I wake up to it! I was so caught in the middle of my work, which I loved, but was constantly asking more from me - because they knew I would give it. Week after week I would come home exhausted, and eventually had to cancel weekend plans with friends because I needed to work the weekend or I was too physically exhausted to follow through on our fun outdoor plans. I loved my work, I was an Executive Director of an organization working to put outdoor education in an entire school district, summer programs, camps and a full gear rental program for 6 communities. It was beyond too much for a tiny staff of 2. I would send my staff member home so she could have dinner with her partner, and then I would stay past midnight working. It was my passion, but it also took all of me. I stopped getting outside myself, an occasional run to help wake up or enjoy a sunset before going back to work. But my list of hikes to do, areas to backpack, rivers to float, trails to dirt bike, weekends to see family, it all stayed on the list and there just wasn't any time for it. Slowly I stopped getting the invitations from friends to go ride and camp. And my family time was narrowed down to the 2 nights my mom had to come visit me when I was so sick with the flu, throwing up, and physically couldn't get out of bed. She drove over, slept on my floor, spoon fed me water, walked my dog and watched Hallmark movies with me while I drifted in and out of the first bit of sleep I had had in months. My body had enough of the brutal long days, weeks and months. The award wasn't coming. As I laid in bed, barely able to hold down any water, I could guarantee you that nobody else was even close in the running for the Never Puts Themselves First Award. Here was my proof. Where was my award?
What I know is that these awards don't exist. I also know that the desire for recognition is real. But do we have to outsource the job of giving recognition? I say hell no. Instead of being on the committee for the awards that don't exist, I've resigned, and taken a new position as my own biggest fan! When I finish a job and I'm proud of it, I make sure to consciously stop, take some deep breaths, think about that job from the beginning until the end and I send myself appreciation. I feel it, in my core. When I slow down, and breathe in the appreciation for my work, I feel this almost red/pink energy come inside my core, it sparkles and it spreads throughout my body; I don't resist it and dismiss it like I used to do to any outside compliment. Instead, I allow. I allow the feeling to stay, and it does for a little bit. That feeling, I discovered is pride. I am proud of myself, and it feels really really good to allow that emotion!
What's more is that I've learned I can appreciate myself at any point in time, for wherever I am at. Need to leave work on my desk for the weekend so I can go see my friends? That's absolutely okay, and I appreciate myself for doing that! I know I put in quality days at work and that everything will work out if I take my weekend to fill up my cup.
These awards, they don't exist anywhere but in our minds, and inside there - they are very real! The trick is to recognize when you are working towards one, slow down, take care of yourself, and appreciate yourself no matter how much you do or don't get done. Then you are guaranteed to get the best award of all, the Award For Being You!