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Worth and Work #mumsarethebest




If your self-esteem is running low because you're out of work, paid work or you're struggling at work maybe it's linked to your self-worth.


I became unemployed due to ill mental health. Realising that my worth just can't be found in work because it was detrimental to my health has been refreshing.


I'm not saying we can't find our worth in work, I'm saying based on my experience it's not the only, most valuable or even primary source of dignity.


'Michael Tubbs, one of America's youngest mayors, declares it well, 'as people, we all have inherent dignity.'

For me, it was and still is, partly because I want to conform to social norms about dignity being only found in work; somewhat to fight against being labelled with a black, mental health or masculine stereotype; and partly because I see my identity in it.


'Take the stay at home mom (and dad) who's taking care of her kids or watching her parents, unpaid but is that work, is that dignified?'

For instance, I felt under pressure to provide for my family because there's this traditional gender norm (and arguably myth) that says, "men must provide." I also didn't want to be idle, because that would give people an excuse to say that I'm lazy and mean that I'm confirming to racist stereotypes such as, "black people are [stereotyped as being] lazy." The most stigma I felt was around being mentally ill; people may think there's nothing wrong with you, that supposedly the black hole you find yourself in every morning is "just in your head" and another "excuse" for not working.


The truth is I don't have to other's opinions (because that's all they are) about work, to prove anything, anyone, including myself. These are all assumptions about work and worth. I do not deny that work has value and jobs have merit; however, how do we define work? Let's grapple with that not each other.


Folks in school, who are in full-time education and can't work is that dignified and how is that rewarded?


Some folks genuinely can't work, or choose not to and they are often valid reasons for that. Take the stay at home mom (and dada) who's taking care of her kids or watching her parents, unpaid but is that work, is that dignified?


My mum and many mums of the Baby Boomer to Generation X stayed at home. They fulfilled the traditional eurocentric gender norm of full time 'homemaker'. Even the title homemaker didn't encapsulate all the hats mother's had to wear. I say, 'had', I shouldn't as many homemakers of my mother's generation and before didn't feel 'oppressed' or 'downtrodden' because they didn't 'work' i.e. weren't paid.


I do believe work has value; however, should we start there? Where can we find a more valuable source of self-worth and a primary source of dignity? I think inside us, let's start there and not with work. Michael Tubbs, one of America's youngest mayors, declares it well, 'as people, we all have inherent dignity.'


I think inside us, let's start there and not with work; as people, we have inherent dignity. Notice the contrast, the social norms and stereotypes to work emphasise what we do over who we are. We have to decouple our dignity attached to what we can produce.


Only Men Provide - myth?

What helped to decouple was focusing on myself and not others. I used to have more of an external focus, i.e. to try and live up to what people think I should be or do, which leads to feelings of low self-esteem because you're not conforming to their expectations or you don't feel you're doing good enough (for whom?). Now I choose to have more of an internal focus, i.e. I strive to be the best me that I want to be; I know my limitations; and I believe that I am on my own journey, going at my own pace and that's okay.


My Dad, who's been out of work in the past due to ill mental health and a taking a sabbatical, summed up this conversation around work with a nugget of wisdom, "work is a part of life, not the other way around as many would have it."


It's a process, and easier said than done, however:


Impossibility is only a notion - Gina Miller

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