Over and over again, I fall flat on my face. However painful the scratches, I’m learning the real problem lies beneath them. My life became a competition, and I a ruthless referee.
I have been given this dream. It’s a dream about a world in which the makers behind everything we consume get to count on a fair reward. Fair financial compensation and esteem of the blood, sweat, and tears they pour into their work.
Compare that dream against today’s economic reality and you’re left with a heck of a gap. Underpayment and slavery run rampant. In fact, there are nearly as many slaves in Africa today (9.24 million, 2018) as were forcefully moved during three centuries of transatlantic slave trade (around 12.5 million).
As a journalist, I want to stand in that gap. First, I want to understand what causes us – by virtue of partaking in our economic system – to undervalue our workers. Second, I want to identify solutions.
Saying “yes” when I should say “no”
Making that dream happen requires tremendous self-discipline. There’s no one expecting me to show up in the morning, and no one asking me to meet deadlines. It’s a freedom that comes with great responsibility.
If I want to make my dream happen, I need to stay on course. I need to be true to myself. And, in a way, “defend” myself from others’ demands and expectations.
And here lies one of my greatest struggles: I tend to please others. I keep saying “yes” to others’ demands and expectations when in fact I should say “no” if I want my dream to materialize, if I want to prioritize my dream over the many worthwhile alternatives that I could spend my time on.
Ironically, it’s not “others.” Other people don’t force me into doing things I don’t want to do. It’s me failing to turn down offers, decline requests, and clarify expectations.
Putting my self-esteem at the mercy of performance
Over and over again, I walk into the same trap. And over and over again, it hurts. But this is what I’m learning: the real problem is not in the failing. The real problem lies beneath.
When I fall on my face, I judge myself for falling. I drop a little lower on the rank of my self-esteem as I tie my self-worth to exactly how I perform and my own assessment of it.
That is the real problem. I came to believe that the world is made up of successes and failures. And put my self-esteem at the mercy of my self-perceived performance.
Released from the fear of failing
No longer, though. With Jesus’ help, I turn my back on this thinking. It’s he who says, “my grace is sufficient for you.” To me, this means whatever I achieve counts as a bonus. Whatever I do not achieve, in no way reflects on my value.
When making mistakes is no longer an issue, I am released from the fear of failing and can start to get stuff done. I can charge ahead and run like a child, knowing that my value derives not from the results of my efforts but from a deep sense of belonging.
I will keep failing. I will keep falling flat on my face. But in 2020 and beyond, my performance will no longer define my self-esteem.
Loving myself all the same
I have wild dreams for 2020. I have even wilder dreams for the years beyond. And I’ll invest myself in making them happen. But if I fail – should my efforts not lead to the outcomes I desire – I will love myself all the same.
Let this be said ahead of the game.