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  • meerasreekumar


As 2020 comes to an end, it is normal for all of us to look back and introspect on how the year has been. It goes without saying that the year has been quite unprecedented with the onset of the pandemic and the multiple lockdowns the world has had to witness. My life too had a fair bit of ups and downs this year. Downs were the occurrence of depression and anxiety in the first 5 months due to which I was not able to resume work, and consequently me having to adjust with the feeling of being ‘unproductive’. It is at this stage, that I want to introduce this post to all of you - whether it is necessary for one to be constantly productive or should one’s self esteem depend on this ‘productivity’.

In my childhood, I have always been an overachiever - in academics and fine arts. In college and subsequent professional life, I performed quite well. I believed that achievement and success is what contributes to one’s self-respect and happiness. This strong belief entrenched in me affected me deeply when I was forced to quit my profession due to the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2017. The fact that I used to constantly compare myself with my friends, made it worse. While things have improved considerably between 2017 and 2020, the belief that I need to achieve professionally in order to be happy never changed.

The fact that I was unable to join work this year contributed more to my feeling of being ‘unproductive’. There were days, where I used to feel restless because there was no work, and did not find pleasure in doing anything else. This is when I started therapy, and slowly started discovering a different side to the idea of productivity. Any discussion with my therapist used to end up in me saying that I feel useless that I am unable to work or do something towards my career. This is when my therapist, asked me this question which made me think a lot - “Should your self-esteem be dependent on how productive you are?”. I was quite confused when he posed the question this way. I knew that the right answer is no, but my mind and beliefs were tending towards yes.

Through continuous therapy and being conscious of my thoughts, I started unwiring my belief. Being professionally successful is not the end of the journey, it is a part of the journey. Further, self- esteem is built on multiple factors such as how good a human being you are, be it a friend, a daughter/son, or a kind hearted person. I realised that by my constant need to be productive or useful, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. In no way, am I saying that one needs to just while away one’s time and do nothing. However, one should not put pressure on oneself that one has to be constantly productive. For instance, if you were forced to take a break like me, then cut yourself some slack and understand that it is ok that there is a phase where you are doing nothing professionally.

Through my unwiring process, I discovered that apart from work, there is happiness in so many different things; be it going back to dance, arts and even writing this blog! During my first five years in Bombay, apart from work, weekends used to be hanging out with friends drinking, eating out or going for movies. Therefore, there was something to do all the time. In 2020, things were different because I was at home with my husband with no avenues of stepping out or meeting friends. Therefore, in the absence of work and hanging out with people, I was very restless. I used to ask my friends what they did to kill time, and when they said they used to just chill and vegetate, I was not able to understand how to do that. To be honest, I think I would have been able to relate to it, if I was working. In the absence of work, it made me feel like I was doing a crime when I was chilling.

Thanks to therapy, I am slowly trying to understand that being productive is only a part of one’s life and is definitely not the only aspect that one should focus for one’s self esteem and self- respect. During the lockdown, there were a lot of articles and posts being shared about how not to waste this time and learn something new or do something useful. In my opinion, having to have survived this lockdown through its difficulties mentally and physically is more than enough. Having to achieve something tangible or intangible should not be a constant endeavour. As I said before, I am not advocating lack of purpose, I am saying that hinging your worth on how you contribute or are being useful is not going to help you, and rather add more pressure on you. As you look forward to 2021, hope my experience of learning from doing nothing, helps you as well!

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