or Happiness Isn’t a Goal or a Destination
or When “Not Good Enough” Has to Be “Good Enough”
Author’s Note: I wrote this post in June 2020. I didn’t publish it because … well, either because it/I wasn’t good enough, or because I wrote it and got distracted before I finished, and then forgot all about it. So it’s a little outdated (I don’t get to claim I’m a “new” manager now that I’ve had the role for over a year), and I have a different perspective on shelter in place 9 months in than I did 3 months in, but I’ll post it anyway.
I suffer anxiety, ADHD, and chronic health issues. I am also a woman in a male-dominated field, in a time and place that idolizes Productivity as the pinnacle of value. I am valuable, even when I’m not productive. I am creative, curious, and engaged with the world. Sometimes, I’m anxiety-ridden, unmotivated, or miserable. Even then, I am valuable. I’m OK.
Since COVID-19 led most of America (& most of the world) to shelter in place, I’ve been at home. Not constantly; I get out for walks, errands, and the occasional doctor’s appointment. I even went for a socially-distanced walk with friends. You might think that I now have more time, that I can focus on home things, that I can be more focused on work. I don’t have kids and I don’t live alone, so I don’t even “have it that bad”.
Nevertheless, my productivity has been low. I get tired easily, and my anxiety leads to insomnia sometimes. My hormones are out of whack (“chronic health issues”), and I have ADHD. Put it all together and my emotions are all over the place, my energy is all over the place.
I’m also a new manager. I switched roles last October, and while my EQ is high, my planning skills are not amazing, and my management skills are in their infancy. My hope was that this year I’d be busy learning & practicing those new skills I don’t have yet. And yes, I’m doing some of that. But let’s be clear: I’m drained. I’m not what I’d call “productive”. Some weeks I work a full work-week. I rarely work overtime. (This is on average. On a given day, I may work longer or shorter. But per week, not so much.) I just don’t have it to give. Since SIP started, I’ve dropped projects, winged** conversations that maybe should’ve been prepared, and held less structure and accountability than I’d like for my team.
There was one particular week when I told them, this week I’m not a good enough manager. One of my reports, a very senior person who I trust and rely on as a key member of my team, told me, “I’m glad you said that. I’m not either.” I even told my boss. He just nodded and said, “yeah, I’m not supporting you enough either”.
My whole life, my shame about “not being good enough” or “not doing it right” has been immense. That week, not only was I not good enough, but everyone understood. Everyone wasn’t good enough that week. And my boss and I, by letting our reports know, made it OK for them to not be OK. We normalized “not good enough” as the new “good enough”.
How do I know that “not good enough” is still “good enough”? Because my contributions that week were better than no contributions. No one was emotionally or physically harmed by my inaction. I prioritized what to spend my energy on, and I didn’t collapse into the shame of “woe is me I never do anything right”. And I took stock of everything else I was doing that wasn’t “productive”. I was managing my health, my ADHD, and my anxiety. I was fostering healthy relationships with my partner, my friends, and my coworkers. When I was tired, I was tired. You can’t be not tired when you’re tired.
I didn’t do all the pro tips for managing anxiety, ADHD, or chronic health. I didn’t make myself go to bed on time. I didn’t meditate often enough. I didn’t drink enough water or floss my teeth. I didn’t even go for walks most days. All of my inaction led to worse symptoms, it’s a fact. And still, I am valuable, I am worthy, I am lovable. Of course I should get paid for my work (and I am), but my value isn’t in how I behave when I’m struggling the hardest. My value is in how I interact with people, in my unique perspective, and in my creativity.
Even in the worst of my anxiety, in the worst of my de-motivation, I’m still a valuable, lovable person. I don’t need to be fixed (although I would love to be), I just need to be OK with not being OK.