Practicing acceptance for a guilt-free stagnation

It doesn’t feel quite right saying this, but if there’s anything good that the pandemic has taught me, it’s about self-compassion.

I guess we can all agree that the entire world collectively tearing apart is one acceptable excuse for how you haven’t been behaving like the “better,” more functional version of you. I myself have been abandoning so many things that were once a part of my routine, that I now feel guilty about.

It’s funny that ironically, the reason why I’ve come back to doing something through writing here is because I’m posting a tedious trilogy of self-loathing regarding: 1) how I haven’t felt good in months, 2) how I’ve been hating myself due to my extremely low level of productivity, and 3) how I hate myself for judging me based on my level of productivity when in fact, I’ve also done a few personal milestones that I never expected to do otherwise. Sure, these things aren’t resume-worthy and more of a leap forward in my self-healing journey, but these really are the things that define who I am when any resume-related labels such as work positions or school are stripped out of my identity.

Just today, a blogger introduced me to her post that might explain my situation. I used to think I’m simply burnt out, but actually, I probably am not. I think I am languishing instead.

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness.”

Adam Grant for The New York Times

Like most of us, I haven’t been able to go for even a short vacation ever since the pandemic to get away temporarily from work life. I haven’t even been able to use my paycheck to do something that genuinely makes me happy, which used to be travelling. I have other hobbies indeed, but unfortunately, I’ve also got quite a short span of attention and passion towards most things, that I’m no longer in the mood to commit to them.

My cat seems to be the only one who’s keeping my sanity in check. And it’s a huge responsibility for a tiny fluffy ball to hold alone. With her 8-month experience living in this house that’s equal to a trainee, I can’t blame her for not being able to make sure her job is so impeccable that it leaves no residual hole to fill.

But the pandemic, despite all its nothing but awfully shitty outcomes, has taught me to be at least more compassionate to myself.

And I’m here to share my findings from unintended contemplations in-between moments of hating my routine.

The languishing or burnout: strictly work-related or much more?

One might immediately assume that their languishing or burnout, whichever they’re experiencing, is because they haven’t had a proper holiday due to the pandemic, or ever since they started working in the company. But what if it is actually because of an accumulation of your whole life trying to do more, and more? Maybe your mind and body never really got a chance to let loose properly, and the culmination is conveniently occurring with the pandemic. Maybe you never fully noticed that you were always on the run, chasing things after things, that the idea of appropriate resting feels unfamiliar, strange, and even wrong to you.

But it’s not. Your mind and body are restraining you to sit back, and it’s going to feel like an attack if you fight back to run instead of agreeing and just relax.

Better productivity better self

We are unawarely taught that the more you do many things, you are the better person in society. That your ability to become a high-functioning human somehow defines your worth. But does it?

I’ve had days where I did nothing outside my 8-to-5 job – which I haven’t even felt so committed to lately. But in those days, sometimes I still did things that made me grow emotionally or mentally. A step closer towards a healthier mind. I can argue that many times, these are the better parameters of whether or not you’ve become a better person, compared to a nicely formatted list of professional accomplishments.

Being productive is so much more than personal or professional development

Even when talking about productivity, many of us immediately think of the parameters as stuff related to work, school, or any other documented achievement that is eventually going to land in your resume. But it’s mostly not. Whether it’s your hobbies that you actually suck at but still enjoy doing, or a chilling time to boost your mood to get back to work the next day, or running errands because you just have to, they count. Even when you’re taking a nap to avoid being a grumpy cat due to exhaustion. Including when I type this post, not even expecting people to want to read it anyway. Even if you’re just doing it for yourself, it does count.

Why competing on who could resist more strains before breaking down?

Lastly, being functional isn’t a competition. In fact, nothing in life should be a competition, unless it’s an official championship where you are to be awarded a literal trophy.

Many times, the amount of stuff people allow us to interact with within their world sometimes barely scratches the surface. We’d probably never know someone’s reasons behind their seemingly well-planned and well-executed routines – and that is only what they allow us to see. For some people especially amidst the pandemic, it’s a matter of live or die – you either work your butt off or you don’t survive another day. These days, the ability to slow down without risking your life to immediately disintegrate is a huge privilege that is not to be taken for granted.

As much as we absolutely hate the pandemic, maybe this is one of the proper times to practice a bit more self-compassion on ourselves. That it’s not only okay if your former fast-paced life slows down drastically for months, or maybe years; it’s maybe even a better one if we allow ourselves to be at peace with it.

After decades of living life solely the way we were familiar with, it surely would take a lot of open-mindedness and acceptance to welcome inevitable changes. I like to think that whether it’s languishing or burnout, it’s essentially your mind and body signalling you to stop for a bit because whether you realize it or not, you actually need it. And if you’re receptive to the idea, it won’t feel like a major degradation in your character development, but instead a way to introduce you to a different approach in living life.

And here’s to trying to be more compassionate to ourselves, despite all the reasons to feel not to.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hi Nabila, terima kasih sudah menuliskan ini! Benar-benar menjawab tentang apa yang terjadi padaku juga selama setahun kemarin (dan barangkali banyak orang lainnya, ya?).

    Anyway senang membaca blog-nya, well-written! Salam kenal, ya! 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nisha! Iya kata artikel referencenya languishing memang the most common emotion selama pandemi ini sih, tapi mungkin belum terlalu banyak yang aware ya karena selama ini mungkin tahunya hanya di skala burnout sampai flourishing aja padahal spectrumnya luas.. I’d say the same about your blog! Happy to know you albeit virtually! ☺️

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