How my Productivity Became my Identity

Whenever I am not doing something or occupying myself with an event or networking with professionals – I honestly don’t know who I am. I don’t know who I am when I am not productively doing something.

Some may or may not relate, but to bare all and be truthful to myself and to you, I don’t have much of a real identity or a word that can personify my personality. Now you may be thinking, “what is she talking about? She does a multitude of things! An all-rounder!” but am I?

I am simply a hard-worker like my father, and as I get older and evolve alongside the world and it’s diverse group of people, I realize that whomever the higher creator is took this hard-worker personality and copy-pasted it onto me.

Though, I must say, in being the first-born child to two first generation immigrants – I carry a personality of grit which is something I guess I developed myself. In developing this personality, I felt it was my duty to make sure not only to impress my parents but my peers around me and thus; I started to become distinguished in my passion for dance, respected by my peers in terms of my work which almost always leads to people saying that I am over-qualified for the task assigned because of how I carry myself.

This isn’t at all a bad thing. I am simply a workaholic. I need constantly to work on something to keep my mind and body occupied. Every second of my schedule should be packed with tasks and mark checks all over the metaphorical and literal to-do lists.

I did say my father and I share this “workaholism”, but we are different in the sense, however, that my workaholism is there for a different and perhaps, even more sinister reason. My productivity is my identity. If I am not working, I am just a hollow shell that doesn’t have much of a purpose. Ever since I was in grade school, I always felt (and was told), that success was quantifiable. The number of extracurriculars I took part of, the amount of stages I performed upon and subsequently, the number of awards and certificates I procured displayed my worthiness. Each grade I got defined my intelligence and my ability to be successful. While other kids were carefree and could not care less about the award of extra gold sticker they got, I would be home almost heartbroken that I didn’t get that extra star than the other. While other kids were having fun, my mind would be burdened with how to work harder to get the extra gold star and the best grades the next year.

Slowly, because of that, my depression worsened. To try and make it go away, I would fill my schedule to the absolute brim – that way, I could, theoretically be better than everyone else… a habit I still try to do to this day….

But that just let me tired, still feeling inadequate and even more depressed. It was a subconscious vicious cycle that I could never really break free of. I would spend evenings upon evenings feeling worthless and every time my mom would bring up so-and-so’s kid’s success (obviously not to compare me to the kid but just sharing as daily news), a fire would singe in my chest telling me to continue to work otherwise I would never be worthy.

This is why I have tied my own worth and dignity to the ability to be productive. It is very unhealthy and painful but this is how I am wired. Like most parents of Asian descent, my parents would tell me, “you can be anything you want to be as long as you work hard and be the best at it.” Even though this was said with the intention to be encouraging, it almost reinforced the purpose of the vicious cycle of productivity feeding it more of a reason to exist.

I may be called the “jack of all trades” and “all-rounder” in terms of my work, and even though I work harder than most people I know – I am still never going to be close to being the smartest or most competent person in the room… and that is perfectly ok.

The struggle of working hard and never feeling adequate stems from insecurities that have never secured themselves into positivity, but have only been engraved into negativity. Every day I look at myself in the mirror and question my worth as a young adult. I realize that the more I care about my productivity, the angrier I will be. But for that day, I swallow my anger at my lack of quantifiable accomplishments and continue to participate in my stubborn, subconscious cycle of productivity. I just hope that one day I will gain the wisdom and mental strength to break free.


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