Giving it your all is the gold star of our cultural value system. We love a story about prevailing over adversity through sheer will. We celebrate going above and beyond the call of duty. Under-promise and over-deliver is a strategy to strive for and there’s something downright sexy about giving every last drop of everything you’ve got to something that matters.
And this is how I got sick.
Not like sick-sick. Not like out of time or options or resources sick. But my body said no through more than whispers. It was a dull illness that came and went for a year. Adrenal fatigue, I was told. YOU stress they call it (y’know the kind you bring on by being an A type). As soon as I’d start to feel better I’d be sprinting again. And I loved it. The sprinting, not the sick.
I’ve been working my own edge with giving it my all for a very long time. I see it in almost every one of my clients, every one of my friends. We’re going. We’re moving. We’re striving and climbing. Sometimes joyfully, sometimes laboriously. We’re feeding our families and pushing boulders up hills. We’re championing our lives, our loves, our passions, our principles. We’re staring glassy eyed at the screen to get out one more tweet, invoice, email, article. We’re looking, seeking, searching for the new thing, best strategy, cutting edge, deepest value.
And it’s not just about stuff and dollars and success tracks, though let’s be honest, the hierarchy of value has her material claws in us culturally.
But the drive to give it our all- IT’S THE CULTURE OF CARE.
There’s a fire in us to deliver and it’s burning upward from the ground of being. You’ve got to be buried in delusion to not be noticing the trouble and the suffering we’re in as a planet and the majority of the people I know are right striving to do something about it.
But what can little old me do to really impact the enormity of what’s happening? How can I possibly feel adequate in the face of what’s needed? At every turn there is evidence for each of us that we’re not quite good enough yet. Whether compared to what’s needed or what others are doing, or the dream we have for ourselves or who we’d be if we met our parent’s expectations.
No matter how you slice it, unless consciously worked with for some time, most of us have got some version of not enough or inadequate as our orienting filter. (I happen to think this is very simply a spiritual predicament as we’re identified with being separate from one another and partial as a being. But that doesn’t make it any less painful.)
And so what can be done about feeling inadequate or powerless?
Maybe some resign and hide under the covers, or disconnect from the stirring growling ache within. Distract, numb out, withdraw.
But many of us work, strive, give ‘er. And how do we measure how things are going? How do we check for the value we’ve provided? By asking, have I done everything I can?
Have I given this my all?
What a beast.
So when I first started to confront that I would be healthier, happier and of more sustainable service if instead of giving everything my all, I actually contained some for me, I was left with a tremendous amount of anxious energy.
How can I hold back giving when there’s so much need? How can I contain energy that may serve others? If I don’t go balls-out or labia-out or heart-out or however that saying translates across genders, aren’t I somehow ripping the world off?
Don’t we, as the privileged and the educated, have a moral obligation to make things better?
I believe we do.
But there’s a difference between serving sourced from the heart of compassion with the resources to deliver and serving sourced from an inner emptiness and unconscious need to earn, prove, do enough or be enough.
For myself, I’ve discovered that I can only healthily give something my all when my identity doesn’t gather its worth from my action. Giving has to be sourced from wholeness.
Giving our all has been glorified to a point of pathology and we’ve got a culture of busy, stressed, overworked and run down people. I wonder if some of the solutions we’re looking for, the deeper service we want to provide may be found in kinder, more sustainable and connected ways of loving and giving to one other. With more emphasis on what’s already here that we can draw on, rather than what we need to generate and strive towards.