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Do You Always Have to be Useful?

by bevbarnes on March 28, 2013

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I have an Inner Sergeant Major –a task master that is always yelling at me about what I have to do or achieve.  Maybe you do too.

– Are you relieved when it’s cloudy or rainy or you are snowed in – so that you can take it easy?

– Are you upset at the end of the day when you can’t point to anything that you accomplished?

 If you answered “yes” to these questions, then my hunch is that you too have inner task master focused on achievement. 

 That means that you are allowed to take a break when the weather is cold and drizzly or when you are sick.  Otherwise, you have to do something useful – like Thomas the Tank Engine, you have to be a useful engine.  If you didn’t have boy children in the last 18 years you may have missed this children’s show, penned by an Anglican Vicar where the ultimate compliment was to be “useful”.

Do you always have to be useful?

What does it mean if we aren’t useful? That we don’t have any value?

Can you see what a slippery slope this type of thinking is?  

It reinforces the painful belief that you are only valuable if you are being useful.

We are so much more than that. 

 We are valuable just because we are.

Lately I’ve been trying to get out from under my Inner Sargent Major.  I’ve been experimenting. I have consciously slowed, way down.  Every time I hear that voice in my head, particularly with respect to my business,  telling me to DO something – RUN something – LAUNCH something – I’ve ignored it. 

I haven’t tried to shove the voice under the carpet and plug my ears, I actually listen to it and then I respond. I make my decisions based on my inner desires and not based on the Sargent Major’s orders.

I’m not fighting my Sargent Major or trying to outrun her, I’m listening.  And then I respond.    

 This is what I say:

       No, I’m not choosing to do that right now.  I’m choosing to wait.  I don’t know why I’m  waiting but it  feels like the thing to do. 

 She really doesn’t have a response.

I tell my Inner Sergeant Major that I am trying this way of being out – that it isn’t forever, that it is for now.  I think that calms her down.

 And do you know something?  It works.  It feels really good.  It feels like relief. 

I’m not getting much done and I’m feeling really good. 

My Inner Sergeant Major hasn’t gone away but she sure has turned down the volume. 

And I can live with that.  She knows I’ll get some things done – but I’m deciding when.  And even if don’t do anything, I’m still worthy. 

My worth has nothing to do with what I achieve.

Neither does yours.

That thought feels like relief.

How do to tame your inner Sargeant Major?  I’d love to hear your tricks.  Share them below, here on the blog.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gwyneth Jones March 28, 2013 at 11:03 am

Thank you, Bev! I read this after sleeping in late and beating myself up about it. I have a lot of things to do, so every moment I spend relaxing, having fun or resting seems like “wasted time”.

I have listened to my inner Sergeant Major, battled with her, ignored her, thought of her as a horrible part of me, but over time come to terms with the fact that she just wants me to be the best that I can be. It’s just hard to tell yourself that sometimes, building up your energy is the best thing that you can do for yourself at the moment. Recently, I’ve been trying to take things slow, too, and I’ve been trying to focus on one thing at a time rather than freaking out about the other five things that I have to do.

I actually wrote about this about a year ago in a post called “The Importance of Duvet Days” – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! ( )



Bev Barnes March 28, 2013 at 11:25 am

Nice to hear from you Gwyneth. I think that being compassionate with your Inner Sergeant Major, recognizing she is trying to help is one way to diminish the inner battle. I love the expression “duvet days”. That’s another strategy – giving yourself permission to have down time. Thanks for sharing!


Cheryl Brown March 28, 2013 at 12:57 pm

When I was a little girl we had a small black and white TV in the kitchen and I remember eating lunch while my mother was down on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. Bella Abzug (hope I spelled that right) was on the television talking about women having the same pay as men in the work place. I remember my mother saying that it sounded like it would get worse before it gets better because as women we will still have to come home and do women’s work after we work like a man all day. I fulfilled that prophecy, that’s for sure.

My grandmother used to tell me not to rush with the housework because it won’t go anywhere. It will sit and wait for you, ha, ha.

I was a hairdresser for 25 years and used to work four 10 hour days a week so I could have three days a week to get all my women’s work done. The pressure was tough. Now my husband and I own and insurance biz and I work about 10 hours a week and have someone come and help me do women’s work once a week. If I don’t get to the things on the list, I don’t worry because it’s not like they sneak away, they wait. Nana was right!


Bev Barnes March 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Cheryl. I think your Grandmother was brilliant. It made me laugh. Congratulations on completely turning around your work life and getting help to do the stuff that never goes away 🙂


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