Since the pandemic hit, I’ve been working from home. I find the rhythm of life so much calmer now, but I’ve discovered that it’s really easy to forget to take leave.

In part, I wanted to save up my leave for this year, but I also kind of lost track. Without the grind of a daily commute, I found I had more time and energy. It’s like I’d turned into the Duracell bunny – I could just keep going. But shortly after kicking off 2021, I hit a brick wall. Having taken little to no leave in 2020, my brazen disregard for my need for regular breaks had caught up with me.

I took five days of leave, but I soon discovered that it was hard to switch off. I saw my free time as an opportunity to catch up on everything I’d had to push aside because of work.

I was grappling with restlessness (one of the five hindrances of Buddhist teachings, which also include grasping, doubt, sloth and torpor, and aversion). My meditation teacher, Sue Cooper, describes restlessness as the shark mind that never stops swimming.

I used to think restlessness was just an unfortunate character trait of mine, but increasingly I’m beginning to think it’s part of a larger systemic problem.

NPR recently did a podcast episode on impostor syndrome: 5 Steps To Shake The Feeling That You’re An Impostor. Put simply, impostor syndrome is the inherent belief in one’s own inadequacy – especially with regards to others, who we often deem far more capable and qualified. 

NPR’s podcast episode rightly points out that impostor syndrome can be particularly acute for people facing heavy biases in hostile spaces (like being the only woman at a conference table, or the only black person in a university lecture hall), but I walked away from that episode wondering, “What is really at the heart of impostor syndrome if even the people who are positioned closest to power are feeling like impostors (despite being cis-gender, heterosexual, white, English-speaking, able-bodied, male etc.)?”

There’s a post on The Nap Ministry that could be a potential answer to this… Their profile description reads: “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations.” 

They recently shared this post: 

I think burn out, impostor syndrome, and perfectionism are all interconnected – because at the heart of them all is a deep fear of making mistakes (and perhaps the subconscious belief that mistakes will make us fail / get fired / stop being loved). 

I still need to pull at this thread (and any resources or recommended reading would be welcome), but perhaps the fear of making mistakes is also somehow connected to the capitalist obsession with productivity, which brings us back to white supremacy, which exported capitalism to all its colonies.

This post by yoga teacher Susanna Barkataki unpacks it very clearly:

“Grind culture at work comes from a false sense of scarcity and competition. This is born from workplaces that treat people as expendable parts due to Industrial revolution practices developed during colonial expansion in factories that wanted to produce more, faster.”

Susanna Barkataki

So maybe the reason why people positioned closest to power can still feel like impostors is because it’s a by-product of white supremacy in general, and systems of oppression also damage the oppressor? 

And maybe my restlessness is a sign of just how much I’ve internalised a capitalist sense of urgency, having learned to equate my personal value with my productivity and achievements?

What do you think?

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