Do you have an ON/OFF button?

On or off?
Do you feel like you are in an “on” mode all the time? That that switch, the power switch, never turns off? Do you even know that you have a power switch?
For me, not only does the switch mean being able to switch off occasionally, but I also see ON and OFF as the difference between self-esteem and confidence. They are interrelated and they also need to be distinguished.

The understanding that I am not my performance, that my value does not depend on what I do, THAT is a realization that I wish more people could actively work on. Time to reflect on “why I do” and “what responses I get from my inside”.

Self-esteem vs. self-confidence
I have met and meet many people who are in performance mode all the time. I know how it is, I was there myself once. Many times, performance is a competition on the inside. Not something you jump up and down about, not so that you scream and throw your arms in the air because you worked overtime (again) because you want to catch up on tasks that are impossible to do during regular office hours. But on the inside, you think you were “good” at delivering. And it’s not like your boss is telling you to cool down either. No, companies today still have a big role to play in keeping quiet and allowing the job hunt to continue, even though it is clear that the individual does not benefit from the relentless pursuit of more deadlines per week. If we look at our society today, my opinion is that there is a lot of hand clapping for achievement, that the cheers are heard far and wide. But who cares when individual after individual collapses along the track? Then the cheering stops and loneliness and often incomprehension sets in. The individual is left alone in the belief that “I am nothing without my performance”. Something is deeply wrong.

You have value in being ‘just’ you, it is your
. There straight up and down as you stand, lie or sit. Your value as a living human being here on earth, who has the right to be who you are, to take up space and to be seen and listened to. What you do for work (if you work), study, how you dress, who you love, where you live, whether you like to exercise or knit as a hobby, is irrelevant. It is not a measure of how much you are worth. You are good just as you are. Yes, even with or without too many or too few pounds. Because isn’t it many times the “ideals” and how we should look or train, that take us into destructive patterns that become permanent negative states in us (loneliness, sadness, self-loathing, anxiety etc.). What if instead, both for ourselves and when we meet others, we could start by being interested in the person “behind the scene” – behind the shell, what kind of person is there?

What if we instead put energy into valuing and elevating empathy, love, care, presence, humility over how many emails, tasks and burpees we can do in a certain amount of time? At least sometimes, so there will be some balance please.

is what you do, what you achieve. You can work on your confidence by practicing a task or exercise over and over again, or by gaining confidence in what you do through experience. You can have self-confidence even if you have low self-esteem. However, performance outcomes are slightly different depending on whether you have low or high self-esteem.

I take a clear example to highlight the differences. Say you have to deliver a presentation to the whole group at your workplace. You know you are a good speaker and feel ready for the task. You get up on stage and get started. Due to technical problems, the presentation is not at all what you expected and you do not have time to complete your presentation. After the lecture (with low self-esteem), you feel useless. You have the lecture in your head and everything else feels bad too. You think that the company will probably never let you speak again because you were so bad. If you thought you were so good at giving talks, maybe you’re not?

With a strong sense of self, you can see that the presentation did not go as you expected. You did what you could with the conditions you encountered along the way (technical problems). You can shake off the lecture and drop it when you go into your “just being” mode. You distinguish that what you have done does not identify who you are. So even if the performance went that way, you are still good at being you. You know that you are good at giving presentations (performing) and that things just went a bit wrong this time, you take away the lesson of having a plan B in case of technical problems.

I believe that if you have low self-esteem, you will have to work harder to strengthen your self-confidence, because every resistance takes more of a toll on your “being”, which in turn questions the adequacy of your “doing”. Or that you stay in “doing” (ON mode) all the time because you feel that you are only good enough when you are in that mode. In AV mode, you are nobody. It also creates a huge imbalance in you.

Just be – Off
In “just be” mode, when the switch is OFF, you can be exactly who you want to be when you’re not performing. This is the time to build your self-esteem. Build presence in yourself. Explore what is important to you to feel good, what is important to you to feel good. So when it is time to perform, you can do so with a balance in yourself, knowing that you will do your best in the performance that awaits. However, the result/output of that performance will have nothing to do with who you are, when you are in your “just being” mode. What you need to be able to land softly there, regardless of whether the performance went wrong, only you can find out by experimenting with what strengthens your self (kind words to yourself, spending time with people who make you feel good, non-performance hobbies).

In that AV mode, you can also switch to direct if you need to be in and out of performance over a longer period of time. Carolina Klüft talks about this in her lecture (available on SVT Play, highly recommended). Where, as an athlete, she played around between events when competing in the heptathlon. It was her way of letting go of performance mode and focusing on other things for a while, and then flipping the switch and being 100% focused on her task. Many people commented on how she could go ahead and “fool around”, but for her it was part of her strategy for how to train and compete and feel her best at the same time. And no one can say that she didn’t manage to do that, right?

If we are never or very rarely in the OFF mode, we will eventually start to perform worse in the ON mode, as the brain and body do not get a chance to recover.

It’s in your head
It’s in your head. The belief that everything is about performance. Whether that truth then comes from you or is given to you, that is something for you to identify. Then to decide whether you should do away with those thoughts once and for all, if for you they have gotten out of hand. If you want a change to start boosting your self-esteem and letting go of performance mode, you also need to think about why you want to let go. What is your intention? How do you imagine you would like it instead? Can you paint a visual picture of it? Can you listen to whether there are sounds, voices or perhaps silence etc. in that image that contribute to a reinforcement of how you want it to be. Also take the time to feel how your body feels when you visualize and listen to your wishful thinking. How do you want it to feel? Which states do you want to be in and which do you want to change?

You can try to start there, then link it to the contexts in which you move where it is not possible for you to feel the states you have chosen to have. Is it then possible to adjust in these contexts (e.g. job frame – can you try to work less overtime, accept that you can do what you can do in a day, etc.) or does something need to be removed or replaced? Some things may be a quick fix, while others will require time to change. A good start is to start listening to the signals you get from the inside. Those signals want to bring you to a balance, so be sensitive and humble to them.

Performance –On
the ON mode is for performance.
Whether it’s in your work as a painter, digital strategist, salesperson, floorball player or fitness instructor. If you’re also a performance devourer, you might also be there when you play games, walk from the bus to home (you make sure you’re the first to get off), when you pack the grocery bag at ICA or when you exercise (you secretly compete with the neighbor on the workout or have to beat the number of burpees you did last time).

Performing is a good thing, a necessary thing – but doing it constantly is something else. In addition, valuing performance over ‘just being’ may not be good for wellbeing either.

If we can identify and set clear boundaries for when we should be in an ON mode and when we should not, we set limits. Boundaries that allow you to check with yourself whether you are stretching the boundaries or keeping them. Boundaries(frames) are important for identifying whether we are inside, outside or stretching them. Depending on what we do, it will affect us in different ways and put us in different states. If you also want to be able to perform to the maximum when it really matters/is needed, the limits are just as important to know the line between relaxing and switching to 100% focus.

So if you want to actively practice feeling better, and know that you are very much in your ON mode, I suggest you start looking at whether you have any limits for yourself. Boundaries you make aware of and set based on identifying where the line is between feeling good, and where you start nibbling at your feel-good level.

Perhaps one of the best expressions I’ve heard and one that I really like to use. “Performance shit” – what if we are hampered in situations by turning on our performance mode. Where we find it hard to let go, because we want to be good. When letting go is what it’s all about. A state of softening to the task at hand. Dare to see yourself from the side like a safe hand caressing your arm. Nothing dangerous can happen, we do not “fail” because we test. We do not have to perform. We can think “performance shit” and give ourselves a free zone where we don’t judge ourselves. How about that?

I say, more “performance shit” for the people. I think we need to be more accepting of ourselves and others if we are to create more sustainable individuals, teams and companies. We absolutely must be able to perform in order to move ourselves and our companies forward. It should also be associated with pleasure and joy, to feel that we are making sense and at the same time that it is allowed to back off when it becomes too much. Both I as an individual and companies could be better at using the switch more consciously and more often.

Balance on the switch
If you find it difficult to find balance, if you need help sorting out your thoughts and worries, please feel free to contact me.

This also applies to your company. What are your company’s values and challenges when it comes to nurturing and encouraging your staff to turn the switch on and off?

I hope you end your day with a nice AV mode!


More reading