Updated: May 17
"When you do something you are proud of, praise yourself for it." Mildred Newman
How many of us actually do this? I would hazard a guess that it’s not many. Whether this is a cultural phenomenon in the UK, in the guise of modesty, or whether it goes deeper than this and is more to do with a desire to blend in, to please others, to be more likeable, I don’t know, but I see this again and again with my clients. I also reject the notion that this a female only topic, yes women are conditioned differently to men from a young age, they are told they need to be quiet, to be ladylike, to be nice, in order to be accepted, and yet I see the uncomfortableness of men too, when I ask them to sit with their success.
We also struggle with the praise and acknowledgement of others. Consider the last time that you really accepted an acknowledgement from others, accepted it in the spirit it was given and did not reduce its impact by batting it away “oh, that was nothing” “I didn’t do much” “it was more so and so than me” “it didn’t really take any time/effort at all”. Why do we have difficulty in saying instead “Thank you, I worked hard for this… I wanted to make a difference… it was important to me … I wanted to support so and so/ the cause … I got a lot from it… I appreciate being recognised for my part in this…”.
There exists a striving mentality in many of us. We live in a fast-paced society, where being busy, or seen to be busy, is valued. Working from home, due to lockdowns has further highlighted the issues surrounding presenteeism. Our worth as humans has been linked to our busyness, our speed of output and we, as a society and as individuals, have bought into this belief. It is hardly surprising therefore that we are constantly looking to move forward and to do it quickly. Solved one problem? What is the next one? Met that goal, that target? What didn’t you hit — how can this one be conquered? And we potentially miss a lot of learning by skipping over the successes. I was a part of so many project meetings where we analysed lessons learned, with the objective of improving the next project, in a cycle of continuous improvement. A worthwhile exercise indeed, but we all too frequently focussed on what had gone wrong in the project, not what had gone right. For almost all the meeting time we would delve into every aspect of the bumps and glitches and allocate a few minutes only to the wins and successes. And there is value in both, in the same way we want to understand why something did not work, so we can learn from it, we also want to understand why something did work, to ensure we apply it again and build on it. It is only logical.
The same learning is available to us personally when we pause and acknowledge our own successes and achievements. Being present in the moment, really tuning into our feelings surrounding this. Pride, accomplishment, joy, satisfaction — these are not emotions to shun or to be embarrassed to have. If we do not accept these for ourselves, then for what was the effort? When we can accept them and enjoy them, our motivation to seek these again in the future, with another project or goal is heightened. Think of the endorphins from physical exercise, or the dopamine (resulting from precursor tyrosine) from chocolate. We seek these out, time and time again.
So next time you succeed, you achieve, you win.. sit with it. Take the time to acknowledge yourself, congratulate yourself; remember the effort you put in. Doing this helps remind us how far we have come and helps us have a more realistic and balanced view of ourselves. The road ahead can often feel long and difficult, having the knowledge that we can and have succeeded many, many times already makes that path a lot less intimidating. So, bask away in your successes, you deserve them!