Photo courtesy of magnetbox
Ask someone “How was your day?” and you may end up getting more than you bargained for in return. It seems that more and more people are continually hard on themselves, especially when it comes to work, but at home and in other settings too. There is a sub-set of individuals who struggle with recognizing the positive things about themselves and their accomplishments. Something as simple as greeting a friend or coworker can turn into a tirade of what he hasn’t gotten done that day – a virtual soliloquy about how disappointed he is in his performance.
I was guilty of this for a while. My life wasn’t taking the direction I was expecting, and the resulting inertia threw me off balance. I became very negative about all things, and I adopted a “glass half empty” attitude because I felt like a huge failure. To this day, I still have some trouble acknowledging my successes, even though my internal compass tells me I’m totally headed in the right direction – personally, physically, and professionally. I find that I have to consistently make an effort to recognize the accomplishments that I have worked so hard for, and I started to wonder: why is this so difficult for some of us?
One of my life goals is to feel totally satisfied and fulfilled within myself. As such, I decided to discuss this phenomenon with my therapist. What I learned is that struggling to recognize our own strengths stems from our inherent personalities, and also how much success we attained at a young age. Those of us who grew up as “overachievers” have become accustomed to overwhelming success and external recognition. We have been living our lives getting the gold medal in everything that we do. Therefore, we have trouble patting ourselves on the back unless there is a gold medal around our necks.
When I realized that I continually wait for others’ approval before high-fiving myself, I decided to stop putting so much value on ”external” recognition. I took on a new attitude that involved recognizing at least 5 things I accomplished each day without getting approval from anyone else first. I listed these 5 daily accomplishments in my writing journal. After just a few days of this practice, I felt my self-confidence begin to grow. I developed more faith in my abilities, and I realized how important my own approval was.
The bottom line is, many of us are so busy seeking someone else’s approval that we lose ourselves a little bit. I remember feeling lost when I had babies and they didn’t give me any feedback about my parenting skills. The key is to give ourselves the appropriate recognition every day, so that taking credit for our successes starts to feel natural. Before you know it, you won’t be seeking approval from anyone else but the person in the mirror. Recognition from others will still come, but you won’t need it to know that you’ve done a good job.