Published January 4, 2020

Similar feeling to when people sing ‘happy birthday’ to you, right? Do I sing too? Where do I look? What’s the right facial expression for this?

Feeling proud is something that, as children, is natural and effortless.  Have you ever experienced the unabashed pride of a toddler? I aspire to feel that confident about having finished my whole lunch.  As we age, we start to recognize our accomplishments less and less.  Why is that?

If I had to pinpoint the reason, I’d point at vulnerability.  As we get older, we notice that being proud or talking about our accomplishments can leave us open to feedback or- yikes- criticism.  We instead move from this internal feeling of pride (“I read that all by myself!”) to external validation for our efforts like the honor roll, employee of the month, or simply praise from others (“Wow, you look great, what are you doing differently?”).  If we build ourselves up, we worry about others trying to take us down.  Alternatively, we don’t want to be seen as “bragging” which can be a social turn off.  Much safer to wait for someone else to do it for us.

As a classic overachiever, I thrived on that external validation.  I waited for the praise, honors, and awards to let me know that I was on the right track and fulfilling my mission in life.  I “knew” I did well at my job when people told me so.  I “knew” my body was in shape because of the compliments I received.  I “knew” I was a good partner because my significant other told me so.  While that felt good in the moment, whenever the praise or validation disappeared, I panicked.  Excuse me, who is going to notice the difference now that I’ve started juicing??

Then I realized, the answer is me.  If I’m in the pursuit of happiness for myself, I have to feel happy with what I’m doing day in and day out.  I am the constant in my life, and only I know what it’s like to be in my body and go through what I do every single day.  Life is unpredictable, and we have no way to control the moods, choices, and actions of others.  External praise comes and goes- but that internal praise? That’s on me, baby.

As I’ve been on my journey of being responsible for my happiness, I wanted to incorporate a reflection of my accomplishments in my weekly or daily habits.  I was inspired by my recent read, How to Stop Feeling like Sh*t by Andrea Owen.  In it, she asks the reader to make a list of her accomplishments without disclaimers or qualifiers (i.e. write that you got the job, don’t question whether or not it was because the person before you left.)  It felt really affirming to see how much I had accomplished, but it was also exhausting to come up with my whole life’s journey in one sitting.  So I thought about my journaling habits, and wondered how I could include this feel-good practice. Now, at the end of the night, I write my 5 things I’m grateful for, and one thing I’m proud of at the end.  I appreciate the balance of it.  Not only am I grateful for all that went on around me, but also what was within me today.

This practice takes a little work.  At first, it felt like being asked an icebreaker like “What do you do for fun?” where suddenly, I had no idea who I was or what I liked.  I created a set of prompts to help me when I feel stuck, and have found that at least one of the things below will come to mind at the end of the day.  If you’re curious about ways to think about this on the daily, here are some prompts I fall back on:

  • Did I make a choice today that was good for my mental or physical health?
  • How was I the best version of myself today?
  • How was I a good partner/friend/co-worker today?
  • Did I get through something that was difficult today?
  • How was I kind to myself or someone else today?

One of the biggest shifts I’ve felt since incorporating this is being able to slow down.  We can get so focused on what’s next, we don’t take the time to appreciate what’s going on now.

 

Whether you journal, list in your head, or tell someone else, I hope you take the time to celebrate yourself today.  You deserve it!

Diana Fuller

Host of Watered Grass