Yet how proud we are, In daring to look down upon ourselves! ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning
He who undervalues himself is justly undervalued by others. ~ William Hazlitt
In the scope of my position I have facilitated workshops for educational professionals many times. Often, as an ice breaker or warm-up exercise, I would ask the participants to break into small groups and share information with partners. When I asked the participants to share a professional achievement or accomplishment they were proud of, they often stumbled. They were shy, embarrassed, felt they were not being modest enough if they admitted they were pleased with a personal accomplishment, and often the group finished before the allotted time was up. Yet, when I subsequently asked the same crowd to take a moment and share an educational or professional mistake they wish they had not made, suddenly the room would erupt into a furry of discussion. Why is it that these professionals, the ones who we entrust with educating and molding our children, struggled to admit their successes to each other, but had no problem identifying their failures?
I want my children to be proud of their achievements and successes, and I want them to know I am as well. I want them to be able to step back and reflect on how their dedication and effort can produce results that allow them to feel happy. I want them to have that sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction. And I REALLY want these feelings to be something that is not a remnant of their childhood, but lasts into their adult lives. The ability to feel this sense of accomplishment and take pride in our own accomplishments, I believe, is directly related to how content we are with our adult lives.
Ironically, yesterday I wrote about our need to re-define success. I do believe that success may not be what society labels success. Nonetheless, when we achieve success (by whomever’s definition) it is okay to celebrate and be proud. Success can even be a celebration of effort, no matter what the final outcome is.
Too often we look at all of our faults, and remember all of those criticisms we receive. Have you noticed in your own life that you remember criticisms much longer than you remember a word of praise or compliment? I often wonder if this plays into our stellar ability to self-criticize and our struggle to self-praise.
I have come to realize that if I want my children to grow up able to appreciate their own successes, then I will need to model that in my own life. I will need for them to see less of my own self-criticism and more of my self-praise. I will need them to witness me when I am happy, content, and pleased with the work I have done (be it organizing the house, getting a raise at work, or finishing a knitting project).
If you are incredibly gifted at self-criticism, you are in good company. The following is a quote from one of the greatest artists of all time:
I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Today, 311 days ’til 40, I will strive to accept and convey that which I am proud of. I know that it is okay to be proud of myself and I do not need to hide my joy in my personal achievements. I will model this for my children in order that they too will learn it is acceptable to celebrate their good work and dedicated effort.
My hope for myself and my readers is that one day our list of what we are proud of will far outweigh the list of our failures. While our failures are good, as they motivate us towards growth, they need to take their proper place in line with our successes.