Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Oh, it was nothing" and other ways to Celebrate your Success

Many of the women I know are quiet about their accomplishments. Ask them how they managed to pull together their company's most profitable project in three years and I am likely to hear that it's all in the teamwork. Do you know women like this who feel more comfortable shining a light on others rather than verbalize their own achievements? In the fiber art community of my profession, female artists often explain their amazing needle art expertise by pointing out that their mother, grandmother and aunts all inspired them with their simple homemaking skills like sewing clothes or embroidering tea towels. I know how this works because I have done it myself. The real hero in our life always seems to be someone else.

American women are often raised to be polite, humble and modest, and this leads women to view accepting praise as a form of bragging. Are we selling ourselves short? In order to deflect a robust statement about the value of our accomplishments, do we have to engage in a version of negative self talk? "Oh, it was nothing" may sound humble, but does it actually undermine our confidence or demotivate our future efforts? I believe that all people, male and female alike, should practice a few techniques to celebrate success so that their full participation in life is acknowledged and their anticipation of future success is enjoyed!

Awesome Efforts deserve Vibrant Recognition
1. Pat someone else on the back. Because I am an artist and so enjoy looking at art, there is not a week that goes by when I cannot find a fellow artist who has made something that inspires me. When I contact them and offer my sincere praise, you might think I am doing this for their benefit. That is only half of the story. Talking about others' accomplishments helps normalize the behavior, making it even more likely that I will mindfully appreciate my own victories.
2. Take a trip down memory lane. At the end of the week, after you have given your daily life your best shot, take a quiet moment to review your actions. Think about three specific ways your accomplishments made a positive difference in this world. Thinking about specific actions like this requires your rational brain to do more of the thinking work than your emotional brain, which means that you can more easily override your early polite-girl training to be humble and quiet about awesome abilities. Luxuriate in your thoughts of contribution.
3. Practice asking for what you want. We've all thought it from time to time. Women who are blunt when asking for stuff get called not-so-nice names. This cultural habit does not serve us well, and even keeps us from verbalizing our needs. If something you want is related to an accomplishment from your past, say stellar performance on the job, how hard is it for you to speak up and ask for an appropriate reward? Have you ever felt passive about life as you wait and hope for the acknowledgement you deserve? I know I have. It almost seems like praise from an authority figure or another person whose opinion I trust (like my husband), is something that should come my way unbeckoned in order for it to be legitimate. Here's the skill I am practicing to boost my confidence in this situation: ask for advice. "I am trying to figure out the best way to be included in the Main Street Art Festival in September. Do you have any advice for me?" This approach allows me to get closer to asking directly for what I want, and every step in that direction increases my chances of getting what I want more often.
4. Ritualized Mini Celebrations. Are you the kind of friend who notices when your girlfriend's child receives an award? Do you call her up and help her feel special about her special little girl? Why is it easier to get pumped up about another person's success than it is to get pumped up about your own? Jessi L. Smith, Ph.D. says it is due to what's called "negativity bias," which causes our brains to look at what goes wrong before it looks at what goes right. This little protective devise helps us survive, I suppose, but I vote that we should thrive more than survive! So the next time you accomplish anything, truly anything, give yourself 20 seconds to mentally Happy-Dance. Who knows, this might even lead to actually moving your body around in a little jig. Now wouldn't that be a fun-loving way to enjoy yourself?

Looking at feminine accomplishment and applauding it is something this old world of ours needs. And sometimes, this is an inside job. When we take the time to notice our efforts and give ourselves the positive credit we deserve, and then that naturally leads to an embodied experience of joy, you can bet that our motivation to succeed in the future will be heightened. All of our awesome efforts do deserve vibrant recognition, because that, my friend, is no small thing.

Thanks for stopping by,

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