Why is it so difficult for most of us to give praise to ourselves? I mean when we really deserve it.
I tend to deflect any praise heaped upon me by others, because I don’t feel like I have “earned it”. I feel like a fake. A failure. Which is pretty damn silly if I take the time to fully evaluate my life, and what I have accomplished.
The flip side of deflecting that praise, is seeking it out from others.
The words in the above photo are a line from the Havamal, a collection of sayings from the Viking age that was condensed into one poem as a means to preserve them. I found them particularly relevant to something I have been going through lately. Something that my hunch says, others may go through as well.
When we are in a group scenario, we often look for the weakest and strongest of the “herd”. This is ingrained into our human nature of a desire to survive when things get bad. Obviously, the strong members of the group will aid in the survival of the group. The weak, the opposite direction.
When we find ourselves in the middle, we tend to do one of two things:
1. Search for ways to raise our own status, through improvement.
2. Or find ways to win the approval of the stronger members.
Option #1 is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, it isn’t often the first choice, because it requires work and discipline and solitude, quite honestly.
Option #2, on the other hand, is probably the easier choice…but definitely not the best choice. I say this because when we focus our actions for the pleasure of others, we become short-sighted. We begin to look for the easy fix. The quick fix. That sudden hit of dopamine that we may very well experience form an “attaboy” response from someone we admire. But that rush is short-lived. Soon, we look for something else to provide that rush. We begin absent-mindedly seeking out that response, instead of working toward the more just goal, of improvement for the betterment of the species. We become a slave to the approval of others, and our own approval grows dormant and withered.
I belong to a group of like-minded men, who are all on the path to being better men. The group is called the Iron Council, and until recently, I was a leader of an internal team inside that group. And I loved it.
Unfortunately, I began to seek the approval of others for the work I was doing, including those I was leading. That need for approval caused my own self-confidence and self-valuation, to atrophy. The fault did not lie with the members of that group. They probably didn’t even see it, for the most part. However, I began to see it, and I began to dread the meetings, the work, the atmosphere.
What do we do when we find ourselves on that path that leads nowhere? When we are using our energy and time on goals which are only a passing moment for those we seek approval from, but a lifestyle for those who seek those kudos, for the sake of kudos?
Well, I took a break. I doubled down on myself. I decided to make my own self-value a focus, until I felt comfortable enough that I could help others by leading, without abandoning myself. Maybe I will be back to being a contributing member of the team, in the near future. Maybe, I won’t. The decision will be made for myself, and no one else.
How can we all seek our own approval, instead of that of others? Well, for starters, we can read and implement the words of a truly great and scholarly man in history, Marcus Aurelius:
“Don’t be bounced around, but submit every impulse to the claims of justice, and protect your clear conviction in every appearance.” – Meditations
That need for outward approval, is an impulse. In order to overcome that impulse, we must all develop a firm understanding of our own guiding principles. We must silence the noise of everyday life, and listen to our own internal voice. Think of it as your mind’s Twitter account, if you will, where everything that comes up during the day, is commented on by your mind, in a reasonable and logical way. Potentially more than 140 characters though, although brevity isn’t necessarily required.
And yes, I know that it is 280 characters now…
Take some time away from social media. Take some time away from television, and radio, and hell, even the internet. Pick up a book, take a walk, experience nature, or play with your 15 month old son. These actions will ground you, and help you realize that this life is fleeting. We are here to love our friends and family, do good in the world for the sake of improvement, and squeeze every ounce of positivity that we can out of this roller coaster of a life.
When you do all of these actions for yourself, and not for the nod of someone else, you will find peace. And that peace will be the catalyst to your true growth.
Give yourself a pat on the back today.
Then, do something to challenge yourself, and evaluate how you feel afterward. Don’t share with anyone. Just….be.
Then do something bigger.