1. I shouldn’t celebrate when others were in bad situations;
2. “I was just lucky,” as someone else was more deserving of the praise, award, etc.;
3. I really wasn’t that special;
4. Or this example — Even though a client singled me out to attend a celebration dinner with their president for my personal contribution to the success of a very big project, my boss told me I was not to tell any co-workers I was going as they worked hard, too.
I have now gotten into a habit of deflecting praise or triaging my feeling of joy of accomplishment against the experiences of others in my life and not sharing it. I am still told I am just lucky, not that I worked hard, trained well and made good choices. Is it just a Southern woman thing about being taught it’s bad to think too highly of yourself? Any exercises to get out of this mindset?
A: I’ll respond to each of your points.
1. On the contrary, you should be an example for folks in bad situations. After all, you have not been immune to hardships, but you have made choices that propelled you out of them. They need to see that. You can show them what can be overcome without being an obnoxious braggart. I mean, don’t flaunt a new five-carat diamond ring in front of someone being evicted. You can still be compassionate, gracious, and kind without diminishing your own self.
2. This strikes a nerve, as I’ve been called “lucky” my whole life. But as philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Consider the source the next time your achievements are credited to luck. Honor the blood, sweat and hours you’ve put into efforts, and keep twirling.
3. Excuse me, everyone is special; everyone has a purpose; everyone is wonderfully and divinely made. Success reflects what we do with what we have been given. At the deepest level, everyone has what is needed.
4. I had a boss who would put this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on the top of our weekly agenda, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.” This irked me to no end because let’s face it: In any workplace there are standouts and dead weight. Don’t lump us all together. It does matter who did the extra work and did it with a genuine smile. Those are the ones who should get the kudos. Otherwise it lowers the bar for the group and signals that mediocrity is okay. We need bosses with backbones. And if I hear once more that “there’s no ‘I’ in teamwork,” I might actually projectile vomit.
So how do you break the habit of deflecting praise or repressing your joy? Here are some tips.
• Each time you are given praise or a compliment, simply say thank you. Don’t you dare lessen yourself again.
• Remember that people who say you’re just lucky are fools and deceivers. They’re speaking from their own limitations. Don’t give them your power. Pay them no mind. The next time their words are hurled at you, just shake ’em off like a dog would a flea.
• Know that part of your job as an accomplished person is to teach others how to move forward. This means that you reveal your light rather than hide it. When you shine, you increase the wattage of everyone around you. Burn that bushel for good.
Finally, is this just a Southern woman thing? Certainly not. When the book deal came through for my memoir, I called my Yankee aunt to convey the thrilling news. I’ll never forget her response. “You’re writing your memoir? Why on earth would you do that?”
If I could answer her now, I’d say because we are all made to be more and to sparkle, not to cower and tremble.
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Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at thecrackerqueen.com.