Damn I’m . . . Not So Bad!

Somewhere along the way I learned either by lesson or by example—maybe even by some innate predisposition—that modesty is a virtue. In fact, I dare say I’m one of the humblest people I know (that sound you’re hearing is all of my friends gagging in unison).

Okay, so I’m not the embodiment of humility. Nonetheless, I’ve still managed to absorb and to practice the belief that people who go around blowing their own horn are obnoxious to some degree, and that the real heroes are the ones who don’t draw attention—theirs or anyone else’s—to their acts of heroism, or their occasional good deed . . . or even their occasional good hair day.

And yet, does anything feel quite so sweet as those all-too-rare moments where we know—we just know—we’re good? Or we’ve done a good job? Or we’ve made a difference . . . or maybe we just look fine in that new outfit . . .

So, I asked The Team, why are we so often so reluctant to give ourselves the credit that’s due?

We shake our collective heads over this one pretty routinely. It’s really quite a sight to behold, this way most of you have of devaluing and discrediting and minimizing yourselves to yourselves—all the while craving appreciation and approval and admiration. You do something or accomplish something or even just notice something that you think is admirable and immediately you look around to see who else noticed because if no one else did, then you’re stuck offering only your own appreciation to yourself—which of course, you have learned is gauche or crude at best.

It’s a pretty twisted situation in ways. There you are—these incredibly, spectacularly bright and beautiful and creative eternal beings manifesting in this delightful human form where there are potentially unlimited ways for you to shine—and you spend most of your time in one way or another trying to dim or cover up that light or at best—hoping someone else will see it and comment so that you can enjoy it without looking like the braggart that your mother or your teacher or some other well-meaning but misguided mentor warned you about.

You have lots of other not-so-nice words for those who didn’t learn that lesson well. Arrogant. Pompous. Boastful. Narcissistic. You attach value judgments to the way that others report their achievements and perhaps most ironic of all—you pride yourself on your successful attempts to downplay whatever you may secretly think—or hope—is magnificent about you.

So what are we saying? Run out in the street screaming “I rock!” to anyone who’ll isten? French kiss your mirror every morning and before bed at night?

If we thought you would actually do it in the sprit with which it would serve you, we might say give it a shot, but understanding your perspective on this topic as we do, we’re offering somewhat more subtle suggestions.

When you actually find something about yourself that you admire . . . some action or effort that you experience as successful or valuable . . . some attribute or quality that you can actually observe and appreciate . . . when you manage to find something about yourself that you like . . . cultivate the feeling that it gives you by allowing—encouraging—yourself to truly savor that feeling.

If you must do it privately in order to protect your reputation, then so be it, but give yourself the luxury of basking in what you find beautiful or worthy or pleasing about yourself in your eyes. When you do something you are genuinely proud of, milk that experience for everything it is worth. Review it in your mind. Remember it. Relive it. Literally roll around in the good feelings that you feel when you see yourself in that light: as successful . . . as lovable . . . as attractive . . . as worthy . . . as competent.

Think about the ways that you elevate others when they succeed and how you are genuinely happy for them. Think about what you say and what you offer them in the midst of their triumphs. Think about the words you give to someone you admire or are attracted to or impressed by.

We understand that this will not come easily to some of you. We see how far away from that willingness to shower yourself with appreciation you have wandered. But we promise you that as you are able to move even slightly in the direction of patting yourself on the back . . . that it will not only get easier to do . . . not only will it feel like less and less of a contortion . . . but that pat on your back—from your own hand—will begin to carry a weight that you haven’t realized it could carry. You will come to see that, in fact, no one can appreciate you any more than you are able to appreciate yourself.

You don’t have to take out an ad in the paper proclaiming how spectacular you are. But if you really want others to see and acknowledge at least some measure of that magnificence. . . or if you would just like to feel a little more special now and then. . . draw your own bath of appreciation and sink down into it. You’re so good at feeling your own pain, try really feeling your own pleasure at the thought of something you sincerely love about you.


I have a confession. Every now and then, when I’ve been given a compliment or some really positive feedback . . . or maybe even when I’ve just done something that I thought was my best . . . I’ll replay that compliment or feedback . . . or re-live whatever it is I did . . . over and over in my head just to keep having the good feeling from it.

It’s a little embarrassing but hey, how much of that do we really get in a day? Or a week or a year? Can we ever really have too much satisfaction with ourselves? I know there are plenty of prickly people out there who will argue that such self-elevation is superficial or even detrimental indulgence.

But more and more I am coming to believe that we can’t feel too good about ourselves too often. And even if we can, it’s a chance I’m increasingly willing to take. The whole self-serving, self-congratulatory idea leaves me feeling proud of my puffed up self . . . and for the moment–self-indulgently complete.

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About Dan

Published novelist, poety, essayist, photographer and college educator. Visit me at www.firstadream.com.

Posted on November 15, 2007, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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