This is a long-standing issue but I only really clocked it recently. I believe the reason for that difference is simple: If I do something right, I have put some effort in to make it happen, and that feels like a good enough reason to congratulate me. On the other hand, I feel strange when I receive a compliment for something that is intrinsically part of me and that I have no hand in making, something that I have no control over.
Of course this is a silly distinction to make, and it’s built on a separation of the material world I live in and the inner world that makes up my personality and that the body it inhabits. I can do some things to change what I look like, but my internal makeup is the result of many years of development that mostly happened on its own and was shaped by circumstance and environment rather than active involvement. Yes, yes: some personal development has happened over the last years, and a lot has changed in my mental makeup, yet I’m not all that different from before, really. Same hang-ups, same drive, similar ways of thinking.
The annoying thing is this: for most of my life I have been looking for confirmation of my value from the outside, though recommendations, work achievements that are recognised by my bosses and colleagues, words of praise from family and friends, etc. and thereby made myself completely dependent on those. Once I realised this, I shifted away from that mechanism and looked for value inside of me. And found it.
I can actually see value in what I am doing, because it’s usually something you can measure through results, physical creations or similar. I’m good at seeing achievements on that level and crediting myself with them.
Seeing value in who I am is immensely more difficult to me: how can I measure who I am? It’s not possible, bar through my behaviour around others, and that brings me back to basing my value on outside interactions. Upon closer inspections, there are differences, though: I’m not being evaluated by others, but I’m gauging the effect my actions and presence may have on others. While that depends less on others taking pains to tell me, I have to look for signs of value myself, and that is where things fall apart again.
Most of those things I am are just natural to me, and do not feel like anything out of the ordinary. Interestingly, others sometimes say things that I never realised I was actually doing for them, how I support them by just being there, or how I make them feel better about themselves. There are many other things like this, but I’m sure you get the gist of this: it’s all about that blind spot we have when it comes to who we really are and how that affects others without our interference or even our knowledge.
I’d like to ask you to try a little experiment: sit down in your favourite spot, make yourself comfortable and consider ‘appreciation’. Here are a couple of starter questions to start with:
These are my own thoughts on aspects of my work I feel strongly about.