Recently, I was helping someone write their response for an application regarding their career path. The prompt was to talk about themselves in a way that was otherwise not reflected in their application. This person kept coming back to me with several revisions because I thought they kept missing the mark. I softened the blow by saying while there was nothing really wrong with what they wrote, I explained that it didn’t feel authentic… it seemed forced and not like it came organically from the writer. Rather than writing a heartfelt narrative that taught us about who they are as a person, the piece read more like a résumé in scrawling prose form.
Good writing sessions are almost like therapy; you need to find out what they are really trying to say, and get them to realize it on paper. When I started prodding a bit, the word fear came out of the person’s mouth. When I asked what they meant by that the response was, “I am afraid of sounding too boastful.”
That was the light bulb moment.
If you list all the things you accomplish in life, then yes; that is boastful. But if you are celebrating the great qualities that make you special, then that is called self esteem.
I could easily list all the things I did so far in my life: singing professionally with a jazz group; going storm chasing; winning first prizes in road races for my age category; having a completely unmedicated childbirth for my son… Now that starts to sound like I’m bragging.
But if I say I am very emotional in my song interpretation, I have an adventurous spirit, I value making healthy choices through exercise and a natural lifestyle, then I am sharing with you what makes me unique.
I thought it was important to make this distinction right after yesterday’s post about making a 153Promise through instilling a healthy self concept with your children by modeling it with yourself. There is nothing wrong with loving yourself for who you are… just not for all the things you did. Overvaluing accomplishments is like white-knuckling your self concept. If you have to cling onto some list of moments, then you are actually being very insecure. True inner peace and happiness comes from the ability to shine your inner light for all to see… even if they have no idea what you’ve done.
I don’t get into religion very much on here, but I felt it in my heart to quote a very popular verse. It says in the Bible in 1 Corrinthians 13 4-5 that love is not boastful and keeps no record of wrongdoing. Therefore, if you are truly filling your heart with love, it cannot possibly be boastful. It’s also underscoring that love does not come from a tally of actions.
So praise yourself — and your children — for all the qualities you and they possess; not for all the things in a record of accomplishments. Otherwise, the love starts feeling conditional… nobody wants to feel loved for the growing list of things they did.
Instead of giving praise for making the Honor Roll or scoring the winning point of a game or cleaning their room, acknowledge their hard work, their courage and their integrity. That’s true love without an attachment or condition. And when they fall short, don’t shame them… use it as an opportunity to explore what happened inside themselves and how they can learn and grow for future success… and do the same thing with yourself.
Make the 153Promise of nurturing a healthy self esteem without the fear of being boastful.