A friend of mine went through something really difficult last week that had been looming for some time, and she got through it well with the best possible outcome. So I asked her how she would be rewarding herself?

Inevitably she had not thought about it but fortunately I was able to persuade her that a reward was necessary, even if it was just a bar of chocolate. “Reward yourself!” I said, “no one else will. It’s no good waiting for the universe to do it.”

Why is rewarding ourselves so important, apart from the fact that it’s an act of self love that we all deserve? Well, it’s all about balance.

When you mess something up, make a mistake, embarrass yourself or upset somebody, for how long do you berate yourself for that? How much time do you spend cringing, and worrying, and making amends or apologising? How much time do you spend beating yourself up and feeling horrible about yourself?

All of that needs to be balanced out by rewards. Our brains focus on what we feed them, so if we focus hard on the cock-ups but ignore the triumphs, our brains will conclude that our life is mostly cock-ups and will deliver our self esteem accordingly.

In one of my Facebook groups we have a weekly thread celebrating our “wins” and one of my clients said that she would feel uncomfortable posting on it because talking about her achievements felt weird, she had not been brought up that way. We discussed how never mentioning successes, but focusing on anything that goes wrong, will give her brain the impression that things are a disaster, or that at best she is hanging on by a thread, when the truth is she is an immensely successful business woman who has grown her business through a global pandemic.

Rudyard Kipling says in his poem If that we should

meet with triumph and disaster

   And treat those two impostors just the same.”

That kind of stoicism may indeed be desirable, but most of us find it almost impossible to meet disaster with equanimity. If that is the case, we need to make as big a fuss about triumphs, if not bigger, as we do about disaster, in order to balance the scales and keep ourselves rooted in reality. If we do that, we may not be following the spirit of Kipling’s message, but at least we are treating the two things just the same…

Celebrating our wins and rewarding ourselves is not being arrogant, attention seeking, being “big headed” or whatever other unhelpful messages we learned in our childhood. Quite the opposite: it is helping us to keep it real. The story that we are hopeless, imposters, struggling, and so on, that is the story to be scoffed at. If we balance that story with a recognition of our wins, and a conscious effort to reward ourselves for them, we will maintain a more realistic picture of who we are: imperfect human beings who are capable of making mistakes and achieving things, regularly within the same lifetime.

So next time you feel as though celebrating a success is an uncomfortable thing to do, remember you have two sensible choices: celebrate the wins, or ignore the mistakes. Either of those will create balance. Sweat the mistakes and ignore the achievements? Your view of yourself will be an unhelpful untruth.

Helen Calvert
Coach and Director of Clear Day
August 2021

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