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It’s way too easy to be hard on yourself. To think that you are undeserving of the things that you want or the things that you have.
Often times, we’ll downplay something that’s really great about ourselves – a physical feature, a good deed, a possession that we’ve worked hard for. Why is that?
Yesterday was my younger monster’s 1st birthday party. It’s the first get-together that we’ve had at our new house and was the first time that most of our family would be seeing it. Husby was stressing all week, but not about the party. About the current state that our house is in.
Not that it’s bad or anything. It’s just that we haven’t had the time or money to do much to our house yet – all we’ve gotten around to are some fresh coats of paint in a few rooms and some necessary landscaping projects.
To be honest, our house has more rooms than we have furniture so we have a lotttt of empty space and decor is scant. It’s not exactly “homey”, but it’s getting there!
I don’t usually mind any of this because I know it’s the first year in this house, and we have lots of years ahead of us to make it our own. I love our house and the area that we’re in! I remind Adam of this whenever he gets into one of his “I want this and I want it now” moods.
Which is why I surprised myself when our families ooh’d and ahh’d over our house. Instead, of saying “Thank you! We’re super excited!”, I found myself… insulting our house. “Yeah, it’s a nice house, but it needs a lot of work.” “Thanks, but it’s really more space than we need. We don’t even have enough furniture to fill it.” “It’s a nice area, but everything is such a drive.”
There I was – completely undermining the house that Adam and I had worked so hard to buy for our family. I realized I was doing this as the words were coming out of my mouth, and I knew it wasn’t good, but I couldn’t stop. I made a mental note to revisit this later that night.
After reflecting on why I felt the need to respond this way when someone complimented our house, it boiled down to two reasons: I don’t feel that I deserve this big, beautiful house (or I’m afraid that other people don’t think I deserve it) and I’m going overboard with trying to be modest.
I told my husband about this and asked him if he felt the same way – he didn’t. In fact, he had no problem telling our family, “Thank you! We have some work to do, but it’s going to be magical!”. Oh my god. I could never say that!
I’ll bet that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ll also bet that women feel this way much more often than men do. But why? Enter Google.
I typed “Why do I minimize my achievements?” into the search bar. Lots of great articles popped up in the results and, just as I had expected, this is a very common occurrence among women. The psychology behind it is fascinating and surprise, surprise – it’s perpetuated by our culture.
Here are the explanations that I think are the most plausible culprits behind our downplaying:
- As women, we are expected to give A LOT. We empathize, we sympathize, we play the role of caretaker for our families, we’re always there when our girlfriends need us, we have trouble saying no and take on more than we should at work and home. We are constantly giving to everyone around us. Partly because we want to, and partly because that’s what we’re expected to do and we don’t want to let anyone down. As a result, when someone gives something to us, such as a compliment or an acknowledgement, we don’t know how to react. It makes us uncomfortable. We respond by minimizing the accomplishment or criticizing ourselves. We don’t think we deserve it.
- We fear success. We often subconsciously link success to competition and jealousy. In addition to that, we want to fit in with our social circles. So, we think that if we accept praise from our friend about our recent promotion, she’ll be appalled and think that were bragging. She’ll be jealous and gossip about us to our other friends. Or maybe we don’t want our friend who gave up her career to raise a family to feel bad that her family isn’t in the same financial position to buy a big house. We downplay what we’ve done to spare feelings and remain a part of the group.
- It’s now cool to be a hot mess (score!). Well, depending on which cultural school of thought you follow. The way I see it, we’re dealing with two extremes here. One is all about women being able to have it all, being super woman, being strong and being on top of it all. Type A, if you will. Then there is the second group that rebels against this ideal and glorifies the “real” woman who never has it together (think “Bad Moms” – which I absolutely LOVED by the way!). When I quickly think about my girlfriends, they almost all fall under that second group. I guarantee that if I told one of them that their house is clean and smells great, they would respond with some sort of self-deprecating comment. And I’m not judging because I would, too. We all complain to each other about how disorganized we are, and we comfort each other by one-upping the other on our major eff up of the day. It’s a twisted cycle actually. But hey, we’re relatable! In reality, we’re somewhere in between group 1 and group 2.
None of this is ok. It’s not healthy and it contributes to unhappiness. Never feeling good enough for what we have and constantly convincing ourselves and others that we aren’t as great as they think we are isn’t doing anybody any good! We need to change this. But how, you ask?
Well, it ain’t gonna be easy sister, but it can absolutely be done!
You have to observe and train your thoughts. Pay attention to how you think and react when someone pays you a compliment. Do you find yourself getting uncomfortable? Coming up with ways to deflect the compliment? Stop yourself there. Take a breath, reset your thoughts, and say “Thanks!”. Then go on with the conversation. Don’t keep talking or you’ll likely start with the self-criticism. With time, the tension that you’ve always felt will no longer come and your grateful response will feel more natural and genuine.
You can also try daily affirmations (something I’ve been meaning to try myself). I hear they really make a difference. You can find a bunch of them on Pinterest. For instance, I am enough, I am deserving of the best, etc. Find a few that really speak to you, write them down, and repeat them to yourself throughout the day. The mind is a powerful thing – whatever you tell it is what your reality will be.
Remember, it’s ok to be successful. It’s ok to get what you want. It’s ok to share your happiness with others. And if someone makes you feel like it’s not ok, then you need to read this.
When was the last time you received a compliment? How did you respond? Why?