What is more sought after? Praise from someone who seems to praise you at every turn or praise from someone who seems to always be at odds with you?
My wife often praises me for many things, and it isn’t a bad thing, but sometimes it just feels like I would have done it anyway, so I don’t need praise. However, I would rather her continue to offer praise then to cut it all short because I don’t think I deserve it, as in quite a few situations I feel loved because of her words of affirmation. I have to admit that I sometimes am seeking praise from her, but not too often.
On the other hand I have a coworker that often greets my ideas with scoffs or sarcasm. The usual story goes that I would be seeking praise from him because it would be more awesome than anything, but that isn’t true. That is why his praise earlier today caught me off guard. It makes me think of how I regard people, I know that they are probably deep and complex, but really they are just a caricature drawn from my interactions with them or stories I have heard.
In my mind my coworker gained a bit more dimensionality, becoming less of a stereotype that I may have assigned subconsciously, and more of a person. But this whole delving into my mind about assessing characteristics isn’t the whole idea of this post, it is also to look at reactions to praise.
I have a hard time reacting to praise. I grew up and had things easy, school was a breeze, memorizing piano pieces the night before (really wrankled my teacher’s nerves), but also good feedback from family. Praise often came in the form of a ribbon or paper award, all I had to do was accept it and not blush too much.
The ease for which things came to me did not help in the transition to college. With a whole different paradigm I floundered and praise was hard to come by, especially hanging out with kids that were often as smart or smarter than me.
Then after college I had two totally different worlds. My job, where everyone was so smart that I hardly ever was recognized to the people I met who would praise me for things that I thought were general knowledge. And now I was hungry for praise.
Hunger for praise has another name, pride, and it can lead to some odd behaviors. I was overly competitive with fencing and other sports, getting very upset when I couldn’t perform as well as I thought I should. After years of working for the company I thought I deserved to be recognized, but maybe I was lucky that I got to work there at all. Perspectives change greatly.
Jessie confronted me about the fencing. I had to take a breather for months after fencing every week just to calm down enough to realize that I was pushing my stress level up and making mistakes that were hurting both my form and my body. Going into a bout with a mindset of having fun and learning greatly reduced that stress and allowed me to enjoy fencing quite a bit more, as well as be able to use my right hand without too much soreness from a death-grip on the foil.
Back to today, getting praised at work felt weird, especially from an unexpected person. However, self-deprecation won’t really do any good in that instance. Humbleness, sure, but abasing yourself to the point where the person is never going to say anything to you again, much less praise you? It wasn’t that bad, I mostly stuck with saying that it was what I was trained to do. I didn’t go into further detail and left him to draw his own conclusions. Mainly there is credit and yes I am passing credit to my training, but I was there administering it.
It is a tough balance, sure I still want credit for doing good things so that I can advance my career, but I don’t need praise just for praise’s sake, any more. I certainly don’t want to take other’s credit, or attack them in order to advance myself.
If I act too humble then I am proud that I am humble, and if I wheedle praise out of every passerby then I am most certainly proud. Neither of those things will help me grow and understand how I need to interact with other people.
Continue to do good and be humble, credit where credit is due, and don’t over do it.