Stop Apologizing for Being Awesome

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How can you share your awesomeness with the world without bragging? It's not as hard as you think.

Do you struggle to accept a compliment? Does the idea of showing off an accomplishment fill you with dread instead of pride? Have you ever reacted to praise by apologizing for your own awesomeness?!

The good news is that you’re not the only person who feels this way. The bad news is that it could be holding you back from living your most fulfilling life.

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Praising yourself–which is absolutely a form of self-care–is a skill that can be practiced and learned. You won’t turn into a pompous, loud-mouthed, self-obsessed braggart if you master the art of gracefully accepting compliments or sharing your achievements with people who appreciate them.

What’s a Bushel, and Why Are You Hiding Under It?

The proverb “don’t hide your light under a bushel” is rooted in a biblical parable, but regardless of your faith, the message is a good one for those of us who are embarrassed of our own accomplishments.

“Bushel” is an old word that describes a type of measuring bowl, and basically it means that if you’ve got a light–a talent, a gift–then don’t slap a bowl over it so nobody finds out that you’re secretly awesome.

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I was recently chatting with a friend of mine who is an incredibly talented artist. We’re talking professional-level skills. She showed me a piece of her work, and I was blown away!

But my friend also minimized her skill and artistry when she talked about her work, insisting that it was “just” something she did. That conversation inspired me to write this post, so if you find yourself or a friend trying to “just” erase your worth, here are a few ways to fight back.

Praise Your Friends

Sometimes it takes hearing the messages from someone you care about to start praising yourself. Give your friends lots of sincere compliments–and remember that compliments should always be rooted in things that they do, not what they are.

Compliments:

“That was such a great comment during the meeting; it really made me think.”

“You’re so great at putting together outfits! You’ve got a wonderful knack for mixing patterns.”

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Not Compliments:

“You’re very tall/thin/curvy/etc.”

However, you shouldn’t wait for someone to praise you first. While it’s wonderful if we all work hard to lift each other up, sometimes you’ve got to lift yourself.

Try Keeping a List of ‘Wins’

If you’re at all like me, your attempts at journaling are self-critical and focused on how I can do better tomorrow. Instead of praising myself for walking for ten minutes after work, I promise that I’ll walk fifteen tomorrow. When I write two pages of a story, I berate myself for not writing five.

That’s not helpful! Instead of using a journal as a way to evaluate and criticize yourself, try keeping a simple list of “wins” for the day.

Even if it’s really minor or if you fell short of your goals, it’s a good way to get in the habit of reframing the way you think about yourself.

Say Thank You

Taking compliments is so hard. I think women have an especially difficult time with it because we’re so conditioned to be humble and deflect attention from ourselves.

When someone praises you, please don’t apologize or minimize. If nothing else, you’re essentially telling the other person that they are wrong! That’s not very polite, is it?

The easiest way to take a compliment is to just say “thank you.” You don’t need to add anything else, but if you’d like to keep the conversation going, you could say something like, “Thanks, I had a lot of fun making it!” Or, “Thank you, it was exciting to try something new!” Or my personal favorite, “Thanks, I got it on sale!” Obviously that last one only applies to stuff, not accomplishments, but the point stands.

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If you want to give credit where it’s due, you can totally say that it was a team effort or that so-and-so did an amazing job on their piece. But it’s okay to be proud of what you did. You deserve the compliment, so accept it with thanks.

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

Comparing yourself to others–especially when those others are professionals who have been doing the thing for years–isn’t especially helpful. If you play the cello as a hobby, then you’re not going to be as skilled as Yo-Yo Ma. That’s not only okay, but to feel down on yourself or embarrassed because you aren’t a world-class musician is a wild way to think.

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Many of us struggle with perfectionism. When we do something, we only see the flaws, the ways that we fell short. So if we share that thing with someone else, we’ll often launch into an explanation of all the ways that it isn’t perfect. It’s as though we want to make sure the other person knows that we aren’t conceited, that we know our place.

If anyone rolls their eyes at your efforts, then they’re a jerk. Decent people will recognize that you’re proud and react with kindness and enthusiasm. One small way to shift your thinking is to stop using value words–she’s better than me, I’m not very good at this, and so on.

As with minimizing language–just, only–these words can undermine your self-confidence and convince other people that maybe your accomplishments actually aren’t that impressive after all.

You’re awesome, and you deserve to let the world see it.

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