Emotional Health•Healing • 4 minutes to read
I grew up in the participation trophy generation. Playing soccer every year from age five meant I racked up a lot of those participation trophies, but they never gave me either the sense of entitlement or the sense of accomplishment, which detractors and promoters of trophies argue for. Instead, they were a symbol of failure. They told me, “You weren’t good enough to earn anything real.”
But, for me, it wasn’t just participation trophies. Somewhere along the line, I got the message that no accomplishment meant I was good enough. And, on the other hand, not achieving meant I definitely wasn’t good enough. I felt like I had to be the best to be worth anything at all. I was constantly chasing a sense of worth that nothing brought, but I was too afraid of what it meant if I stopped.
I graduated at 16. I was valedictorian. I was on the Dean’s List, the President’s List (Yes, I was a nerd). I got married young. I bought a house at 21. I obsessively tracked my net worth to make sure I was doing better than others. I was at every church event, read the Bible over and over, did everything I could the “right” way. I spent hours a day cooking elaborate meals and trying to keep my house spotless. You get the idea. Still, nothing gave me the sense of having arrived that I was looking for.
Then, my life changed drastically, including a divorce. I lost my church community, most of the support system I had at the time, and my home. I went through several Pure Desire groups, and learned a lot about myself and my damaged beliefs. One of the things that started to change is how I viewed my progress in life.
I began to unwind this deep-seated belief that something about me was lacking. As my view of what made me valuable changed, so did my view of accomplishments. It became okay, even good, for accomplishments to be something to be proud of. It finally felt acceptable to take time to recognize who I am, what I have, and all the beauty around me, rather than feeling pressure to rush on to accomplish the next thing. I felt freed to celebrate all the good in life.
To me, a celebration doesn’t have to be a big, loud party or an award. A celebration is an acknowledgement of something good. It is honoring the emotions that come with it, allowing the time and space needed to fully enjoy what there is to be thankful for. Here are some of the things I now enjoy celebrating:
- My garden: I allow myself time to walk around my yard, appreciating new leaves, flowers, and fruit. I celebrate the beauty this brings to the world, the food it provides for bees, the fact that I have the space and ability to grow plants, and the way I can eat more environmentally-friendly. I can even celebrate when my plants are eaten by bugs and animals, because I have contributed to the local ecosystem.
- My relationship: Instead of always being stressed about not being a good enough wife, I can enjoy the give and take of a healthy relationship. In fact, valuing myself is a big part of why I am even able to have a healthy and happy relationship.
- My community: I have wonderful family, friends, and neighbors. I am learning to be more open about what they mean to me and enjoying my time with them, instead of holding back out of fear. I’m no longer afraid that asking for their help or time will make me less valuable.
- My home: Instead of constantly being stressed that I haven’t kept my space clean enough or well-decorated enough, I acknowledge how lucky I am to have a home and how much I love where I live. I accept that being able to buy a home in my generation and location is an achievement.
- My accomplishments (of course!): I placed in some races recently. Before, I would have told myself some story about how it didn’t really count. With my new outlook, I was able to stand proudly on the podium (with only a little shame) and recognize that I had worked hard and done well.
Though I still struggle with feeling like I’ve done enough, celebration has become more and more a part of my life. I no longer see pride in my accomplishments and positive self-worth as sinful feelings that need to be stuffed down, but a healthy form of celebration. Seeing the good in myself has given me even more appreciation for the good in others and in life in general. And I hope you feel the same, because it makes life so much more fulfilling.