Pep Talk

Dear J-

Look, you need to trumpet your triumphs to the world because no one else is going to do it for you. You may not feel like you’re the best at this — selling yourself requires an enormous amount of confidence, and an overdevloped sense of self-esteem is generally recognized as arrogant, unless you have the means to back it up. And if you do … well, in this society of resume falsification and rampant grade inflation, if what you’ve got is genuine but no one else knows it but you? You’ve managed to make the truth into lies that no one is going to believe: oh, nice job on that. Sure. Uh-huh. It’s not bragging if it’s true?

Y’know what gets me is the pleas of false modesty, though I’m sure I’m guilty of it as much as the next person: dangling a “Oh, I’m not all that …” in hopes of catching a compliment.

“But yes you are.” “No, really, you …” “What about … ?”

If you’re afraid of complimenting yourself you may shy away from complimenting others, too, and that would be a shame because we love to be recognized. First I’m going to break a rule and generalize but in this generation of participation trophies and non-scored sports I’m learning no one wants to go unacknowledged for their hard work. Back in my day they’d hand out awards for most inspirational or most improved which seemed like odd choices but make sense now: we were always headed in this direction, it just took a little time to get there. And for those people who think that making everyone feel like they’re a unique snowflake is actively harmful, well, geez, spreading a little happiness through your life is that bad?

I shy away in the opposite overreaction: downplay actual achievement, choose to ignore what’s rightfully earned in the hopes that you won’t appear a monster. And even saying it that way is making a humble-brag; you can’t win the vicious cycle of non-praise, can you? So instead I’m going to do what the opposite of my instinct tells me, that I’ve earned enough respect to lean on and confidence I know what I’m saying: yeah, I know this. I’ve done this. I can handle this.

Mike

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