3 Tips for Self Acknowledgement When It Is Deserved (Pretty Much Always)
Originally published June 2020 on selfdisclosingcounselor.com
Edited August 2021
One of the most common, self disparaging, and straight up untruthful statements that I hear as a counselor goes something like, “I haven’t done anything today,” or “I didn’t do anything all weekend.” I absolutely expect to hear in the near future: “I didn’t do anything during the whole quarantine”.
Whelp, you made it into my office today (check), which means at least you, some parts of your memory, and probably your car made it through the weekend and quarantine (check, check). PS: if you’re reading this then you’ve checked all three of those tasks too. And you deserve credit for all of that!
The stinker is that rarely will anybody else highlight the credit you deserve for it, you have to give the credit to yourself.
The same challenge applies to just about any task you undertake in a day, week, month, etc. Take this blog post for example. You guys, I followed a learn more link on Facebook about step by step blogging back in February. FEBRUARY. I’ll save you the trouble of checking the date this was posted – that’s more than FOUR MONTHS AGO.
To say that I’m displaying my optimal focus and potential for task completion here would not be true. That’s okay! We cannot be the best at everything all the time and we will never be the best at anything if we do not practice giving ourselves credit for the things we do accomplish, big or small. For example:
About four months ago I gave myself credit for clicking learn more and submitting my email.
Then I gave myself credit for receiving the first email and not immediately unsubscribing from the list (as is my nature with my own new ideas).
Over the next few weeks, I would acknowledge working on one step of the 14 step guide I was following (or part of one step).
At the end of a day, if all I could say was that I opened an email or started an account somewhere, or did nothing externally but came to a decision about something in my head, then I gave myself credit for that.
When a life event (beside the pandemic) monopolized my time for a few weeks, I gave myself credit for not having forgotten about building a blog and showed myself some grace for making NO (face to face I’d call it “minimal” but here I can call out my feelings) progress.
I need you to read that last bullet point again. Even when we may have nothing to show for it, really we’ve done something. I can’t change the pace at which I’m completing a task if I refuse to acknowledge my pace at certain points.
So, how do we thoughtfully give ourselves credit when we are feeling undeserving? Here are some example strategies I suggest.
Maximize your to-do list
Break it down – Most of us have a to-do list running either on paper or in our heads. Often they are all encompassing: work, home, and play all rolled into one daunting list. For example, I’m guilty of putting something like “garage” on my list when what I really mean is: empty trash cans, collect thermoses, put latest holiday stuff away, sweep, tidy work bench, vacuum car if time (though there is rarely enough time). Why? By listing out the smaller tasks I get to cross off more finished tasks, which feels good, and it helps me get started. Have you ever walked into a room with a bunch of motivation then stood in the doorway and stared for 20 minutes? Yep, me too. Having a broken down list helps us get started, so that we can make progress, so that we can finish and cross it off the list. I hope crossing things off the list is as rewarding for you as it is for me. I won’t tell you to do a little success dance like I do, but if you give it a try you might enjoy it!
Prioritize – Okay, so you break down that list and five items turns into 50. Not a whole lot less daunting right? So now, choose less than five items on the list and mark them somehow (I circle them on my paper list) to indicate priority. Don’t worry about the blur of tasks outside of the circles until the circles are tended to. This also helps with focus and acknowledging ourselves. The to-do list will never be empty. Being able to say I finished the day’s priorities feels great and prevents them from getting lost in the shuffle.
Put self recognition time on the list – Especially once you get good at maximizing the list as a tool, then make a space on the list for me-time, then prioritize it!
3-5 minutes – It only takes a few minutes to have psychologically practiced giving yourself some credit, love, self care, whatever you want to call it. I know it feels like you don’t have time to pat yourself on the back, but if you carve out the three minutes I promise you will thank yourself and it will even pay off over time.
S.M.A.R.T. – as much as it would help for everything on the to do list to be a SMART task, the most important task to analyze for SMART qualities is acknowledging yourself. Be Specific about what you are going to do for you. Make it Measurable a.k.a. have evidence that you DID it. It needs to be Attainable, camping weekends are great but what can you do today? Relevant: do something that actually makes you feel good/relaxed for a few minutes. (I don’t care if dishes are your favorite chore, brainstorm something else that lifts you up for 5 minutes. No multitasking the self care!) Finally, have a Timetable, I recommend daily – banking time for self care works for a select few and even then it helps to have something little to keep you motivated.
You do YOU – health and fitness are common self care strategies in the media today, but if exercise or mindfully eating a salad sound like terrible times to you, then don’t use those as your self care activity! Pets, music, youtube break, skincare, etc. Enjoy yourself.
Practice practice practice
Reminders – A day without acknowledging yourself is not a failure. It’s a reminder to prioritize it the next day. Similar to self talk. Negative self talk at times (lots of times) is unavoidable, turning our recognition of negative self talk into a reminder to add some positive self talk to the mix makes a great building block for skill building.
Skill building – I look at self awareness like a skill. It comes naturally to some and difficult for others but everyone can get better at it if they practice. Repetition is key to successful skill building. Especially in the beginning, any credit is good credit, repeat repeat repeat. 30 seconds soon becomes minutes. One neutral statement grows into 3 positive statements.
Beware: you cannot go wrong with earned credit! – Waiting until I’m great at a new skill to do it or recognize myself for it, means I get minimal practice, means I don’t improve, means I never get great at it. Too often I hear people worry that if they reward themselves for the small things then they will never be motivated to do bigger things. Some people even worry that giving themselves credit for the little things will make them motivated to ONLY complete little pieces at a time. This is not strict classical conditioning guys. Build the self acknowledgement skill and you will become your own constant reward and reap all the benefits.
Life is yours for the taking, one second at a time. Live, love, learn, and enjoy!
Amanda is a behavioral health counselor, coach, writer, and midwest farmgirl. She owns Ripples of Hope Counseling, LLC and enjoys helping a variety of clients. Get immediate access to her free download "Three Invisible Barriers to Self Love and How to Hurdle Them" by signing up for her newsletter.