Two weeks ago I was getting my hair cut by the Recently Blonde Stylist when she inadvertently let slip that she’d received a nice recognition at work. I congratulated her, and she immediately pooh-poohed her accomplishment.
How many humble people do that, reflexively? They take their defeats forever to heart but shortchange their successes and rarely talk about them. They see failures as the direct result of personal shortcomings but treat victories as the inevitable product of luck and circumstance.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to view that approach as pernicious, and the road to unhappiness. No one wins every battle. If you carry around every failure and focus only on them, after a few decades of work you’ll be weighted down by a depressing number of mistakes and missteps. It’s important to leaven those learning experiences with some pride in your achievements, too. I told the RBS that she should be pleased with her honor, rather than discounting it, and feel satisfaction that she was so good at her job.
I’m not advocating for a world of preening braggarts; we all know them and they are a tiresome lot. Instead, I’m in favor of a balanced internal approach in which equal treatment is given to positives and negatives. Learn from your mistakes but recognize that they happen to us all; allow yourself to feel pleasure when you helped a friend or did a good deed or had a successful result in your job. Life is full of peaks and valleys, and one is not more important than the other.