Writing this post was a real eye-opener for me. I mean, I knew that year had been a tough slog, but until I sat down to write about it, I had forgotten just how tough it actually was. And I forgot how much I did that year. All I really remembered from then was that I didn’t have a job.
It was the 80’s, long before the age of the at-home start-up when working meant having a boss and a regular paycheque and dressing up and leaving the house. Project manager on a major renovation didn’t count. Never mind that we made more money in eighteen months than I could have in ten years at a real job.
I gave myself no credit at all for the work that I did or the skills that I had.
And I know I’m not the only one who does this. We are all so bad at remembering our accomplishments, for giving ourselves credit for getting through our bad times. We forget all of it. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it was just a matter of forgetting. But we don’t forget everything, do we? We remember the times we failed so clearly. Our sins of omission weigh so heavily on our souls while our good deeds float away into oblivion.
And we never seem to cut ourselves any slack at all.
We move through this life with both hands tied behind our backs and our hearts completely broken and all we seem to see are the times that we failed.
The six loads of laundry that we waded through count for nothing stacked against the dirty dishes we didn’t quite get to. The patient and endless rereading of our child’s favourite book is wiped out at the memory of a moment of lost patience. We tire ourselves out with impossible standards while remaining blind to the amazing standards we are already maintaining.
Isn’t it time to stop this? Can we maybe just cut ourselves some slack? Can we try to remember the times we did something amazing and understand that the times we blew it are just what make us human?
Here’s what I’m suggesting. Think back over the years. Make a list of the cool things you’ve done, the times you really shone. Carry that list with you, if it helps. Hell, get a tattoo of something you’re really proud of. Just remember how amazing you are. Because time moves on and we forget it all so easily.
You can include the work-related triumphs: the promotion you worked so hard for and didn’t think you’d get, but did. That time your sales were bigger than the year before.
But also include the more personal. The time you stood up to the bully. Or the time you didn’t stand up, but survived the bullying of someone. That garden that you grew. The stray cat you took in. That time you read Ulysses.
A special note to parents and care-givers: it counts. The hugs, the soggy moments, the sleepless nights. It all counts. That time you sat up all night with your dying mother and in the morning nothing had been achieved, except you were both exhausted and she died anyway? Totally counts.
The time you couldn’t comfort your teething baby so you held him in your arms and walked the floors and you both cried. Counts.
We’ve been lied to over and over again, so we think that in order to help someone, we have to fix them, when in fact, merely standing by with our hand ready to be held counts as helping. Standing with someone in their moment of need counts.
And sometimes we do actually fix something for someone, but we usually give them all the credit or believe anyone could have done it.
Take a breath and write it down. Add it to your list. Call it your Ta Da List. Write it with a sparkly pen. Keep it close and read it daily.
And do, please, feel free to share your triumphs in the comments. You know how much I love to cheer you on.