Today I want to talk to you about your relationship to praise.
What I know from my own journey is this: When I’m dependent on praise or desperate for it, I can’t play big. If I’m looking for other people’s approval, I can’t take creative risks, be revolutionary, or boldly tell my truth.
But the opposite is also true: If I am avoiding praise because I am uncomfortable receiving it, I also can’t play big. I won’t share my gifts fully. I’ll dim my light.
This is true of every woman. Seeking praise and avoiding it both interfere with our playing big.
That’s why I’m passionate about every woman on this planet taking a good look at her relationship to praise – and becoming a little less attached to it.
A story from my own life: You know me as a writer, and maybe you even think of me as a “good” writer, but for years and years, I didn’t write at all.
I started writing again only because I decided to let go of the very desire for praise.
For a long time, I had wanted the world to tell me I was a good writer. At the same time, I was plagued by fears that I was a terrible writer. These two often go hand in hand – we are insecure about x, and want the world to reassure us out of our insecurity with praise.
I remember the early morning I sat at my computer in my very quiet living room – surrounded by the still darkness of 5am in November. I consciously told myself: “You are now letting go of that whole big thing of whether anyone in this world ever thinks you are a good writer. You are now doing this for you.”
Why/how did I do this? I realized that this was the only way I could write.
That day, something major shifted. I became the authority on my work. I, not anyone else.
That shift allowed me to write and write and write. It allowed a flow of creativity and productivity.
Here’s a little more on this topic, in video (3 minutes). I share about my journey to writing, and I share some interesting research findings about praise that shocked me and woke me up.
Where in your life are you being distracted by dependence on praise or avoidance of it?
Which camp do you fall in – people pleasing or avoiding the spotlight – or both?
Join the discussion 16 Comments
That Carol Dweck research is so compelling, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about it a lot in terms of how I interact with my kids, but I hadn’t thought as much about the aspect of it that you bring up here. Thanks for this insight, Tara.
Thank for this. What a marvelous story, of you in the dawn darkness, making a big decision. As always, you inspire me to be braver and, in this case, to try harder to let go of what has always been a deep need for praise.
I have read C. Dweck’s work, too – but never applied this to me either. Thank you for making this self-reflection; I can see this in me as well. Your insights are powerful for me, Tara.
Hi Tara!! I loved your writing! I was just talking about the same thing over the #30In30 blog challenge I participated in. I also recently confessed I never shared my writing afraid of what others would think. But now? Not so much. The result has been amazing. And I’m satisfied with it so far and trying to improve every day. But the issue really is with praise. Thank you for writing about this!
I spent years and years working in jobs I hated, seeking to fit in; then I retired and retreated to the woods, so I guess I have done both and now see that it could be viewed as dependance on praise and now avoidance. Another aspect to put into perspective.
Like Paige and Kamila, I’ve also paid attention to Dweck and praise in the context of parenting my kids — and not for myself. And yet, I am sure that it’s the prospect of praise — or fear of not receiving it — which can hold me back. On a related note, I lost my parents a number of years ago. While difficult, the positive opposite side of that coin was that it freed me up from their expectations (or my expectations of their expectations!). As a result, I was able to pursue dreams and journeys I never could have before. Note to self: don’t be a slave to Praise. It helps no one.
I love your choice of words at the end of your video – taking back. Taking back what we love to do, claiming our gifts and joys. The comments from the peanut gallery (praise or otherwise) are secondary. And you remind me of that. It’s such a powerful image: to gently and firmly take back what is ours, what makes us whole. Thank you.
I follow your posts regularly and always find something in them that is very encouraging, especially wrt a woman’s perspective. I work in a male-dominated field (well, almost every field is) and sometimes if feels like there is no oxygen at all. I appreciate your commentaries, because they always seem to open a window somewhere on these issues and make me take heart.
I loved this post so much Tara – thank you. I can totally relate.I took 2 months to travel around Europe several years ago. I kept my family and friends updated on my adventures via email (this was pre-blog). I couldn’t believe the amazing feedback I got on my writing. Everyone saying I should be a writer and share that part of myself more (which I had secretly always longed to do). But ironically, I’ve never shared my travel writing (or anything else) ever again for fear that it isn’t good enough to clog their inboxes with. And your post just helped me realize that I’m in the process of doing the same thing with my photography – I shared it indiscriminately until I started getting amazing praise for it – and now I barely share it at all. The thing is – I’ve MISSED sharing my writing and photography so much – but I had not seen how and why that was happening. Now I do – thank you so much!
Thank you Tara. what an inportant reminder–to do my work for me. and me only. and that i don’t have to worry anymore about what others may or may not think about me and my work. also, thank you for pointing out to praise my kids by thier efforts.
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Thanks so much for this Tara, and many of your great ideas. While I’m not sure what I think about the Dweck research (no children anyway), am coming to the conclusion that doing things for yourself, because it’s what I/we want to be happy, writing, having children, trekking the mountains, is key. We’re all reared to be/do what society/parents, anyone but us, wants us to do. That’s really come clear to me this past week as I found myself feeling devastated over some silly thing family members did in regards to me. Finally realized what they think of me has absolutely no import at all. It’s what I think, and what God knows! I’m perfect and free to be whomever I want to be, however I want to be it. Not mention valuing what someone else thinks when we know their judgement isn’t sound! And, as you point out in another email, to just fall in love with whatever that is I want, forget about anyone else, and go for it. So that’s my quest for the rest of my life.
Such a wise woman (and so young!) 🙂
But, aren’t we all!
Wow!this is again indeed very helpful, especially for me who suffer from fear of rejection. I will not get tired of reading your writings,.thank you for always sharing to us how we can be better persons.
[…] Praise is intoxicating — and while positive feedback is nice, it can be paralyzing. It can keep you stuck, worried about others’ opinions. What will they think? Will they like it? Hate it? Hate me? Tara explores the dark side of praise in another great piece. […]
Tara watching your videos is like talking with a really good friend who happens to be extremely wise. They are so genuine, such a feminine perspective and so missing in our world. Thanks so much for putting together this website and please keep up your good work. I see much success in your future!
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