A few Sundays ago, I received a call from my 28 year-old son, Greg who lives in Kansas. Greg was calling to tell me that he’d just finished in the top 5 at a local amateur golf tournament against a field of 75 competitors, which certainly was exciting in itself. But, it was the words Greg uttered next that brought a smile to my heart and tears to my eyes. “Dad,” he said, “I WAS REALLY PROUD OF MYSELF for the way I hung in there on the back nine today, especially after not getting off to the start I had hoped for.” Why the heart smile and the tears? Because it was the first time in 28 years I’d ever heard my son say that he was “proud of himself” for anything, despite having had much to be proud of. My daughter, Ashley, thankfully is 26. I say “thankfully” because I’m still waiting for those 6 words to cross her lips for the first time, even though, by the time she was 18, she already had accomplished more than most people twice her age and nearly lost her life in the process. And then, of course, there’s their 56 year-old dad – the carrier of this unfortunate gene. The guy whose Life Resume – already chock-full of personal and professional accomplishments – continues to grow, while his heart sits in wait for those 6 simple words.
I’m not sure what it is about the human condition that makes us so quick to seize upon (and beat ourselves up about) our mistakes, the times we fall short of our intended goals, our missteps and shortcomings and so reluctant to appreciate the times we get it right, the product of our hard work, all the good that we do. I am, however, very sure about this: It’s vitally important that, from time to time, we pause long enough to do that, to give ourselves credit when credit is due – and terribly unhealthy not to. In fact, it’s a pathway that leads to certain unhappiness. Because the reality is: You’re imperfect. We all are. And because we’re imperfect, despite our best efforts and intentions, we’re going to make mistakes – lots of them – both personally and professionally, before we’re done with this Life thing. We’re going to hurt others and others are going to hurt us. We’re going to strive and fall short, do our best and, on occasion, find that it’s not enough to satisfy someone else. But, trust me on this one: You’ve gotten it “right” far more often than you’ve gotten it “wrong” and the “good” you’ve done has far outweighed the “bad”.
Maybe you’ve won a local, regional or state championship or a beautifully-colored and appointed ribbon in your sport of choice.
Maybe you’re the class valedictorian or have fought hard just to earn a passing grade in a subject you were certain you were going to fail.
Maybe you’ve “just” said “no” to drugs or alcohol (or both) – again.
Maybe you’ve brought an audience to tears by sharing your heart in song or brightened their sagging spirits with an inspiring theatrical performance.
Maybe, even when you really didn’t have the time, you stopped what you were doing on a moment’s notice to comfort a friend in need.
Maybe you found the strength to get out of bed when the weight of depression was insisting you stay there.
Maybe you offered a word of encouragement, empathy or compassion to a thirsty heart.
Maybe you were able to silence the eating disorder voice raging in your head just long enough to have a simple snack.
Maybe you “simply” committed to making the next 5 minutes of your life better than the last 5 and in doing so took a baby step forward on the path to a healthier tomorrow.
Maybe you dried a tear, were the catalyst of a smile – made someone feel they mattered.
Maybe you allowed yourself to be vulnerable, spoke your truth – and, in doing so, inspired someone (perhaps a complete stranger) to look beyond their shame and speak their own.
Maybe you’ve fallen off a real (or metaphorical) horse a time or two, confronted your fears and courageously gotten back on.
The point is: All of us have treasure chests filled with “victories” (large and small), acts of goodness and kindness, moments of strength and courage – some known to many, others known only to ourselves. I think it’s high time all of us starting acknowledging that. It’s time we give ourselves (and our hearts) some credit. So, in honor of Greg’s breakthrough, I want each of you to promise me that tonight, before your head hits the pillow, you will take a moment to reflect on just one of those items in your treasure chest, utter a few words of self-praise (“I’m really proud of myself for . . .”) (whisper them if you must!) and then give yourself a hearty pat on the back for a job well done. You’ve earned it. You deserve it.
I promise your heart will smile the same way mine did!
*Special thanks to Allison Crow for granting me permission to use her inspiring artwork for this post. Please take a minute to check out Allison’s website and the work she’s doing: http://www.allisoncrow.com