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How to Give Yourself Credit

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In the last ActionPoint I asked you to start giving yourself credit for your achievements. You might have found it awkward, maybe even impossibly, squirm-inducingly awkward.

For many of us, honestly giving ourselves credit is about as comfortable as a nights sleep on four sharp rocks. So what is it about giving yourself credit that’s so damn hard?

Here’s my take on it.

The muddled pursuit of modesty…

We’re taught that modesty is a noble trait and something we need to nurture in ourselves, and that vanity, egotism, arrogance and self-importance are undesirable. We polarise these sets of behaviour, thinking of modesty as good and all that other stuff as bad.

In the pursuit of modesty, you can easily segue into hiding your light under a bushel, a behaviour that sees you hiding your gifts, strengths and talents from the world in case other people think you’re full of yourself, vain, ego-driven, self-important or arrogant. In other words, you keep yourself hidden in case people think you’re “bad”.

Then, who’d have thunk it, when you make something happen that was a result of what you hid under that bushel, you don’t want to give yourself credit for it because doing so might mean you’re “bad”.

On taking responsibility…

Looking at this from another angle, praising yourself is really acknowledging that you’re not only good enough to make something happen, but maybe you’re even better than you thought. Maybe, you’ve pushed at the edges and seen what you can really do and what you’re really made of.

Maybe, just maybe, you’re *more than*

That’s a scary acknowledgement, because once accepted, there’s no backing down. You did it. You. Did. It.

The fact that you made it happen means you’re in the game and vulnerable to the wins and losses inherent in participation. It means you can reach into the world and make extraordinary things happen.

Scary, right?

That’s why your brains’ craving to minimise your exposure to risk and danger sees you sidestepping responsibility for what you’ve done, dismissing the achievement, calling it a fluke or chalking it up to Lady Luck. All the time you’re not acknowledging your capability you don’t need to apply that capability as you participate in the world, and you get to dodge responsibility for the wins and losses.

You’re off the hook.

Giving yourself credit doesn’t involve inflated ego’s or standing in the street yelling about what you’ve done to get recognition for it. It’s the honest acknowledgement of your own capability, and the quiet sense that you really do get to put your dent in the universe rather than leaving it to blind luck.

It’s confidence.

Comments

  1. Michael Cavitt says:

    Hi, Steve.

    Remember in Brené Brown’s TED Talk [2012 I think.] where she mentions her realization that she was trying to stay ‘below the radar’?

    If I’m ‘below the radar’ by not taking credit, I don’t have the opportunity to ‘fail’ and feel shame.

    I need to embrace imperfection, be shame resilient and willing to fail to be able to appropriately give myself or ask for credit where it’s due.

    • Steve Errey says:

      Great parallel Michael. I’m really familiar (as, I suspect, we all are) with the feeling of wanting to stay below the radar / not putting my head above the parapet. Making it okay to be seen – even if that means that we see ourselves – is essential to a rich life.

      Thanks so much.

  2. When you take credit for something you open yourself up to criticism. We all know people who are quick to criticize almost anything and anyone, like that is their main role in life. This can make some people feel bad so they never want to hold themselves in the limelight again. But what I do is think of the opposite – if someone attacks me for taking credit then I know there is energy in what I did or else nobody would have noticed. That is what I want.

    • Steve Errey says:

      Like your thinking Ron. The exposure of owning something is certainly a factor in the decision to remain hidden, but as you suggest, doing something that matters isn’t about pleasing everyone.

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