Have you ever received praise from someone because of a great personal success and then downplayed why that success came? In other words, do you discount or make excuses for personal achievements when people applaud you? I find myself continually tempted to do this even though I know it’s damaging.
Last month I had my most successful day and month ever on this blog…more page views and revenue than I realistically thought possible considering what I’m doing. When my wife complimented me on a job well done I assumed my best Floyd Mayweather stance and went into defensive mode.
“Well, if it hadn’t been for this and this and this then…”
“It really wasn’t anything I did, it was because…”
“It was just one month…I don’t think it will carry over.”
I sucked her praise right out of the air.
I didn’t accept it.
I didn’t acknowledge it.
Instead I downplayed it and swatted away her alley-oop praise pass.
Why Do We Act This Way?
You’d think we would relish the chance to be recognized for worthy achievements. I love awards and a pat on the back as much as the next guy. But why do we become a downer in the moments immediately after receiving praise for a success?
Perhaps it’s because…
Of pride…we don’t want to be seen as boastful or arrogant.
We’re embarrassed…the spotlight of praise reveals our inability to handle attention.
Of doubt and fear…we are hesitant and unsure the success can continue.
We’re on a team…others contributed to the success so it seems unfair we are the sole focus.
We secretly long for more…by denying praise we invite the giver to double-down and praise us again.
Of luck…we view the success as accidental, not really based in our own hard work.
See yourself anywhere there? If so, you are causing damage to yourself by continually downplaying your success.
What Damage Comes by Discounting Success?
First, you will lose momentum. When I completed my first ever 5K run, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. The effort I’d put in to get in shape had really paid off in a quality time. Recognizing my effort and accomplishment created such enthusiasm that I knew I’d have to attempt some more difficult runs. Within a year I had completed my first half and full marathons.
Secondly, you diminish your personal worth and authority. By not accepting the praise you unknowingly say to others:
“I’m not important enough.”
“I don’t have the skill.”
“My value is minimal.”
Why would anyone want to be around, connect with or assign future projects to someone who viewed himself or herself this way? People desire to engage with winners, not those with low self-esteem.
Finally, by deflecting the praise you undermine the legitimacy of the work. It’s as though you are saying, “The work I put in and the work itself isn’t really that important.” And if you see it that way, then so will others.
What to Do Instead of Shot-Blocking Success and Praise
So instead of backing away from the praise when it comes because of a success do this…
Simply accept it by saying, “Thank you, I really appreciate that.”
Because deep down you really do appreciate it.
And you did work hard.
And you know the long hours it took to succeed.
So be grateful the effort is being recognized.
Then, once you have been grateful and received the praise with a “Thank you,” it’s OK to shine the light onto the other members of the team. Recognizing others will help keep things in perspective and keep you humble. And they deserve it too.
So be proud of your accomplishments and don’t shy away from people’s praise. You’ve earned it.
Questions: Do you have a difficult time accepting praise? Do you downplay your accomplishments by saying it resulted from luck or some other means? How else can discounting success and praise be hurtful? When does the “pride in your accomplishments” become a negative thing?