What role does celebration play in your life? How do you acknowledge all the good things about who you are and what you do?
When I ask incoming coaching clients these questions, it’s been interesting to notice that most people don’t have an answer. Some know how they like to celebrate other people, but don’t have a practice of turning that appreciation toward themselves.
In a way that’s not surprising. There are so many reasons that we neglect or even avoid celebration.
We don’t want to seem arrogant. We wait for others to notice and celebrate us.
We think celebration should be saved for the really big stuff. We view celebration as a waste of time and tell ourselves to just get back to work.
We undermine moments worth celebrating by looking for every little flaw. We believe we don’t deserve to celebrate until everything is perfect…until we are perfect.
The truth is that celebration feels vulnerable.
During a recent webinar on growing our confidence , we talked about celebration and the consensus was that celebration feels squirmy. In addition to all of the reasons listed above, we’re simply not practiced at celebrating ourselves. Of course it feels uncomfortable. We’re not used to it.
So why does celebration matter?
We’re closing in on the end of the year, which is generally a time to reflect on what was and plan for what is to come. I think this year especially, many people are eager to close the door on 2020 and hope for better days ahead.
Now in writing about celebration here, I am not minimizing the things that have brought grief, anger, fear, stress, frustration, and pain. I’m not talking about putting a positive spin on everything. It’s important to honor our disappointments as well.
The reason I’m emphasizing celebration is because I am so much more practiced at looking for what’s wrong than at acknowledging what’s already good.
I don’t think I’m the only one.
I want to be willing to try new things. I want to risk letting people see me so I can connect with them more deeply. I want to do what I think is right, even when others might not like it. It’s so much harder to trust myself when I’m focused on what’s lacking or what didn’t work.
Practicing celebration is one way that I’m trying to grow my ability to look at the whole picture. We tend to go to one extreme or another. Either we get so caught up in what’s wrong that we can’t see what’s good and what’s possible or we get so focused on pretending everything is fine that we don’t acknowledge what needs to change.
Neither supports us well in deciding what’s next.
To make solid decisions and act toward what we want , we need to look at the whole picture. Celebration is part of that.
It’s less painful to look at what isn’t working when we also take the time to appreciate what is working.
It’s easier to remember that we’re capable of learning and growing when we notice how much we’ve already learned and grown.
Not to mention, it just feels better and is easier to keep going if we celebrate our progress along the way than if we withhold any acknowledgment until we achieve our ultimate goal.
When we practice celebration we can make space for all of what is.
Learning to celebrate ourselves is also a way of giving ourselves what we need so we are less dependent on external validation. We want to feel valued and seen. When we don’t receive recognition from ourselves, we end up looking to others to validate us and affirm our worth .
Often this leads us to change or hide pieces of ourselves in order to earn approval. No matter how hard we try, we cannot guarantee that others will celebrate us. Even if they do, we have to keep proving that we’re worth celebrating so we don’t lose that validation.
When we practice celebrating ourselves we create a foundation that isn’t dependent on anyone else. We see our strengths . We notice the things we like about ourselves . We pay attention to what makes us proud. We enjoy the goodness of who we are and what we bring to the world.
Celebrating ourselves makes it easier to truly receive praise from others. When we’re not dependent on their celebration, we’re more free to enjoy it. Besides, the more we practice being celebrated, the less squirmy it will feel.
Celebration doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, or time-consuming…although it can be. It’s not a bribe or a reward for being good enough. I can’t tell you exactly how to celebrate. It’s worth taking a moment to consider what actually feels celebratory for you.
Do you want to dance with joy? Tell everyone you know? Take quiet time for yourself? Savor a favorite book, food, or place? Celebration can be loud and exuberant. It can also be as simple as pausing a moment to acknowledge, Hey, I did that or Yes, this is me.
Let’s take a moment here for some celebration.
What are your strengths? What do you like about yourself? What’s something you’re proud of? Even as you honor what has been hard this year, what can you celebrate?