Giving myself some credit

"The world has no room for cowards. We must all be ready somehow to toil, to suffer, to die. And yours is not the less noble because no drum beats before you when you go out into your daily battlefields, and no crowds shout about your coming when you return from your daily victory or defeat." --Robert Louis Stevenson

This is something I struggle with immensely: giving myself credit for what I do.

When I first started my job last fall--my first "real" job after grad school and the Big Fat Loser debacle--I had to wake up, every morning, get dressed, and get out the door on time. I've never been a morning person, but that wasn't exactly it. During my last job, I was walloped by depression so intensely that some days, getting out of bed didn't seem to be an option. I put my time in, yes, but at odd hours and in a less-than-functional way. But at this job, it was different. I had my occasional days of turning off the alarm in my sleep, but mostly I got up, I got dressed, got out the door and got to work on time.

So, like, yay me, right?

I scoffed at the idea of congratulating myself for this. I mean, I was valedictorian in high school and salutatorian in college. Clearly, ambition and drive were not things I struggled with, nor was depression a new thing for me. My high school and college years were a torrent of anxiety and depression, but a torrent that left me quite functional. Schoolwork served a similar function to the AN, which it allowed me to channel my energies into a number, and raising (or lowering) that number was a tangible bit of evidence that I could still do something, anything, just one thing, right. If I could go to class when all of this was going on, then why should I feel thrilled for being able to do what everyone else seems to be able to do effortlessly?

Well, I don't know the answer to that. I still don't. I am immensely uncomfortable with praise, seeing that the results were as much from luck or chance as anything that had to do with me. And praise for getting out of bed everyday? Well, halle-freaking-lujah! Even when I did feel momentarily proud that I was functioning like a normal human being, I never felt I could really share it with people. I certainly wasn't going to go tell my co-worker* that I managed to get up on time for five whole days in a row. They probably wouldn't get it, and then they would think I was completely whacked.

What helped was not only giving myself credit for getting up on time, but of letting go of my need for other people to give me credit. You see, I desperately wanted someone else to realize how big of a deal this was for me, but the words stuck in my throat. I was too terrified they would say, "So?" I wanted them not only to understand what a big deal this was for me, but also to understand how much effort it took just to do the simple things they probably didn't think about. Grocery shopping sans Xanax-popping meltdowns. Eating. Getting out of bed.

I've been working on letting go of my need for other people to really get it. I'm sure plenty of people do, but plenty of people don't. I don't need other people to appreciate the victories in really simple things for them to be victories. Would it be more fun that way? Probably. But I was there and am here now and there's this: I get it. I know the effort, the energy, the blood, sweat, tears, and spilled coffee. All of it.

I know the effort behind eating a tiny slice of bread from the bread basket a dinner time when my mom encouraged me, but didn't "make" me have some. A football stadium cheer might be nice for some of these events, but I'm also realizing that not having any notice at all is just as good. Because it shows that I'm returning to normal, that I'm slowly melding back in with the ebb and flow of life where alarm clocks ring and bread baskets arrive and no one really gives a damn.

(quote via Sharon)

*Which I wouldn't have for privacy reasons, even beyond the I'm-not-sure-you'll-get-what-I'm-talking-about part. I don't have co-workers as Facebook friends, and probably never will.

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Gayle said...

Well said. I understand the little victories all too well. All too often I have too tell myself great job for some little this or that that "normal" people take for granted as well, normal. Hope your coming week is equally successful!

Eating With Others said...

CHEER! I think a lot of your co-workers understand. I think a lot of them would like some praise too. We all face things that, for us, are hard, and I yes sometime's it is a "just living" moment, but other's it's really nice to hear someone say your doing great.

In that respect, I love the blog and I think your doing a great job with it. You make me think about myself, good thing, and about others, good thing too. I enjoy reading it and get a lot out of it. You've given me courage and strenght. So thank you.

Harriet said...

Go Carrie.

Anonymous said...

*stands and cheers*

A:) said...

this is the story of the past year of my life -- specifically universiy -- if you replaced coworker with student and job with class, I could have written this.

Thank you for reminding me Carrie that it is important to realize how "big" the little things seem even if other people don't recognize the importance.


Lisa and Jim said...

*does a one-person wave cheer*

And the last sentence of this post is so perfectly lyrical.

Kim said...

I agree that it's totally liberating to let go of the need for others to give credit. You know yourself and what your personal triumphs are. Nobody knows how much it means to me to eat a frozen Snickers bar, but I know...and why can't that be enough?
Sometimes, I think I don't like praise because I feel like it's raising the bar for me (a bar which I've already raised pretty high). I feel pressure with praise, instead of simple gratitude. I'm probably this way with self-praise too. What's so wrong with just saying, "I did really awesome." No, "but..." or "next time, I should..." That would be true freedom.

Anonymous said...

I think you should get a sound file of a cheering crowd and play it whenever you do something worth cheering for (and yes, that totally includes getting out of bed).

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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