Sunday, April 13, 2008

Starz

Just when you think astrology is all a bunch of hooey, you get something like this in your DailyOm, which so perfectly nails my mental morass over the past few days:
Praise from a family member or recognition from a professional superior can delight and energize you. You can make the most of this acceptance by allowing it to fuel your self-confidence rather than writing it off as an anomaly. As people in your home or workplace acknowledge your skillful execution of your tasks or comment positively on the poise with which you handle crises, you’ll likely discover that you feel driven to earn more of this type of admiration.

The acknowledgement and praise we receive from peers and superiors can be a potent motivator and one that inspires us to joyfully strive to outperform ourselves. Validation can make already sweet accomplishments seem even sweeter because they feed our pride. Provided we do not sustain our enthusiasm solely on the recognition we receive from others, it is wholly possible to find incentives to succeed in people’s reactions to our endeavors. Praise, furthermore, enriches our lives by showing us that we labor not in isolation but in the supportive embrace of a network of individuals who take pleasure in seeing us triumph over the challenges and adversity we face each day.
It's taken me about 4 days to come down from the high of Z's visit. "Delighted and energized" don't quite do it. It's more like "hyper and obsessive;" that's a bit more accurate. It didn't help that I got a brief uptick on Thursday when he wrote to thank me, and repeated his now unrepeatable compliment. So I have it in writing. And don't think I didn't go back and read that shit 40,000 times!!

What I like about the above horoscope is this line: "Provided we do not sustain our enthusiasm solely on the recognition we receive from others..." That's the tricky balance that I've been trying to hit over the past week. Because as super as it is to get some love, there's a kind of craven quality for reveling in it for its own sake. In my ideal world, I have some sort of vault of self-esteem that I return to in order to get through projects, try new things, etc. Sadly, this situation with Z. is the kind of thing that sends me into a tailspin, chasing the root of praise. Seriously, I've spent a bit of time over the last few days contemplating all kinds of things that I've put on the back burner for awhile: I need to get a new book project! I need to read more in x field! I should be watching more of x kind of films!! [**I do need to do these things, but I don't need to do them right now. And I really don't need to do them in order to impress Z.]

All of this has, of course, made me realize certain things about myself---shameless need for positive reinforcement, dutiful daughter syndrome, etc. At the same time, it's also totally revealed to me the utter LACK of praise that comes from other sources. I haven't bothered to transcribe the inner working of my department of late, but I have had any number of off-hand conversations with my colleagues about the ways that their work goes unacknowledged at best, and criticized needlessly at worst, by my department chair. We exist, for the most part, in an internal culture of denigration, which has the long term effect of collectively beating us down, and, if I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd say of "keeping us in our places." I have to imagine that this has a chilling effect over the long-term: why should you do anything, if all you get for it is grief?

So, again, I'm poised between two extremes. What I've learned, of late, is how absolutely necessary the occasional shot in the arm is. The self-esteem vault isn't a perpetual motion machine; it's got to get a fresh infusion every once in awhile!! And yet, how necessary to figure out how to refill it on your own, periodically. How one might move that from a personal level (hey there---nice teaching!!), to a cultural one remains a mystery to me, but one that needs solving unless I want to work in a department of drones who would rather invest their time and energy elsewhere. (And I count myself among these future drones.) Let us not labor alone, but rather "take pleasure in seeing us triumph over the challenges and adversity we face each day."

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