Ever received a star on your palm by a teacher back in kindergarten? Then you’d also have been made to stand out of the class as punishment in your school years. Such punishments have had a part in framing your mind and personality as kids; so have rewards when you did anything praise-worthy. And that is exactly what we have been missing as adults—the combined benefits of punishing ourselves as well as rewarding when we do something even the slightest bit good.
Punishing ourselves comes easily but when it comes to patting ourselves on the back, a stream of self-doubts enters to hamper our self-appreciation. We punish ourselves at every step, every chance we get. One failure, one discouraging remark by the boss, one insensitive comment by a friend or a relative, and we let it rot in our brains, giving these inconsequential things the permission to add to our self-hatred.
Made to feel conscious about your body? Succumb to these judgement and punish yourself by starving or by binging on comfort chocolates. Have someone give an opinion on you that you don’t agree with? And yet again, you punish yourself by ruminating over that one comment for days, weeks, eventually piling it down on your self-esteem. What if you acknowledged your efforts and accomplishments, small or big, just as much as you focused on your flaws and all the negativity?
We are wired to focus more on the negative than the positive as humans; the very reason why self-accusation comes easily to us than self-appreciation.
The problem here lies in the ratio, the balance. One trivial reason to make us doubt ourselves, and we grab it, but one small accomplishment, a personal achievement, and it barely stays in our brains. These little accomplishments get lost in the comparison to the standard milestones that the society has set for us. Celebrate only if you get a distinction, celebrate only if you get a reputable well-paying job, celebrate only if you get promoted, and celebrate only if your work and efforts are recognizable on a large scale.
We become so hell-bent on pursuing and aiming for those ultimate goals that we miss those little personal accomplishments on the way that also need acknowledgment and appreciation. You wouldn’t celebrate if you received grades that are average yet above your personal rank. You wouldn’t celebrate if you got a job that you like, irrespective of the pay. You wouldn’t celebrate your strength which helped you get through a bad day at school, college, or at work, nor would you celebrate overcoming a personal mental struggle. You wouldn’t celebrate or acknowledge any of these because they don’t hold as much importance as the bigger standard accomplishments do to the people and the society. However, they do hold some value to you at a personal level.
Getting through a bad day may not seem like a victory for the world, but it is for you.
Being able to stay off sugar and carbs for one whole day is equal to a public figure shedding fifteen kilos in a month. These little victories are a part of a larger picture. And these deserve just as much acknowledgment as do your flaws and other bigger accomplishments. That’s where the concept of self-rewarding comes in.
There’s no one else who can reward you on these small personal victories other than your own self. Give yourself some time off at the end of the day to engage in an activity or a hobby that liberates you. Reward yourself with a movie night or an extra hour of sleep on the weekend after some hard work during the day or the week. Eat that extra slice of pizza after you’ve stuck to a healthy diet throughout the week. Buy yourself those pair of sunglasses after you’ve gone through that presentation with confidence.
Reward yourself to stay motivated, and do so after a personal achievement of any degree. Let it be truthfully rewarding and uplifting, not an excuse to engage in certain perks and liberties in the name of self-appreciation. Giving yourself a piece of cake after laying off carbs for lunch isn’t a reward, it’s an excuse to eat that cake without feeling guilty. Similarly, giving yourself a day off after one day of productivity isn’t a reward. It’s again an excuse to relax and letting procrastination disrupt the rhythm.
Self-rewarding is just as much about cutting off bad habits and your betterment as it is about motivation and feel-good practices. It is realizing your victories and treating yourself for those accomplishments. Now, rewards don’t always have to be materialistic or passes to pursue your guilty pleasures. They could be as simple as mentally acknowledging your efforts and allowing yourself to be proud of yourself.
Though, It doesn’t hurt to have a cupcake once in a while!
Illustration – Riti Ranka