Thursday, June 21, 2007

Learning to Accept Praise (and Other Good Things in Life)

I was in a meeting the other day with my boss, her boss, and the VP of finance (my dept.). She mentioned out loud how proud she was of all that I’ve learned so far. My first thought was, “If she only knew.” I immediately felt like a fraud, like I’ve deceived her into thinking I’m something I’m not.

Then, later, I ruminated. I have come a long way. She knew when she hired me I had no experience. She knows I’m learning; that’s why the company is paying for my accounting classes. My boss knows I don’t understand everything I’m doing yet, it hasn’t even been more than a couple months that I’ve worked on the project I was in the meeting about.

I want to ask ‘why.’ Why was that my first thought. My therapist mentioned I ask why a lot, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but that there might not always be an answer. She also mentioned in asking ‘why’ I look to the past, and the goal is to look to the future and define myself outside the pain while still accepting it, or something like that.

When I was hired for my current job, this is how I was approached:

“I know that you have no experience. I know you have no idea what you want to do with your life. But you’re intelligent and we can use you. You never considered finance- I understand that. But why not give it a shot? One year, we’ll give you full benefits and the chance to explore us. If after one year you don’t like it, you can move on and I’ll write you a recommendation. If you want to stay, we can talk about where to go from there.”

My boss created my job specifically for me. She saw something in me that I couldn’t. This job, now going on two years, is the longest I’ve ever stayed anywhere. I was always afraid people would find out that I’m a fake, that I didn’t have the knowledge, any other number of excuses to sabotage myself.

She’s been wonderful. I get to leave early to go to sessions. When I approached her about it her first words were, “How can I help” and then she shared her own stories and troubles.

That entire first year I thought something was going to happen. I thought it was a set-up, that I’d be fired, that there was a nefarious scheme behind the whole thing. I couldn’t accept that this chance was offered. Every time I was praised my stomach sunk, I figured they were saying nice things to gear up for something bad. So when the year ended, I almost cried thinking I was going to leave, that it was over. Okay, I did cry. In her office. I told her I didn’t want to give it up, to give her up. She conferred with her boss and they told me I’m with them for as long as I want. I even ended up getting a promotion (6 months later and I asked for it. I shook when I asked, but I asked), a raise, and an extra week of vacation. Then I thought they were doing that because they pitied me, because I am scared.

I’m calming down a bit, but there are times when I think that I don’t deserve this at all, to be happy in my job, to have an understanding boss, to be thought highly of. And I know the ‘whys’.

I was 18 when I went to college, and I still went home during summer breaks. When I was 21 I moved to New York City but still wanted my mother to be able to comfort me, I held out some hope. But that never happened. I’d call her crying because of something that happened and she’d hang up on me because Cops was on, or tell me all I did was whine, or any myriad of things that only made me feel worse about myself. It wasn’t until I was about 25 that I finally made the physical cut from her and stop calling, stopped writing, stopped sending her gifts hoping to make her happy. I changed my phone number. Later, I changed my last name to have one to begin to define myself outside of the abuse. Then, maybe around age 27 is when I wanted to start on the mental split and was inducted into a research study for PTSD and received free treatment. I’ve been seeing my current therapist for about 6 months.

So, for 25 years I was physically in the proximity of people who deemed me as worthless, as ‘undeserving’ of anything in life. Today, I turn 30. I have only been physically free five years and just recently started the full mental realization that I am a woman of worth. The point being – 25 years is a long time to be so brainwashed, and I need to give myself time to heal. But that’s part of the frustration – that knowing that I want the scars to heal - it seems like it’s going to take so long for that to happen.

“I’m tired of the dichotomy!” I cried during my session. “It’s a constant dialogue, I feel like Gollum.”

My first thought when good things happen tends toward the negative, toward the ‘why.’ And then the dialogue with myself starts. “Stop being so doubtful,” I say, “just accept it. Acknowledge that you, like everyone else on the planet, deserves it.” The day my boss complimented me when I went home I literally had to write up my accomplishments so I could see that yes, the praise was warranted. Yes, I am working hard. Yes, I may only understand 50% of what I’m doing buy she doesn’t expect me to know 100% after a few months on a new project. I just wish there was more of a unity. But at least I recognize it, I have the dialogue going, I have a goal for myself. I have a sense of self-worth, even if it’s not immediate.

I just wish I could see more readily what my boss sees in me. One day I want to be able to graciously accept praise without doubt or fear. I want to be able to say “Thank you” and not have that voice say, “I wonder what they want from you.” I want to be able to walk into her office with my head held high.

There is so much more swimming in my mind on this, I think it will be revisited.


Amel's Realm said...

I haven't had time to read this post, but I WILL later. I just want to say: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! and HAVE FUN picking 5 other blogs to tag he he he...:-D

May your b-day wishes come true...

Amel's Realm said...

Hey, NEVER GIVE UP on healing...just take it one step at a time and don't try to count it too much. Give yourself a break, too. :-))))

POWER ON, GIRL!!! And yes, YOU DO DESERVE to have good things in your life. EVERYBODY does. :-))))

Chewy said...

Happy Birthday!

I'm sure you've been told not to define yourself by what your Mother said and thought of you. You have risen above her restrictions and ridicule. So many people get caught up in the past. Look forward. You seem to be doing your best with the challenges you face. And are fortunate to have a supportive boss. Yearn, Learn and Live.

Michelle said...


This one was a great read too. I related to several parts of it, plus I can relate a few friends to it as well. It's taken me seven years to work through one particular old pain/anger and it really was only once I could love the person involved in spite of what they were that I have been able to let go. But it's not a thing you can push or pretend. I felt anger for a long time (and I never went through anything that bad, I just had a complicated reason for being trapped by this particular person).

You have to work through each layer and there are no short-cuts(unfortunately!).
You just plod on, but with this knowledge - you are always moving forward towards being whole and healed. Even when it feels like you're not moving or getting anywhere - you are. I'm betting seeds in the ground completely believe they're not getting anywhere.. until their "heads" suddenly pop out the earth and they realise they've reached the light. :-)

Keep plodding (and keep writing :-) please ) - you are worth that job and as worthy of everything good as anyone else on this planet.

Victorya said...

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! OMG! I'm not a twenty-something. But it doesn't bother me at all, so I'm happy.

A Co-worker took me out to lunch, and I accepted it with gusto :) I love me some free food.

heavenabove said...

OK, I go through all of these "worthless" feelings myself. My years in college helped me meet people that think the world of me and know I am capable of good things. I still cannot accept praise or compliments without saying "but..." and wondering why they would say something so kind about me. I'm glad you have a job where others see you without all the baggage. Stick with it since it can only help to be surrounded by positive people. It is hard but I guess eventually we learn to accept ourselves for our true worth like others already have, not what was inflicted upon us by the past.

And after reading the other posts- a late happy birthday.