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Can I be proud of this?

20 October 201908:45PMintrospection

Genuine, non-rhetorical question here: how do you measure your own success? Or - what makes you confident that you are a worthwhile person? — Grace, 2019

This is a great question.

For me, I think it's being able to step back from a thing I made or did and think, "Yeah, that was cool." Almost a pride-in-your-work, job-well-done, I-did-my-best vibe.

That sort of applies at any scale - I have felt proud of everything from spending a year writing a thesis to dropping an especially awful pun.

So what makes something that I do or make something that I can be proud of? I mean, a lot of it is pretty dependent on context. That which makes a good thesis does not make a good pun*.

But while the external criteria are going to be different for everything, the things that make me proud of it are sort of the same every time. They're things like:

To take a step back, I think you can approximate this as "did I act in line with my values?" That is, the things I like and think are useful and important.

That necessitates a degree of reflection, both to have an idea of what your values are in the first place, and to determine if something you've done or made was in line with them. It can help to articulate them to yourself, but the closer it comes to being a gut feeling, probably the closer it is to being true. It's very hard to talk yourself into or out of feeling proud of something you've done, and that's one of the strengths of this.

It's worth noting that this is an entirely self-referenced judgement. You're not looking at how others percieve you, comparing yourself to them, or against some arbitrary external criteria. That stuff might form a part of what you're measuring - but the yardstick you're measuring it against is yours and yours alone.

I think that assuming the negative is a pretty good test case here. If you do something and you're actively not proud of it, or regret it - you act against your values - that probably wasn't a thing you should've done. If you're doing something and you just feel the absence of pride, that's probably a sign that you need to change what you're doing**. And if you're not doing anything at all, you're pretty unlikely to feel anything at all. And to me, at least, that looks like a pretty set of measurements of 'success'.

It's shifting the value off the way you are (or are seen) and on to the way you act. I think that's powerful because while you can't always control the way you look or the way you're percieved, you can (often) control the way you act. It doesn't try to force you to change yourself, but it can help you to do the things that you want to do or think are important - if you want it to.

I don't think this is the only valid way to measure your self worth, but it's the one that I find myself doing, and I think it has its advantages. As to how you start to cultivate it, I'm not sure I can offer much - I feel like I do this pretty instinctively (or at least automatically) at this point, but perhaps taking time to reflect on what you value and how you feel about the things you do is a good place to start. I'm biased, but I think writing a journal (or perhaps some kind of "blog") is a great way to do this. ;)

That's perhaps more in-depth an answer than you really needed, but as I said - it's a good question.

* Although that's perhaps debatable.

* This is also a pretty neat summary of why I haven't been feeling great about my job for the last few months.*

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