Praise and Blame

Richard Carlson writes in his book “Don’t sweat the small stuff” that praise and blame are all the same. That when we learn to accept that we will never be able to please 100% of the people 100% of the time, that the times when people do express disappointment with us will be easier to bear.

One of the major challenges of midlife is that we often struggle with self esteem – perhaps we are not as successful at work as we would have liked, or relationships begin to break down, all of these things are bruising to the ego and often small criticisms are taken on board to the point where we begin to question other aspects of our lives where we have been successful.

I have had my share of failures – in fact I wrote about one of them here, but there have also been others and I have no doubt that those failures lead to the situation where my marriage failed, not through any fault of my wifes, but simply because I did not cope with failure as well as I could have, and I tended to blame myself for those things that went wrong.

I will write another time about my failed business venture, a time during which I learnt a lot about myself, but which lead inevitable to extremely long working hours and a neglect of family purely because we were trying to keep our heads above water from an economic point of view.

Oddly enough I have also received my fair share of praise for the work I have done, but it was always easy for me to overlook that praise and concentrate on the blame rather than accept the accolades.

I never considered myself to be a good policeman – academically I excelled – but I was never a good street copper, I don’t think I really had the instincts for it. I did find my niche as an intelligence officer and I was very good at that, but in specialising I narrowed my career choices, and finding that I had been pigeon holed I began to look around for other things to do. So in 1997 I left and bought a business which only lasted around 18 months before, through many reasons not our fault, we then found we had to close the doors and walk away. Fortunately, we managed to keep our house at that time, but the debt that is still there is directly related to that failed business venture.

In order to try and recover I worked two jobs and around 80 hours a week for a few years, all the time not seeing that my family was suffering.

I eventually came to work in the sports industry, after having been a volunteer for many years, I found myself as the CEO of the largest basketball association in the country. The organisation has continued to grow and flourish since I’ve been there, some might say in spite of me being there, but I think overall that I will be judged kindly for the work I have done. I have been named Basketball Victoria Administrator of the Year for the past 2 years, the Association was named Association of the Year for the State last year and next week I am travelling to Sydney to accept a national award [details of which I will announce next week].

Yet still I struggle with the belief that I am actually not that good at my job. It is I suppose a matter of balance – hard to accept to praise in one area when you spend a lot of time blaming yourself for failures in the personal area. It is a very fine line between having a healthy ego and allowing poor self esteem to creep in and affect other areas of our lives.

Carlson writes that it is far easier to deal with praise than blame and that the more content he has become with his life the less he needs to rely on praise to feel good about himself. Easier said than done methinks.

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