25 March 2017

No recognition needed

Quite a while ago, I took the first steps that I needed to take in order to let go of the need for recognition.  I have no idea what those steps were, nor do I remember what I did to take them, but I know that there came a point in my life at which I was much less interested in getting recognition than I was in getting done whatever job needed to be done.  I no longer needed the validation of recognition nearly as much as I had needed it before.

Don't get me wrong--I still like and appreciate recognition, especially when I've done a good job on something important.  But I've found that there's a great difference between needing recognition and appreciating it, and most of that difference has to do with my expectations.

When I do a good job, I know it--and that should be enough.  The satisfaction that comes from doing a job well should make me feel good enough about myself and my work that I don't need any outside praise to make me feel better.  When I don't keep this thought in mind, though, or when I'm in one of my needier moods, I sometimes feel the need (though it's more a desire than a need, of course) for someone else's praise in order to validate my work.

What happens then?  Well, when I show my work to someone else, I all of a sudden have expectations concerning the way I think they should act--I expect them to praise the work, and either directly or indirectly praise me for having done it.  Once I have expectations like this, I'm opening myself up to being very disappointed when they don't respond as I expect them to.

I also find that not expecting the "glory" has another positive effect--it allows other people to take praise and benefit from what's been done without me having to take a share of it.  Now I'm not one who believes that praise should be handed out freely for even mediocre work, nor am I one who believes that one person should get credit for the work of several, but there's something very gratifying in allowing others to stand in the spotlight when they've done a good job.

As teachers, we get pretty used to this--when students excel or graduate, it's a great moment for them, and it's great to see them receive the praise that they deserve.  As teachers, though, it would be very easy for us to say "Well just a minute--this student might have just graduated, but who do you think taught him?  What about the work that we've put in to helping him develop the skills and knowledge that were necessary for him to get this far?"  And for all practical purposes, that's a valid point.

On the job, there are many managers who do such a good job of mentoring and training the people they supervise that those people accomplish great things at work.  Very often, the manager him- or herself gets little to no credit for the success of others, though.  The problem on the workplace, though, is that too many managers see their main responsibility as getting the job done, and they don't make the effort to help the workers to grow and learn.

Parents spend a couple of decades helping their children to grow and develop, and their job doesn't end when their children leave home.  It's always heartwarming and gratifying, though, to see young people thank their parents for their love and support when those young people are recognized for their achievements in life.  Parents, too, could make the argument that without them and their influence, their children wouldn't be able to achieve the things they've accomplished.

But what purpose would it serve to make the point?  Really, it would serve no purpose at all except to diminish the achievement of the young person--and that's why we almost never hear this point being made.  A parent's responsibility is to help the young person to grow and develop.  The job of a manager or supervisor is to help the people who work for them to grow and develop (as well as to get the job done).  Our job as teachers is to empower students to grow and develop.  We're simply doing our job if we accomplish this.

I remind myself constantly that I don't need recognition to validate myself as a person, but even with the constant reminders I still find myself wanting to hear the praise of others for my work.  There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but my hope is that I can continue to wean myself from this need as time goes on so that my personal happiness and satisfaction no longer rest ever again on the actions or responses of other people.  All I can do is keep trying, and try I shall.

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