When you read the word celebration, what feeling does it evoke in you? I ask because for most women, celebration can bring up mixed feelings.
On the one hand, it can make us uncomfortable. Many of us grow up being told that celebrating ourselves or our achievements isn’t very lady-like, or that it would make others feel bad about themselves or their lives. I clearly remember my math tutor once telling me “girls don’t blow their own trumpet” when I got excited about a good grade. I was only nine
And then, she found my brother’s far more vocal celebration “cute”…Women’s dimming down begins so early in our lives, while many little boys go on to become obnoxious men whose self-promotion can turn us off the idea of celebration altogether.
At the same time, most of us do want to be celebrated for our efforts, our wins, our qualities, looks or appearance. It’s a human need to be seen and appreciated, and it feeds a healthy sense of self. When we don’t get it, we either start avoiding it altogether because we’ve developed negative beliefs about our worth and deservability.
Or we stay forever hungry—and angry and resentful—because society isn’t too eager to praise women, is it? Even women are often shy or hesitant about celebrating other women, even though we’re usually there when others are in pain or need us in some way. Think about it in your own life. How many people do you know who have the same fire in their belly for your dreams and ambitions as you do?
Some of this is because we all have inner work to do. And a lot of it is because of cultural norms and expectations—women who show up in their power are not always viewed favorably. Most of us have been on the receiving end of negative remarks that come from these same biases that have lingered on in implicit ways despite all the progress toward women’s advancement. Sadly, cultural beliefs do not change overnight.
Where does that leave us? Hiding and suppressing and denying the brilliance and beauty of our mind, body, heart and soul? Because without celebration, it does not register in the deeper recesses of our psyche. We may know we have what it takes, but we don’t believe it in our bones.
This can show up as the Imposter Syndrome—that gut-wrenching feeling of “Omg I’m going to be found out!” after a success or positive feedback. It can show up as the urge to run away from our dreams and then justify our behaviors because we cannot live with that dissonance. And it certainly shows up as fixing and controlling and perfecting and pleasing because when we aren’t connected to that beautiful self inside, we keep trying to prove ourselves as worthy of acceptance.
So long story short, we need to find a way to celebrate that feels good and strengthens our belief in who we truly are. Because like it or not, our beliefs determine our actions. And it would be so sad to not have lived as our best selves simply because we never believed in her…
Here are the two elements you need to keep in mind when you celebrate something good in yourself: Pride and Gratitude.
Pride is feeling good about your role. What you did toward your success. The qualities you displayed in an interaction. The behaviors that led to good work, or the way you look after your health or appearance. You may want to give yourself a high-five and a “Way to go girl!” Or you may simply smile to yourself and say “Hey, I like you!” Either way, you’re feeding the healthy need of the ego to be celebrated, so it can then move beyond itself.
Gratitude is about acknowledging the positive role of others. Because the reality is that we’re all standing on the shoulders of many many relationships, sometimes farther than we can even fathom. We’re supported by others, we learn from their advice and mistakes, we inherit features and capabilities, we even carry the wisdom of generations. And when we aren’t aware of this, we aren’t humble in good times, nor graceful in bad.
Remember love, there is nothing noble in dimming your light. In fact, it creates cultural downward spirals where we as women keep projecting our darkness onto others. But when we shine our light with pride and gratitude, we give other women permission to do the same. And together, we change the cultural narrative of who we truly are—brilliant and beautiful in every way!