Give yourself a pat on the back you deserve it


October 16, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

(Niki Scott is on vacation. She chose this column to run again.)

You've made a positive change in your life: quit smoking, found a new job, moved to a new location, changed careers, started your own business, become computer-competent, finally walked away from a bad relationship.

So what? You still haven't lost weight, or learned to prepare your own taxes, or gone back to school, or attended a seminar, or asked for a raise, or found a new hairstyle, or written to your mother, or scheduled your mammogram, or landed a new client, or cleaned your closets. Or something.

If you're like most of us, instead of giving yourself credit for making a positive change in your life, you think about the changes you haven't made.

If you have quit smoking, all you can think about is the weight you gained. If you have changed jobs, all you can think about is how ugly your apartment looks. If you have walked away from a bad relationship, all you think about is how long you stayed.

And other people don't get a chance to give you credit either, because you turn their compliments away with "Yeah, but . . . "

A friend of mine went to school at night for seven years to earn her four-year college degree while working full-time as a legal secretary and raising her two daughters alone.

We met to celebrate her graduation. We spent the evening talking about her failures, instead.

"But if I'd done things right in the first place -- finished school before I got married and had babies -- I wouldn't have had to do all this in the first place," she said, batting away the compliment I'd tried to deliver.

My mother, on the other hand, turned compliments away with questions. "This old thing? You really like it?" she'd ask in amazement.

And my neighbor counteracts most compliments with statements like, "My roses may be great this year, but you should see the poor dahlias I killed last year!"

Now hear this: If we don't glory in our successes, our failures will seem unendurable. If we aren't loving, supportive friends to ourselves, we can't be to anyone else. And if we don't give ourselves credit every time we make positive changes in our lives, we won't find the courage to keep making them.

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