In recent weeks, I’ve come to a sad realization about my life. I’ve spent years of it chasing praise for everything I do. When I don’t get it, I tend to act out in negative fashion, thinking “someone’s going to notice my actions,” but all it does is piss everyone off and further compound the situation that I’m in. My sense of self-worth has become dependent solely on the accomplishments I’ve done, in order to prove to people that I’m doing something with my life.
The chase of praise goes back to one particular moment in my life. In the third grade, I was the member of my class picked to participate in the big spelling bee. I was so confident that I would do well, and I had everyone rooting for me. When the day of the competition came, I blew the chance I had and was eliminated on the first word, “chimney.” All the cheering-up from my classmates afterward couldn’t console me as I felt that I let them and my teacher down by my poor showing.
From that moment, I’ve spent every day since trying to earn good grades and generally trying to be a good person, in the hopes that I would be rewarded for my efforts. But all the praise, achievement, and recognition only increased the pressure to succeed and the expectations that I would live up to the hype. The chase for the near mythic perfection made for a difficult existence. This quest for perfection has even spread to my job, where I rack up the donations but I’ll be lucky if I get more than a “thanks” for my efforts. The one tangible accomplishment of my four years to date, I couldn’t toot my horn over it.
I spent my entire lifetime with the chip on my shoulder from being born premature and then diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Not much was expected of me considering the circumstances, but I’ve done my best to try and make a life for myself. It seems like I’m waiting for the day where someone tells me that the things that I’m doing are good enough. I hope I can escape this cycle of constantly needing praise to feel better about myself, I’m not sure how to do it, though.
A Design for Life
Dear Design for Life,
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