More often than not, people don’t—or won’t—acknowledge you for your contributions and accomplishments. Which may seem a little strange since almost all of us harbor hopes for such recognition—one reason, perhaps, that the expression “fishing for compliments” is so well-known. But though it might seem intuitive that people would be more than willing to give what they’d greatly appreciate getting themselves, this typically isn’t the case.
Assuming that you’re like the majority of us, wishing (maybe even yearning) to be explicitly recognized for what you do relates to the fact that validation from others just feels good. Reaching all the way back to childhood and your need for your parents’ reassurance and approval, being acknowledged by others helps you feel more accepted and secure. And, consequently, more comfortable inside yourself. More important still, such recognition assists you in perceiving yourself as desirable, valuable, and esteemable. In a word, special.
In one way or another, virtually everybody dreams of standing out, being admired, acclaimed—even, well, applauded. To be viewed, and to view ourselves, as merely “average” or “adequate” really doesn’t do very much for us—or rather, our ego. And this may be all the more so because we live in a meritorious, American-Idol-type society that refuses to celebrate or lavish praise on individuals unless they’re judged exceptional. This circumstance explains why we may experience a certain envy when we hear drums banging for someone else. Secretly, we long to hear a drum roll beating for us.
Granted, there may be an element inherent in our nature—grandiosity, no doubt—that makes us wish to be thought highly of. For when complimented, we’re likely to glow internally. Approbation from others whose authority we respect serves to verify our sense of inner worth. And such external approval is especially important for those still plagued by self-doubt. Unfortunately, master manipulators can take advantage of this almost universal susceptibility to compliments by guilefully employing them to seduce us into emptying out our wallets. As long as we’re tricked into trusting their ingratiating kudos, we’re liable to be taken in by them. For to feel favorably recognized wonderfully addresses one of our heart’s (okay, ego’s) deepest desires.
But, and probably much more often than not, the recognition that we hope for simply isn’t going to happen. So when someone fails to acknowledge you when you think what you’ve done deserves acknowledgment, it’s wise not to take this to heart. For various reasons, it’s crucial that when you’ve executed something well, demonstrated skill or talent, behaved generously or selflessly, you learn how to congratulate yourself. That way you can avoid the let-down, the frustration, discouragement, or disgruntlement—and maybe even the anger and indignation—that otherwise will likely accompany your disappointment. Think of it. It always makes sense not to have to depend on others’ reactions in order to regard yourself positively. Ideally, your goal should be to feel unconditionally good about who you are independent of any external “favorability meter”—and also free of whether you’re presently embarked on some course of self-improvement. (And in this respect, you might want to look at my post “The Path to Unconditional Self-Acceptance”.)
What I’d like to suggest here is that by better grasping the underlying causes of why so many people might resist offering you the acknowledgment you wish for, their denial should be a lot easier to take. So consider the descriptions below that explain why many people (including—just possibly—yourself?!) can be so stingy with compliments:
All of which is to say that your not being acknowledged likely says much more about the other person than it does about you—or your worthiness. So in such situations you’ll be far better off once you learn to be content simply through becoming more adept at self-acknowledgment.
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© 2013 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.