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Self praise is no praise?

Appreciation is something that the majority of us ……. appreciate! Professionally and personally we are warmed by that moment when another person recognises the value of we do, and shows that recognition in some way. Appreciation from someone else provides energy and motivation, and yet it is not always forthcoming for a whole range of reasons. When it is forthcoming receiving it can be difficult for some people too. Curious, isn’t it?!

What then about self-appreciation, recognising our own value and choosing to celebrate it, and how this provides its own energy? Is this part of effective self-care or just a tendency leading along a path towards selfishness and narcissism?

This is a story about how self-appreciation has played out for me in my development as a leadership and development coach. You may find it interesting from the perspective of being a coach, as well as from that of a coaching client. I think there is a wider relevance in this story given that self -appreciation is part of self-care, and effective self-care is central to the wellbeing of each and every one of us.

Sometime fairly early on during the COVID pandemic I reached something of a professional milestone as a development and leadership coach. I reached 1000 coaching hours. In customary style I recall noting this as a number in my coaching log, something that I use to record the details of all my coaching hours. There was a moment of ‘wow’, rapidly overtaken by the wash from a wave of awareness relating to what was coming up in the future. A focus on ‘what’s next’, rather than a reflection on ‘what has been’, and certainly not spending the moment focussing entirely on ‘what is’.

Earlier milestones in the development of my coaching experience had passed with a similar lack of appreciation. Early on the milestones were related to fulfilling training requirements and then meeting the performance threshold of my chosen professional coaching body. If I recall correctly I had do have 20 coaching hours with real clients to complete my training and I think there as some significance in reaching 50 hours. I definitely had to achieve 100 hours before applying for an associate credential with the International Coaching Federation, and then the seemingly impossible task for reaching 500 hours to support my professional credential application. Reaching each of these milestones was a major achievement yet I did not reward myself with appreciation for what I had done. As I have already said, I was always looking to what’s next?’

I think there is something of interest in the stories I tell myself if I allow too great an awareness of the coaching hour milestones. I tell myself that, if I am aware of the volume of work that I have done then the measure of my contribution to coaching is simply about hours completed. I really don’t like this as a measure given that to me it feels reductionist, capturing nothing of the diversity of my coaching clients or the uniqueness of each and every conversation with them. Perhaps the 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 hour milestones all have a feel of a ‘pile me high and sell it cheap’ ethos!? Yet I know this is not my way, given that I spend lots of time reflecting on each and every one of those coaching hours, and learning so much from them.

I had a bit of a moment while coaching a client recently that gave me pause for thought. We were exploring some of their past behaviours and I asked if they had a memory of a phrase they heard a lot in childhood, from the influential people around them. They recalled hearing ‘self-praise is no praise’. Their memory was of this being a comment made with good intent, to discourage arrogance or unhelpful sibling competition. Yet there was a realisation that it had influenced an adult behaviour that was no longer serving them well: the fact they found it difficult to talk about their own strengths, or celebrate personal success. Our conversation caused a change in my client’s perspective and, once it was over it gave me pause for thought too. Perhaps I should choose to do something about my own inhibitions when it comes to showing self-appreciation?

It shows how challenging this is for me in that I it is now a good few months down the line since that achievement. In fact, the numbers now read 1586 coaching hours with 326 clients in the last few years.

So here goes with the appreciation. First the easy bit. Thank you to all my fantastic clients and for the learning that we have shared together in our partnerships. It has been awesome. And well done to you Jeremy, me ol’ mate, you done good! Remember it does no harm to pause and enjoy a sense of achievement, and then look forward to more in 2023 and beyond.


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