(January 5, 2016) You have the right to remain silent, but in this case, why choose silence? What is the motive for withholding from someone well-deserved praise and acknowledgement – especially one you call a friend? Is it passive-aggressive competition? Understand that when you’re dealing with me, it is a game you’re playing with yourself. And who are you to dictate who’s getting enough or too much praise?
True, there are drama queens who fish for compliments because their egos need constant stroking. I am not that. Yes, I’ve met “vampires” – online and in real life – who suck the light out of me and leave me only darkness in return. I think those types are the exception and not the rule, yet somehow I seem to attract them all, just like the many mosquitoes who find me tasty. But perhaps I completely underestimate the degree to which “selfie“-absorption has become the norm in our society. The internet has created a jungle of egos that forever engage in a game of the survival of the fittest. We are “brands” – commodities – trying to peddle our “wares“. But there are so many making the same noise! “Look at me! No, look at me!” Honestly, it’s an exercise in futility. “Branding” draws an ego response that, most times, is ugly and brutally cutthroat. The irony is that true achievers are blazing trails and living life in the real world. Being king or queen of the internet means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Then there are those who suffer unrequited praise and acknowledgement. This is the hell where I’ve dwelt my entire life. I give it, but it’s rarely reciprocated. Praise and acknowledgement elude me – to the point where I am flat-out ignored. It’s intriguing, but bizarre. I try to understand why people withhold encouraging words from me. It has cut deeply in the past. After nearly five decades of it, it’s chipped away at my self-worth and it’s taken me this long to finally realize the damage that was done. There’s been so much negativity piled on. If words were weapons, people would see the scars and disfigurement. Fifty years is a long time to right the wrongs. I have nothing to build upon except my own withered warrior spirit, since others choose to withhold words of encouragement for whatever reason. With me, a little bit of sincere encouragement would go a long way.
But why? What is up with that? Why is this my lot in life? Is my presence so great that it instantly threatens those around me online and in real life? Seriously? Relax. If only you knew how difficult it was for me, an INFJ / INFP, to assert myself in the company of more than one other person, you’d see how totally ill-informed your assumption is. Or worse, do you see this weakness in me and choose to exploit it? Bad on you!
I was never one to feel like life was one big competition. Frankly, I never saw a “prize” worthy of it, even as a child. Early on, and without realizing it, I adopted the Buddhist philosophies “there’s room for all kinds of greatness in this universe” and “what’s yours can’t be taken away!” We are all individuals with our own unique gifts. These gifts and talents are our birthright! Everyone is part of the whole. (We just haven’t evolved to this egalitarian state of being just yet). Keep calm and do your own thing. I persist, though at times it seems all for naught.
In this jungle, I find myself unintentionally raining on others’ parades just by being in the room (or on the social media platform). One of the biggest myths people have about the amount of praise I must certainly receive daily – if not hourly – is that I get more than my share. Because I’m attractive, people think my life has been a cake-walk and that I’m always surrounded by good vibes and good words. But, in fact, the complete opposite has been true! Or is it coming from an even darker and more desperate place? Do these withholding people want to deny me my just desserts, so as to kill my sparkle and watch me fizzle and die? I shield myself and I keep smiling and pressing on.
I’m not being conceited for stating my truth, based on decades of observation. I’m not self-absorbed because I question the motives of those around me. It’s such a valid observation that a team of psychologists deemed it worthy of a study. Of no surprise, in the 22 sample scenarios where withholding for various reasons was reported, all involved interactions with those closest to us – family, friends (online and off), roommates, spouses and fellow employees. After reading the study I was thankful not to be the only who’s dissed by an army of those who withhold.
A January 4, 2013, Psychology Today blog post offers reasons behind the withholding phenomenon so that we who are dissed may better understand what motivates people who withhold. The reasons are pretty much what I expected, with jealousy and ego being the main culprits:
• “Recognition-deprived” people feel uneasy giving kudos to another because it possibly opens old wounds of their own. I grew up “recognition-deprived” but was an early adopter of The Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated.
• A competitive person who needs constant approval may feel that giving praise and acknowledgement to another somehow demeans them. To them, complimenting another is like admitting that they themselves are inferior, inept and defeated. Beyond that, there are those who only feel good when they tear another down. I’ve already said I’m not competitive. Because of this, people take credit for my observations, contributions and witticisms. I have matured out of the whole “tearing another down to feel good about myself” mentality. I learned that in actuality, you’re tearing yourself down.
• A person who grew up with praise-withholding parents who justified their deliberate withholding as a way to keep the child from becoming big-headed, conceited, cocky or egotistical, may actually feel that this is the proper way to be. I grew up in that deliberate praise-withholding atmosphere. I was called self-centered if I gloated for even a minute. Sometimes I’d get an ugly, guttural, “Oh, yuck!” or I’d have the beaming light slapped out of me. Personally, I never believed that paying the ugly forward would relieve me of it.
• People in denial about their own unmet need for acknowledgement may deny others when praise is due. “Commending a friend, when appropriate is a responsibility (in fact, it is a ‘requirement’) in a close relationship,” the blog post states.
• Those with a strong sense of entitlement (through parental spoiling) expect recognition and take it for granted. They are the self-centered ones. They withhold, but expect praise. Others are not so eager to oblige these types.
“All of which is to say that your not being acknowledged likely says much more about the other person that it does about you – or your worthiness,” the blog post says. “So in such situations you’ll be far better off once you learn to be content simply through becoming more adept at self-acknowledgement.” Well, wouldn’t you know it? This is the place where many of us get stuck. It’s especially difficult to build yourself up to this higher conscience on your own.
Crying inside over withheld praise from those you’d think would give it to you freely because they genuinely cared about your well-being is not a weird emo kid thing. Receiving praise and acknowledgement for a job well done validates us. Giving sincere encouragement to someone who is depressed and struggling gives that person a glimmer hope. There is not one person who doesn’t need lifts like these every so often. And really, how hard is it for one to help a fellow human in need when nothing is required but kind words?
Alas, as commodities in a capitalism run amok existence, fear is instilled upon us that there is not enough to go around, so you better grab what you can however you can. Sadly, we must toot our own horns and beat our own drums, even if no one hears them. As the blog post reminds us, “Ideally, you goal should be to feel unconditionally good about who you are independent of any external ‘favorability meter’. …” The blogger psychologist offers up a link to a solution – The Path To Unconditional Self-Acceptance.
Yes, self love is crucial to our well-being. I’ve known it for awhile now. It’s eluded me like encouragement and acknowledgement from others has. And still, there’s a small part of me that can’t help but be hurt and resentful toward those who chose to withhold, even in my darkest hours. I can’t help but dream that when I do receive acclaim from a large audience in a bigger arena, I will want to dis those who have dissed me. There would be resentment for the sudden interest to be accommodating when there were years of silence. “How dare you all!” I will think to myself. A few kind, simple and sincere compliments would have cost you nothing and given me everything when I needed it most. I know. It’s not very zen of me to feel this tinge of vengeance. Someday I’ll get past it, but right now the hurt is still too great.
In the meantime, my inspiration has been revived by the most unlikely source – a pop song, if you will. … The gorgeous Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off!“.
There’s learned wisdom in Swift’s happy little ditty. I’m sure she’s met major opposition by the army of the jealous and the withholding. But she rose above it! We all have this power to overcome within us. Swift embraced her goddess power early in life. And she shares her gift with us, so that we who are still seeking may dance, release, enjoy, overcome! Thank you, Taylor! Keep on keepin’ on, love.
“… But I keep cruising, can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music in my body and it’s gonna be alright
‘Cause the players gonna play…
And the haters gonna hate…
Baby, I’m just gonna shake..
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heartbreakers gonna break…
And the fakers gonna fake…
Baby, I’m just gonna shake…
I shake it off, I shake it off …”
~ Taylor Swift, partial lyrics of “Shake It Off“.