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Celebrate Your Accomplishments, Especially the Small Ones

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

What do you consider an occasion worthy of celebration? Graduating college, getting a promotion, giving a good presentation? There are no rules for when it’s appropriate to party, but where you set the bar says something about how you feel about yourself and how you define success. On one extreme, there are some objectively successful people who, sadly, find it impossible to celebrate even great achievements because they are consumed by their perceived failures. On the other extreme, it would be silly to celebrate routine functions like brushing your teeth or taking out the trash. The sweet spot is clearly somewhere in between.

A good rule of thumb is that every one of your accomplishments that you invested effort in deserves some measure of celebration. Of course, it makes sense to calibrate the celebration to the scale of the achievement, so it’s not like you’ll be breaking out the champagne bottle each time you get to the gym (that might be counterproductive actually!). It’s also important to clarify that “celebrate” doesn’t have to involve a physical gesture. In fact, although it may be nice to set aside time or money to tangibly celebrate an achievement, what really matters is the degree to which you can allow yourself to feel good about what you accomplished.

Unfortunately, some people have difficulty allowing themselves to feel good about their successes. There may be two emotional barriers that get in the way. The first is fear. Some people who strive for great heights are wary of celebrating smaller accomplishments along the way. They fear that doing so will sap them of the motivation they feel that they need to push forward toward the greater goal. That argument may seem logical, but it has holes. As we’ve noted, some people set the bar to celebrating impossibly high so that it is forever unattainable. Perhaps this belief in delaying celebration until the ultimate goal is achieved is really just another form of that self-defeating mentality.

In addition, celebrating an achievement doesn’t mean that there’s no more work to be done. It simply acknowledges that a milestone has been reached. As long as celebrating a step toward success is framed as just that, a significant marker on a longer journey, there’s no real reason to fear that feeling good about your successes will prevent you from attaining larger goals.

The second barrier to feeling good about success is a low sense of self-worth. Those who have internalized the feeling that they aren’t worth much may get a fleeting boost of joy from a recent success, but will eventually be dragged down by the overall negativity they feel toward themselves. If this is the case, then learning how to celebrate accomplishments is actually part of the broader process of developing a more positive self-worth. A large part of that process is learning how to lift yourself up when you’re feeling low, but an equally important aspect of improving self-worth is discovering how to celebrate your accomplishments.

In fact, learning to celebrate accomplishments doesn’t just apply to academic or professional objectives, but to therapeutic goals as well. If you’re working on coping with a difficult family relationship, or being more kind to yourself, or being more assertive with others, celebrate the progress you make along the way. If you find yourself in a situation that has echoes of past disappointments and poor choices, and you manage to make the better, healthier choice, that’s more than enough reason to celebrate and feel good. In fact, if part of your journey is learning to to value your self by celebrating your accomplishments, then you can even celebrate your newfound ability to celebrate. That may seem circular, but in fact it’s the best kind of upward spiral!

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