When I was in college, I took a public speaking class to work on becoming more comfortable expressing myself through voice.
On the final day, I gave what I remember being a moving and powerful speech and then quickly ran back to my seat, head bowed, making sure not to make eye contact with anyone. My professor sighed and asked me to return to the center of the room. My heart palpitated uncomfortably and my palms moistened.
“Always pause and accept applause,” she told me. Then she made me stand in front of the room as my peers clapped.
I’ll never forget that moment because it was relevant to not only my experiences as a public speaker, but also as a lesson to be carried throughout my life.
I’ve never been one to easily accept the celebration that accompanies success.
On my college graduation day, I walked across the brightly lit stage to receive my diploma. As many of my friends and peers celebrated with their loved ones immediately after, I left en route to a new city to start my next venture – a new job.
I worked myself to the bone that summer, only to start a graduate program in the Fall without taking the time to relish in the enormous feat that lay behind me.
I remember coming home every night feeling depleted. I was void of emotion and did not get the same pleasure out of doing the things I loved most. I didn’t stay in contact with the people I held closest to my heart because I wanted to drown in my own misery without bringing anyone else into the storm.
I grew victim to the numbness of throwing myself into my work, letting it consume my entire being. Mind, body, and soul. As I would grind from 9-5 and come home to continue the work, I burned out quickly. And the ashes revealed someone I didn’t even know.
I didn’t give anyone the chance to clap for me. More importantly, I didn’t give myself the chance to clap for myself.
I’ve always been taught that I had to work twice as hard to get half as much. I’ve always looked for the next mountain to climb or hurdle to leap over in an attempt to prove to others that I’ve made something of myself. I forgot that in order to find the strength and energy to achieve the next goal, I had to first stop and accept the applause.
Even if the clapping came from my own two hands.
This year was different.
I promised myself that instead of leaping into the next role, achievement or opportunity, I would actually sit and reflect on the ways in which I’ve already flourished. And I’ve done that. Now, I intentionally create time in my schedule to rest in my success by writing in my journal about the goals I’ve achieved that day – no matter how small.
We sometimes forget the importance of celebrating ourselves in a world that doesn’t always make room for us to internalize praise and success. Now I celebrate every day.
Made time in my schedule to hit the gym? Celebrate.
Had a small work win? Celebrate.
Checked off a pressing box on the to-do list? Celebrate.
As I continue to tackle each day, I am able to do so with a brightness. There’s meaning and life behind the work I am doing. The applause and celebration rolls in constantly, whether that means taking a moment in the day to call a friend, saying yes to invitations to try something new, or simply dancing it out in my living room to my favorite jam after a long day.
As I accept celebration as daily practice, it comes effortlessly.
Now, I stand firmly in place, pause, and let the applause roar.
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