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Celebrating or Boasting?

When I first started working with my coach she pushed me to shift my focus from the obligations and responsibilities in my life and instead take time to notice what is good. She challenged me to write down three celebrations everyday. As women we have been conditioned that talking about ourselves, our accomplishments, our JOY can be construed as boasting or bragging, so we generally don’t do it; we downplay or temper the discussion. The only thing that doesn’t seem off limits for celebrating is our children. While hearing about your family is important, what I really want is to know about is YOU. We learn not to brag because that can make us a target or we’ve been told it is bad manners. But, here is what I’ve discovered, if we don’t take time to enjoy our successes, good fortunes or whatever positive things are going on, what is the point? I was rushing right past the good and moving on to the next thing I had to do. How are we supposed to have and express gratitude if we aren’t allowing ourselves a minute to acknowledge and CELEBRATE?

My family is having an unusual summer. We are traveling for three weeks. A wedding took us to Idaho for the first time, followed by three days in Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. I’ll be honest, I had never really thought about exploring that part of the country. In fact, I was so narrow in my views that my travel dreams generally centered around either a tropical island (I love the water) or spending time in Europe. But, driving through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana I was overwhelmed by the beauty. It was lush and green; there were rivers and lakes everywhere. We saw geysers, hot pots, hot springs, bison, elk and the elusive moose. I could have watched him for days. I saw my kids hike at an elevation of over 7,000 feet with no complaints and watched them drink in the beauty of Jenny Lake in Grand Teton from Inspiration Point at the end of our hike. It was truly eye-opening to experience that kind of beauty and joy together.

By the time you read this we will have also spent two weeks exploring the beautiful islands of Hawaii. I feel so lucky and grateful to have these experiences and all in one summer. I am excited, I want to share, and I want to celebrate. But, my good-girl pokes her head in to these conversations. Am I bragging? Does it seem to the listener that I am being boastful? I have become aware of myself saying things like “we don’t usually do this…”, “this isn’t typical for us…”, “we are staying at the Sheraton because we got this really great deal…”, which we did and then I proceed to detail it out. It is as if I am downplaying my life so as to not upset anyone. Am I worried that I am making someone feel bad? Yes. Am I worried that I might sound like a conceited jerk? Yes. Do I find that when someone else shares from a place of pure excitement that I feel bad or think they are a jerk? No. But, for those of us raised as people-pleasing good girls, where is the line between outwardly celebrating and boasting?

In the past few years, I have become an observer in my own life; noticing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. What I’ve discovered is that I used to think that on the scale of life, humble was on one side and one step away was conceited jerk; that was a pretty narrow scale. I worried that if I started talking about what was good instead of downplaying just about everything, I’d fall right off the cliff into conceited jerk territory. I understand now that there is a wide chasm between what I thought were the two sides of the scale. These days I spend more time in the the middle or neutral zone of that scale where I can share, listen to your celebrations, we can both feel good and I can still be empathetic enough to know when I might want to hold back some of the celebrating without dimming my own light.

So, where is the line between celebrating and boasting? For me that is all about intent. If a celebration comes from a clean place with the sheer desire to shout from the mountain tops in pure gratitude and joy, by all means shout it out! But, if looking better than others, making others feel small, or feeding an ego is really the underlying drive, then that my friends falls into conceited jerk territory.

So, celebrate away. Tell me what you are grateful for in the comments. Or, if you are not ready to celebrate publicly, take the challenge that was put forth to me. Write down three celebrations everyday and see if your focus starts to shift. To be clear, celebrations do not have to be big, elaborate or expensive. In fact those are easier to notice than the little things. Celebrations should be about you: I took a walk today; I had a difficult conversation and stayed true to myself; I stayed in the moment and really enjoyed time with my daughter; I reached out to a friend instead of stewing about _______. I think you get the picture.

With much love and gratitude.


P.S. if you ever get to the Grand Tetons, go see if you can find my moose. He is beautiful.

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