This is a transcription of a journal entry written on 13th July 2009
During the last few days I have been pondering about something I want to change in my life. I’ve become keenly aware of an important motivational factor and source of self-worth on which I’ve been relying since I was very young. I refer to my desire to be seen in a good light by others, to receive praise, recognition, adulation etc. I have been aware of this for a long time, but only now do I begin to see that this has no place in my life.
One of my earliest memories of self-awareness and introspection is when I was 4 or maybe 5, and I wished I could be popular like the singers and actors on TV, or wishing I could fly like Superman, so that I could impress my peers. I remember singing all the time, imagining people around me admiring and praising me. Sometimes, my extended family would praise me, and this often enough that, to this day, I still sing mostly to impress people.
I also remember telling jokes all the time at school. I didn’t do it to make people happy or to comfort or cheer them up. I did it mainly because it made me feel good that people thought I had a good sense of humour.
Throughout my entire life I have struggled with this inner battle with what I thought was simply pride. I talked to myself constantly (inwardly) about my need to be humble, to do things for the right reasons etc. Cognitively I know that, by focusing on praise and recognition when I perform anything artistic, I am missing out on the pleasure and happiness of the performance itself, of the full expression of my inner feelings through my performance, and, especially, the expression of my gratitude to my Heavenly Father for my gifts.
Nowhere in my life is this issue brought more keenly and frequently to my attention than each Sunday morning at Church, where I join the congregation in singing “hymns of praise” to my God. I very rarely pay any attention to the words of the hymns! I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities to impress others with my voice, and… I hate it! I hate that part of me that seeks to receive praise instead of giving it. Sometimes I have the opportunity to play the organ or the piano to accompany the congregation, and the temptation to play to impress is much lower. I’m better able to focus on providing worshipful, dignified music in order to bring a good spirit to the meeting. When I sing, however, I’m not yet able to do that, and I look forward to the day when I can overcome this weakness.
I’ve also noticed that I seek sources of self-worth in the wrong places. This may actually be a more correct description of the problem I described above, which I used to simply call pride.
I realised this recently, over a period of time of about a year, while working with the online community of Moodle (an online learning platform). I am often joking around in my conversations with other developers (an echo of my school years), trying to attract (or extract!) praise from my colleagues etc.
In a recent conversation with one of these co-workers, Penny Leach, I discussed my frequent feelings of inadequacy, my impressions of being a “fraud” in the midst of so many talented and knowledgeable people, a feeling with which she identified.
My reasoning leads to a conclusion which motivates my desire to change: I DON’T NEED praise from men or women to know my worth! I am a son of God, with all his divine attributes within me! I know my origins, my purpose, my destination, so why do I need affirmation of my mortal worth from other mortals, when I have confirmation of my eternal worth from God himself?
I am convinced that, with constant reminders of this concept, I can slowly let go of the habits and attitudes that have made me unduly dependent on the wrong sources of self-worth. I will be able to sing praises to God without worrying that others can hear me or not (and like what they hear!). I will do things only for the right reasons, not just partially for some of the right reasons.