- Words by Katie Hake from The Wandering Adult -
I find it both endearing and a little sad that we can’t promote our own work or tout our own successes, especially online, without being overly bashful about it. We must be self-denigrating and witty-but-also-I’m-serious-please-buy-this-slash-look-at-this-thing-I-made-or-did.
Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate humility and would rather read about the long months it took you to train for a race than how great you think your cat photography is (your cat is cute but I don’t care about the process, Karen.) Still, can’t we be proud of our accomplishments without pretending they’re no big deal for the sake of social acceptance?
This McSweeney’s article, titled “I Did a Thing,” captures many of my thoughts on this subject:
"I did a thing. And I'm just going to leave it here for you, because I feel that special blend of pride and awkwardness that compels me to tell the world about this thing without getting too intense. My thing is a good thing, and it makes me proud, but shyly so."
Three months ago, I climbed the Grand Teton as the culmination of my summer job leading outdoor trips for students. The certificate for that feat, signed by our three guides, is currently pinned to my refrigerator. Because I’m proud of it, goddammit. I did a thing!
For regular alpinists, the Grand is not the most difficult climb. For toads like me, it’s a huge life feat. And I’m OK with being proud of it.
It's not even the tallest mountain in Wyoming. But it's my mountain now, and that makes it special.
Alternative caption: I climbed a thing!
But I also know the tension and awkward urge to pull back at the edge of pride, wary of crossing over into bragging or worse, humblebragging.
“I did a thing” is much easier to put out there than “Look at what I spent hours and lots of energy and effort on! I love it and you should too!” Instead, we minimize. “Hope you don’t hate it! And if you do, that’s OK, ’cause it’s just a thing! I don’t really care either way.”
Maybe it’s a need to be liked (I struggle with this often) that leads us to play down things we’ve done, not wanting to be labeled a show-off, trying to get attention.
Maybe it’s our own internalized beliefs that however proud or excited we are about accomplishing something that we consider an achievement, someone else has done it before, probably better, probably all the time, probably Karen when she’s not doing her cat photography.
Whatever it is, it makes us squirm too much to state matter-of-factly that we created something, performed something, climbed something and we’re pumped about it. If you just tell it like it is, you might become your coworker who won’t stop showing you clips from his daughter’s ballet recital because clearly, it’s the greatest performance by a human child on the planet.
Or maybe that’s just inside your head. Maybe your coworker has already learned something I definitely haven’t: that what everyone else thinks really doesn’t matter. Or that it’s just nice to share things with other people.
And if you are one of those people who have already mastered the art of posting things they’re proud of on the internet without cringing – can you please teach me?
To read more from Katie, check out her blog - wanderingadult.com
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I’ve made the choice to dedicate my life to my passion, and that doesn’t come without sacrifice. There are more days than not that not having a wife, a family or an established career can eat away at me. I experience a lot of loneliness because of my choices. I’m 45 years old, and there are days I wonder if I’ll ever have a different response to the questions people ask me. Sitting on a mountain top, tent flap open, sun going down, a majestic aura all around me fills me with inconceivable joy, but it also has its moments of aching solitude.