This is an interesting time at work as I prepare to leave. As the word slowly spreads, people keep coming to offer praise for the work I’ve done while there and to offer encouragement and unexpected optimism about what will wind up being next for me. While this outpouring of praise and encouragement is by no means universal, it is still such a balm to my heart after all of the criticism.
But it does make me wonder whether the outcome would have been different if I had heard more of this praise and encouragement earlier in this job to balance out some of the criticism. Would I have managed to stay more open and engaged instead of becoming so defensive and shut down if I had heard more positive sooner? Might I have endured longer and in better health?
I’ll never know. But it does make me think about the power of encouragement. I have always valued the importance of encouraging those who are close to me. I work hard to praise, support, and encourage those that I care about to help them become the people they want to be. I think the loving encouragement of those around us can make the difference in whether someone has the heart and the courage to reach for their deepest held goals. No one can be at their best when they reach a place of defending themselves from the outside world, but we are often quicker to hand out criticism than praise. Then we wonder why people seem stuck.
In addition, as I’ve felt increasingly attacked and defensive, I can see that I have been spending less and less time encouraging and praising those around me. I know that this has impoverished my life because it means I am not living up to one of my highest values, and it means that I am not taking the time and effort to see and appreciate the best in those around me.
Equally as important, I wonder how many other lives I’ve inadvertently impoverished by not taking the extra moment to comment on a job well done, to praise someone’s talent or skill, or to fully acknowledge the effort someone is making toward a goal or a project. It’s so easy to assume that it’s not needed. Surely that person already knows they did well, so why should I comment? Surely someone else is taking the time to let them know they are appreciated, right? They seem to be doing just fine, why do they need encouragement from me?
And yet, that person may be struggling just as much and just as invisibly as I’ve been struggling, and my brief word of praise or encouragement could make an enormous difference in their ability to keep reaching for their dreams. Or maybe even just to keep doing what they are doing. It takes so little extra effort to pay attention to those moments when I can encourage another and so little extra time to reach out with a word of praise or support, and the benefits to both the giver and the receiver can be so large.
If I learn nothing else from this experience, this is at least a good lesson on the importance of living up to my own value of encouragement. I need to look for that as an important characteristic in any future work place because I know how important it is to me, but I also need to return to my own values and get back to offering encouragement as widely as I can every chance I can.
This is a good reminder in this midst of not of knowing who I am anymore of a key component of who I really am—and who I want to be. I wonder too if this is one piece of that lesson about self-love that I am trying to learn: if I value offering encouragement to those that matter to me, perhaps I need to start with that stranger I see in the mirror each morning. I need to encourage myself first of all to fill my own cup to overflowing so that it can rain down on those around me.
Hey you there in the mirror, the one who has been dissolved into nothingness in your chrysalis, good job for sticking with the journey! You can do this. And one day soon, you’ll emerge as a butterfly. Keep hanging on—you’re going to fly before you know it!